This rendering from a We Energies presentation on the proposed liquid natural gas facility posted to the town of Ixonia’s website shows a rendering of what the location will look like once construction is completed. (We Energies)
This rendering from a We Energies presentation on the proposed liquid natural gas facility posted to the town of Ixonia’s website shows a rendering of what the location will look like once construction is completed. (We Energies)

The potential new natural gas plant comes as the climate crisis grows more urgent every day.

A $370 million natural gas infrastructure project in Jefferson and Walworth counties cleared a large hurdle Thursday toward beginning construction, despite opposition from environmental and local activists. 

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved the construction over objections from the Sierra Club that the new storage facilities and pipelines would deal a blow to Gov. Tony Evers’ goal of mitigating the effects of climate change.

We Energies claims that it needs to build two new liquid natural gas storage facilities near Ixonia and Whitewater at a cost of $185 million each to meet demand from the southeast corner of the state. The construction would represent a major investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure at a moment when experts have warned that the world must turn to renewable energy or face devastating climate consequences.

“This decision directly contradicts climate science, the Paris Accord, President Biden’s climate commitments, and the Governor’s commitments on climate change,” the Sierra Club said in a statement. “If WEC is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, it should be on investments that reduce carbon emissions, address energy burden, and are [the] least cost to ratepayers.”

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The statement also included pushback on the decision from local activists who oppose the construction. “The issues our concerned neighbors and local businesses raised around safety, environmental destruction, and disregard for rural preservation have not been addressed,” said Tiffany Carey, a member of Save Ixonia.

The Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden’s signature human infrastructure and climate plan, would invest $555 billion to address climate change through limiting the release of greenhouse gases like those produced by burning natural gas. The bill is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives Friday.

While the legislation is chock-full of incentives designed to urge faster transition to green sources of energy, it contains little in the way of provisions to punish the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

The president has committed to cutting the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Evers has similarly sought to address climate change in hopes of avoiding its worst effects on the Badger State. He created a task force in 2019 with the specific goal of coming up with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.

For those in the Ixonia area opposed to the We Energies project, however, the issues are much closer to home. 

Carey took aim at her local office holders and state policymakers with a warning about the consequences of continuing to kowtow to compare interests. 

“The silver lining of this vote is that the town of Ixonia has never been more aware of how our elected officials have conducted themselves with questionable ethics and loyalties, and are hungry to support new candidates and policy changes that represent everyday citizens instead of out-of-town industrial concerns,” she said.