Wisconsin PSC Approves Badger-Coulee Transmission Line Northern Route

 

Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) is appalled, but not surprised, by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s approval of the Badger Coulee regional transmission line.

$9 billion dollars in annual reported lobbying is spent to influence US policies, with the fossil fuel industry one of the dominant players and Wisconsin a poster-child state for corporate influence.  Never has the need to change what drives our policies been so evident.

During the March 26 public hearing, the PSC Commissioners read from scripts that sounded like advertisements for the utilities.  Repeating statements claiming that the process was thorough, Commissioners glossed over gross, documented omissions.

Almost five years ago citizens, communities and elected officials began asking for proof of ratepayer need and benefits, and to have the costs and benefits of the Badger Coulee project compared to alternatives.  Despite laws stating analysis of alternatives must be done, the analysis never materialized — not in response to petitions, resolutions, letters from legislators, or a request by PSC staff.  And while CETF agrees that Badger Coulee is an economically driven project, we maintain that the economic benefits go to utilities while ratepayers will be saddled with massive unneeded debt and the health, environmental and quality of life consequences that come with these unsightly, unnecessary lines.

CETF and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) are considering filing a Petition for Rehearing with the PSC and/or a Petition for Judicial Review with the circuit court to challenge the legal validity of the PSC decision.  These options are part of the official administrative hearing process.

While the bias and disregard for citizen concern were rampant during the Commission’s approval, the words of Margaret Mead encourages us to continue, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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For More Information Please Contact:                    Debra Severson

deb@whispirit.com

608.269.6218 or 305.299.1400 (mobile)

Badger-Coulee decision to come March 26th.

It should not come as a surprise that, with little notice to the public, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission plans a decision on the Badger-Coulee line on March 26, 2015.

With hundreds of We the People voices expressing discontent with the project, it will be very interesting to see if the Wisconsin PSC hears the voice of the people, or falls back on bad habits of approving projects with study wanting.

Sandra Paske has confirmed that the PSC will make decisions on both Badger Coulee and the route adjustment for CapX2020 tomorrow(Thursday 3.26).

The PSC agenda states:

19. 5-CE-136 – Joint Application of Dairyland Power Cooperative, Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Public Power, Inc., for Authority to Construct and Place in Service 345 kV Electric Transmission Lines and Electric Substation Facilities for the CapX Twin Cities-Rochester-La Crosse Project, Located in Buffalo, Trempealeau, and La Crosse Counties, Wisconsin Proposed Transmission Line Route Adjustments (suggested minute) (JJR/KR memorandum of 3/18/15)

20. 5-CE-142 – Joint Application of American Transmission Company LLC and Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, as Electric Public Utilities, for Authority to Construct and Operate a New Badger-Coulee 345 kV Transmission Line from the La Crosse Area, in La Crosse County, to the Greater Madison Area in Dane County, Wisconsin (discussion of record)

 

 

 

 

 

CITIZEN GROUPS PETITION PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

March 13, 2015  Two of the groups questioning need for the Badger Coulee regional transmission line, which would run from Holmen to Madison, have created a petition asking the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) to deny the application.

The PSC is expected to make a decision on the application for the high-voltage transmission line in April.  The project’s primary goal is to increase the regional west-to-east transfer of fossil-fuel and wind generated electricity into and through Wisconsin.

“By approving Badger Coulee, ratepayers in and out of Wisconsin will be saddled with unnecessary debt, and our nation tethered to an antiquated, monopolistic business model that rewards utilities for increased consumption and increased infrastructure,” the petition states. “Instead, denying the line would save money, protect property rights, and create jobs through locally generated energy and efficiency.”

The petition, offered by Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), says, “There is cause to pause and no valid ratepayer reason to rush forward. A few pennies a month of unguaranteed savings aren’t worth the risks to health, environment, and quality of life.”

Calling a system based on remote central generation and long-distance transfer of electricity unreliable, inefficient, and vulnerable to attack by man or nature, the petition says transmission supports increased consumption of all sources of electricity including coal and fracked gas.

By comparison, it says a less centralized system using local (distributed) generation and energy management tools enables reliability, resiliency, ratepayer cost savings, and environmental sustainability.

Wisconsin law requires the PSC to deny all or part of an application for new infrastructure if an alternative higher in the state’s energy priority list proves to be financially and technically feasible solution. Energy efficiency and conservation is number one on that list, and renewables are number two.  CETF and SOUL contend the PSC has not yet done a cost/benefit analysis between the proposed line and non-transmission alternatives despite requests by thousands of ratepayers, a dozen legislators and nearly 100 municipalities.

To sign and share the petition, click here.

A Fresh Look at Utility Regulation

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New York Just Reached A Major Landmark in Electricity System Evolution

Two weeks ago New York State came one step closer to creating the electricity system of the future when the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted its first major Order as part of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. This is a significant milestone on the path to create a cleaner, more affordable, more modern, and more efficient energy system in New York by harnessing distributed energy resources (DERs) such as demand response, rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and microgrids…

Read the entire article here.

Judge Sides With Citizens Groups in Utility Attempt to Strike Public Comments

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Judge Sides With Citizens Groups in Utility Attempt to Strike Public Comments

March 3, 2015: The Wisconsin Public Service Commission will be able to consider public comments on the proposed Badger Coulee regional high-voltage transmission project under a judge’s action Monday overruling utilities’ objections. PSC Administrative Law Judge Michael Newman denied all motions by applicant utilities to strike portions of reply briefs filed on behalf of Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL). The reply briefs are final arguments filed in opposition to the utilities’ application.

“The utilities tried to exclude public comments and a summary of these comments that shows overwhelming opposition to the line and a desire to see alternatives evaluated,” said Marcel Olivera, legal counsel for CETF/SOUL. “The Judge’s affirming the rights of the public to be heard is a victory for the thousands of citizens, communities and businesses that have been asking for information and analysis for years but feel they’ve been ignored.”

According to Olivera, applicant utilities had also filed a Motion to Strike portions of CETF and SOUL’s initial briefs or arguments including public comments expressing concern for health, reliability and security risks that were ignored in both the Environmental Impact Statement and application. The judge allowed the majority of the comments to remain, after asking for clarification and further citations.

Applicant utilities claim they exercised substantial diligence in reaching out to the public to hear and address their concerns. If this was the case, CETF and SOUL asked, how can they be unaware of issues brought to the attention of Applicants and the PSC and then try to get record of public conveyed concerns thrown out of the record?

Public comments cited conclusions from and to current yet unaddressed research that demonstrate health risks generally and beyond the right-of-way that utilities would purchase for the proposed transmission project. Comments and research were also provided demonstrating how local (distributed) generation could address reliability and national security risks associated with transmitting electrons from remote centralized generation to distant use centers.

Even if the public had not expressed concerns and cited research, CETF and SOUL said, it seems a company should keep abreast of health, environmental and national security risks associated with their product. Because of the Judge’s order, the majority of these will remain in the record so the Commission may consider them.

The judge also allowed the record to show the calculation of average monthly Wisconsin ratepayer benefits derived from utility projected energy savings. According to the CETF brief, the net present value amounts to between 1.5 and 3 cents. This range includes growth rates higher than the PSC determined as reasonable and does not account for any costs the public will bear such as decreases in property value.

The $540-580 million Badger Coulee high-voltage transmission line is being proposed by ATC and Xcel Energy. If approved, Badger Coulee would plug into CapX2020 facilities, which span from the Dakotas and end in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area. From there, the line would extend to Madison to enable increased capacity to transfer wind and fossil fuel based energy to markets south and east of Wisconsin.

Opponents offered testimony in the case showing how increased transfer capacity causes avoidable reliability issues, and how solar and local wind provide economic advantages over high voltage transmission expansion. The lack of utility analysis of alternative solutions or any guarantee that ratepayers would save money were cited in briefs filed by SOUL and CETF as not in line with statutory criteria to approve a line not in the public interest.

For more information contact: Deb Severson; deb@whispirit.com or Rob Danielson; type@mwt.net
608.269.6218 or 305.299.1400 (mobile) 608.625.4949

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Care2 Petition Active

CETF and SOUL have collaborated on circulating a petition to raise awareness of the need to consider alternatives to transmission lines for energy management.

With the Wisconsin PSC weighing the application for the Badger-Coulee transmission line, this petition has an immediate need. However, there are many long term economic, health, and environmental considerations, as well.

Please consider signing this petition. Thank you.

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