Challenge to PSC Approval of the Badger Coulee Regional Transmission Line in the Works
April 23, 2015 Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) convey they will ask the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) to reconsider today’s formal approval of the Badger Coulee regional transmission
Filing a Petition for Rehearing with the PSC is a defined part of the official administrative hearing process. Filing a Petition for Judicial Review with the circuit court to challenge the legal validity of the PSC decision is also a next step afforded in the process should the PSC elect to deny or ignore the Petition for Rehearing request.
The 68-page order approving Badger Coulee conveys, “The opposing intervenors (CETF and SOUL) did not provide credible
evidence that a near-zero or negative load growth scenario would be a reasonable future for the applicants to consider.” The groups contend they relied on utility forecasts showing a lack of growth, which makes them credible. Also, since the close of the hearings, the declines in Wisconsin electric consumption have been reported by the US Department of Energy, with 2014 declining .1% and 1.8% respectively compared to 2013 and 10 years ago, and a dramatic January 2015 decline of 3.8% versus 2014.
“In addition to not seeing economic projections of the line at flat or declining growth rates, we’ve not seen an analysis of viable cost effective alternatives,” says Debra Severson of CETF. “During the Badger Coulee technical hearing, engineer Bill Powers demonstrated how local wind, solar and energy efficiency were more cost effective solutions for Wisconsin ratepayers. Powers also demonstrated the chicken and the egg issue of how the utilities desire to increase the transfer of electricity from the west into and through Wisconsin is the both the purpose of the Badger Coulee and the cause of the reliability issues it was approved for.”
Severson does not hold great hopes that the PSC will give just and reasonable consideration to the groups’ appeal, stating, “The bias and disregard for citizen concern were rampant during the Commission’s verbal approval and we’ve issued appeals in the past only to be denied and outright ignored. But the words of Margaret Mead – ‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’ – encourage us to continue to work toward energy policy that is environmentally sustainable and in ratepayer’ best interests.”
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, Severson says, 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.
Commissioner Eric Callisto ended his term in February 2015 and, in objecting to a December 2014 decision in a case related to local renewables stated, “I think we should slow down…and open up a generic investigation…[to] evaluate placing a fair and transparent value on distributed generation, and at least start down the discussion path of the role of regulated utilities in a future with flat load growth, increased distributed generation and more robust consumer involvement in energy choices.” CETF agrees.
For More Information Please Contact: Debra Severson
608.269.6218 or 305.299.1400 (mobile)