Friday, May 19, 2017

We Energies honors veterans through Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

On Sunday, May 21, 90 U.S. military veterans of foreign wars will travel on a   
We Energies-sponsored flight to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials that honor their service.

We Energies has been involved with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight since its inception in 2008. The company is sending two guardians to Washington with the veterans: Randy Jerome, manager customer solutions south – wholesale energy and fuels, and Renee Rabiego-Tiller, manager meter to bill process – customer service.

Both employees have family members who are veterans. In fact, Jerome comes from a military family. Both of his grandfathers served in World War II, three of his older siblings served in different branches of the military, and Jerome himself served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Roland Jerome (left) and Roland Tritz (right) both served in WWII and are the grandfathers of Randy Jerome (center), pictured while serving in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Randy will honor his grandfathers and fellow servicemen and women by acting as a guardian on Sunday’s Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. 

“In my heart, I will be traveling for my grandfathers and will be thinking of them, and the bravery of all who have served and died for the great country we live in,” Jerome said. “I also will be focused on the care of the Korean War era veteran I will be traveling with, as it is his day and I want it to be a safe, memorable and an honorable day for him. I will look forward to learning from him, should he be willing to share what his experiences were like.”

Like Jerome’s grandfathers, Rabiego-Tiller’s father served in WWII. He was a member of the 801st/492nd Air Corps, which was part of the Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor to the CIA), U.S. Special Operations Command and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. As a top gunner, he and his crew flew supplies to the resistance in occupied Europe, which meant flying at low altitudes, only at night and by moonlight, without any lights on their plane.

“All of the members were sworn to secrecy for 40 years after the war. My dad never spoke about his service until he was contacted in the mid-1990s to attend a reunion,” she said. “After he attended his first reunion, he started to slowly share stories about his experiences in the war.”

Renee Rabiego-Tiller will serve as one of two guardians from We Energies on the May 21 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Her father, shown on right in the back row, served in World War II, flying supplies to the resistance in occupied Europe.

So Rabiego-Tiller understood when the veteran she will be escorting on the flight told her he canceled his first Honor Flight because he was not ready to go. She said he has since “done some soul searching and said he is ready now. He also will be honoring his two brothers-in-law, who are deceased, who were in WWII and never had a chance to visit their memorial.”

The guardians, as well as multiple We Energies volunteers who will assist the veterans at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport on Sunday morning, are honored to take part in the flight. Three hundred and forty-nine letters from We Energies employees will be part of mail call, a special time on the return flight when veterans read messages from friends, families and individuals they have never met expressing their gratitude. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

K’s for a Cause supports veterans through the We Energies Foundation

It’s baseball season! This year, We Energies and the Milwaukee Brewers are working together to support local veterans through a program called K’s for a Cause. For every strikeout, or “K,” thrown by Brewers pitchers at Miller Park, the We Energies Foundation contributes $25 to Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI).

“We’re so glad to have two great organizations supporting us in We Energies and the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Kirsten Sobieski, executive director of MHVI. “They are pillars of the community, and it’s great to see them help us and help the veterans.”

Sobieski is a veteran herself, having spent 10 years with the Army and Army Reserves, including two on active duty. She also orchestrates a program within MHVI, the Women Veterans Initiative (WOVIN), which helps female veterans learn more about opportunities available to them through veterans’ organizations.

“The We Energies Foundation is pleased to support Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative as they work to help homeless and at-risk veterans in our community reach and maintain their highest levels of independence,” said Beth Straka, senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations, WEC Energy Group, and vice president, We Energies Foundation. “We look forward to a winning Brewers season and a successful K’s for a Cause promotion.”

Individual game and season-long strikeouts will be tracked on Miller Park’s new K meter – an 80-foot digital sign, located in right field.

Both K’s for a Cause and the Brewers are off to a great start; in the first month of the season, Brewer pitchers recorded 130 strikeouts at Miller Park, bringing the contribution total to $3,250 through April 30.

The donations made through K’s for a Cause will go to the MHVI emergency fund. Sobieski indicated that the donations support everything from keeping veterans in financial crisis from becoming homeless to putting gas in the MHVI delivery trucks. “Without government money, we rely heavily on these types of donations to make sure we can do all the things that we do without anything falling through the cracks,” said Sobieski.

Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Contest winners announced as falcon cam goes live

Congratulations to the winners of our peregrine falcon poster contest. Mike Patneaude’s fourth-grade class at Meadowview Elementary School in Oak Creek, and John Ganey’s sixth-grade class at Trinity Lutheran School in Waukesha developed creative, educational displays that really caught our attention.

Here’s their handy work:

Entry from Trinity Lutheran School in Waukesha
Entry from Meadowview Elementary School in Oak Creek

Both classes win a field trip to a peregrine falcon banding at one of our power plants this spring. They will get to name the chicks, and their schools will be reimbursed up to $250 from the We Energies Foundation for transportation expenses. Winning classes also get a visit from our peregrine falcon manager, Greg Septon, prior to their field trip to learn more about our program.

We want to thank everyone who entered our contest. We received more than a dozen entries. Students incorporated facts about the We Energies peregrine falcon recovery program into their posters, displays and artwork.

Everyone can follow the activity at our power plant nest boxes this spring through our webcams at

For now, the live feed is focused on our Valley Power Plant in downtown Milwaukee where eggs are expected to hatch any day. The live feed will be rotated to our other sites as hatching occurs elsewhere.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bald eagle and osprey recovery continues in Wisconsin

For decades, We Energies has supported the recovery of bald eagle and osprey populations. These raptor species once thrived in the Midwest, but DDT use and habitat loss led to dramatic population declines between the 1950s and 1970s. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has watched their development over the last four decades. In 2016, the DNR recorded the highest number of nesting sites since monitoring began in 1973.

We Energies employees assist with
an eagle banding in May 2016. 
The DNR’s aerial survey results were released in December. The results show 1,504 occupied bald eagle nests, 39 more than in 2015, and 558 occupied osprey nests, 16 more than in 2015. To put this further in perspective, the 1973 survey recorded only 108 eagle and 92 osprey nests.

“The comeback of our great raptors since their near-demise just over 50 years ago is truly remarkable,” said Mike Grisar, principal environmental consultant at We Energies. “Without the hard work of the resource managers and the aid of utility companies, the recovery of these species would certainly not have been so successful.”

Utilities have a major role to play in raptor conservation due to the species’ nesting habits. Bald eagles and ospreys both tend to build their large nests in the tallest trees available – or, on occasion, the tallest utility poles, which can result in power outages and harm to the birds.

We have worked with the DNR and environmental nonprofits since the early 1980s to help raptor populations recover. Our Bald Eagle Protection Plan prevents disturbances to nesting eagles, preserves canopy trees for future nesting sites and offers public financial incentive to report raptor nests on company lands. When we discover an occupied nest near a project site, we evaluate each situation and develop a strategy to avoid impacting active nests.

Our field crews also erect nesting platforms for raptors, primarily osprey. As these raptor diets rely heavily on fish, the platforms are typically raised near water. They stand taller than any manmade structures in the area, encouraging raptors to choose them in favor of utility poles, and they expand nesting opportunities in wetlands, along lakeshores and in other areas with limited mature tree growth. We collaborate with environmental and wildlife agencies to monitor raptor activity and attach leg bands for conservation research.

Grisar has helped coordinate company efforts for raptor recovery since the mid-2000s, and he has seen their numbers rise almost every year. He is optimistic about their future in Wisconsin and Michigan.

“It is an honor to work for a utility company that has such commitment to environmental stewardship, and it is humbling to know we have made such a difference,” Grisar said.

We are dedicated to keeping our customers and local wildlife safe. With nests weighing up to 200 pounds, eagles and ospreys can damage power lines and cause arcing, power outages and nest fires. If you see a raptor building a nest on a live power line, please contact our 24-hour customer service at 800-242-9317.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saying thank you on Lineman Appreciation Day

April 18 is National Lineman Appreciation Day, a time to recognize the contributions of the men and women who respond to electric outages and emergencies for our customers.

We caught up with apprentice line mechanics at one of our training centers Tuesday. They were practicing their skills on a warm, sunny day, but frequently, they’re restoring power in less-than-ideal conditions.

“Rain, sleet, snow, the worst of it, lightning, tornadoes. You name it, we’re in it,” said Joel Frappier veteran line mechanic and instructor.

He shared his thoughts about the profession, something he refers to as “a calling.” He is following in his father’s footsteps.

“My dad was a lineman for 38 years at another utility, so for me, it was kind of in my blood.”

Appreciating the work of our line mechanics is appropriate today – and every day.

Falcon eggs present at 5 power plants

Peregrine falcons that nest at our power plants are getting ready to welcome young. Eggs now are present at all five of our power plant nest boxes. Here’s how things are shaping up at each site:

Pleasant Prairie Power Plant
PBR is back for his sixth year and is joined by an unbanded female. Their four eggs are expected to hatch May 6-8.
Unbanded female at Pleasant Prairie
Oak Creek Power Plant
Eclipse is back for her seventh year and is joined by a new male, Michael, who was born in 2015 at the Racine County Courthouse. Their four eggs are expected to hatch May 6-9.

Michael at Oak Creek 

Valley Power Plant – Milwaukee
Hercules is back for a fourth year at this site. He’s the offspring of another Valley Power Plant falcon, Herbert, who was injured and now resides at the Wisconsin Humane Society as an educational ambassador. Hercules’ mate is an unbanded female. Their three eggs are expected to hatch April 30-May 2. 

Unbanded female at Valley
Port Washington Generating Station
Brinn is back for her fourth year and is accompanied by a new mate, Beasley, who was born at the Milwaukee County Power Plant in 2014. Their three eggs are expected to hatch May 12-15.

Brinn at Port Washington
Presque Isle Power Plant – Marquette, Michigan
Maya Angelou is back for her seventh year. Her mate is an unbanded male. So far, one egg is at the site, which was laid over Easter weekend.

One egg at Presque Isle

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Severe Weather Awareness Week

Two tornado drills will occur on April 20 at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The first drill is to help schools and businesses prepare for storm season. The second drill is an opportunity for families to create and review their emergency plans. Governor Scott Walker has declared April 17-21, 2017 as Wisconsin's Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week.

We work to maintain a reliable power delivery system, but severe weather and other events sometimes cause power outages that require many hours and even days to resolve.

Be prepared and know what to do should a power outage occur. Assemble an emergency kit and keep it where it’s easy to find in the dark.

Suggested items:
· Flashlights and extra batteries
· Blankets
· Water-half gallon/day per person
· Canned or dried food
· Hand-operated can opener
· First-aid kit
· Prescription medications
· Specialty items for infants, seniors or disabled family members

If you have advance notice of severe storms or other conditions that may lead to extended power outages, consider taking additional precautions:
· Set freezer and refrigerator colder to help food stay safe longer
· Fill vehicle gas tank (gas station pumps do not operate without power)
· Get cash (credit or debit cards may not work if power is out)
· Charge devices, especially cell phones; consider spare power
· Know emergency shelter locations
· Get bottled water, other supplies

Other considerations:
· Battery back-up for sump pump
· Solar power cell phone charger
· Generator to power important appliances
· Surge suppression devices for protection when power returns
· Card or board games to pass time
· Dry ice for refrigerator/freezer
· Frozen jugs of water
· Well-being of friends, neighbors and relatives

Any changes to the mock tornado drill will be posted on the ReadyWisconsin website.