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CETF and SOUL Petition Wisconsin PSC for Rehearing on Badger-Coulee

The decision by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to approve the Badger-Coulee Transmission Line was a black mark on the integrity of three commissioners charged with protecting the ratepayers of Wisconsin. A question posed two years ago by then Senator Dale Schultz, “Where is the Public in the PSC?” continues to resonate throughout the state when three commissioners  approve transmission lines that defy what is best for the ratepayers of Wisconsin. Their actions leave the state with a sad legacy of corporate interests first and human and environmental health, the beauty of Wisconsin, and the right of a state to determine its own destiny not even in the game.

Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save our Unique Lands (SOUL) have filed a petition with the Wisconsin PSC for rehearing. You can read the petition by clicking on this link: CETF/SOUL_BadgerCouleeRehearingRequest

Here’s a link to a second petition for rehearing filed with the PSC on Segment A. Petition for Rehearing / Holland and Segment A

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The joint CETF / SOUL press release reads as follows:

Public Intervenors Call Claimed Benefits from Badger-Coulee Transmission Proposal into Question

Public intervenors representing electric customer interests in the controversial Badger-Coulee transmission proposal have petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) to re-hear the case.  The project was approved last month and intervenors are asking the commission to determine whether it would have any economic benefit for ratepayers under current trend of flat and declining energy use.

Savings potential from high capacity transmission lines generally declines as energy use drops. The petition submitted by S.O.U.L. of Wisconsin (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) cites evidence from the Paddock-Rockdale transmission line approved in 2009 where economic planning shows loses to ratepayers at today’s energy use levels. New information released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), confirms that energy use in Wisconsin has declined 2% since 2008 with a similar trend regionally and nationally.

Throughout the PSC’s review process, American Transmission Company and XCEL Energy (co-applicants in the case) refused to predict growth rates in their benefit calculations wide enough to anticipate zero and negative growth. Petitioners claim that assuming energy use in Wisconsin will always grow is unsound reasoning. Says Rob Danielson, secretary of SOUL, “There are indications that contrary to terms of PSC approval , the project could make energy cost more than if the line was not built. These costs would be felt in addition to the negative impacts on local economies where the line would be located.”

According to petition citations from the DOE and EIA, the energy reductions are attributable to, “slower population growth, dramatic improvements in the efficiency of household appliances, and a shift in the economy to less energy-intensive industries. ”  The DOE report confirms that economic growth is no longer dependent upon using more electricity and the trend is projected to continue at least through 2040.

“The ability to use less energy and save home, farm and business costs will only improve,“ observes Rob Danielson, secretary of SOUL. “It is highly appropriate for the Commission to ask American Transmission Company and XCEL to demonstrate for Wisconsin ratepayers that Badger-Coulee would prove beneficial as we continue reducing waste.  It is not respectful of Wisconsin’s business climate to envision increasing energy use as a means of building a stronger state economy. Energy efficiency and developing local power were a much preferred direction by hundreds of ratepayers filing comments on this case.”

Two nationally respected engineers with years of expertise in transmission, energy efficiency and distributed generation developed a “No Wires”  alternative to the 150 mile project. They estimate the cost of their alternative to be less than 1/30th of cost of the transmission project and return guaranteed savings from efficiency, community solar and load management several times over.

Jane Powers, a public intervenor from Mauston who supports the petition adds,   “As ratepayers would have to pay for the line whether it is needed or not, we deserve to be able to evaluate all energy options.  So far, the transmission builders have refused to demonstrate that their project can compete money-wise, and provide a complete cost for the line after high interest financing over 40 years is added. I’m not comfortable with the quality of the information ratepayers have received to date.“

In their new report, the Department of Energy is encouraging states to make sure that, “all the benefits of efficiency are realized, including avoiding the expense of building new infrastructure.”

The Public Service Commission has 30 days to consider the request of the intervenors before responding. The Town of Holland near Holmen, Wisconsin is preparing a formal appeal of the proposal as well.

 

 

 

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

Sharing the News!

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.

EIS COMMENTS OPPOSE TRANSMISSION OPTION

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provides a chart summarizing 174 individual comments received about the draft version.

  • 122 of 174 comments or 70% generally oppose the high voltage transmission option on basis of need and energy direction in the state.
  • 11 instruct the agency to conduct further study of non-transmission options.
  • 10 foreground environmental or cultural concerns.
  • 14 individuals state route preference.
  • 3 generally support high voltage transmission option.
  • 1400 residents from city of Onalaska filed signed copies of a form letter opposing Segment O stating concerns about negative impacts on residential and commercial development, EMF, noise, loss of property value, loss of business and tourism income and potential conflicts with the La Crosse Municipal Airport.

Energy Innovation Key to our Future

by Deb Severson

Rather than accept that battles waged about high-voltage regional transmission lines are between not-in-my-backyard challengers and straight-line engineers, or coal vs. renewable energy, we should get curious, educated and involved.

Rather than accept that more transmission will improve the reliability and environmental impact of our grid, we need to relentlessly ask “why?” Especially when the stakes are so high.

Read the entire article at LaCrosseTribune.com.

Thank you, Deb, for another eloquently written article on the need for a energy solution paradigm shift in Wisconsin and across the nation.

 

 

PSC Cracks the Door Open for Citizen Input on CapX2020

IMPORTANT INFORMATION from Deb Severson

On May 14, 2014 the Wisconsin Public Service Commission authorized the limited reopening of the CapX2020 docket to consider new evidence regarding the route.  CETF commented, and asked the Commission to use its discretion to reevaluate the project based on:

  1. I.               Potential for adverse human, animal and avian health issues on these, and all, routes  that were previously not addressed

Despite the substantive recent research, the Environmental Impact Statement ignored growing concern and research regarding human, animal and avian health connected to transmission lines’ emission of UV and ionizing radiation due to corona discharge. … when it is a public health issue, the Commission should apply this new learning not only to the realignment of routes but the project at large ….  New and recent research calls into question the Commission conclusion “the facilities approved by this Final Decision will not have undue adverse impacts on environmental values including ecologic balance, public health and welfare, …” and provides a significant cause to pause to protect citizens, communities and our habitat.

  1. II.              Updated cost projections based on the potential and previously granted realignments, along with progress / learning to date
  1. III.            Implications of exercising eminent domain on these, and all, routes when other solutions resolve reliability-based need in the La Crosse area

If the Commission and applicants say utilities are maxed out on using demand response to shave peak demand and new information shows CapX2020 utilities have shaved their use to none, how in good conscience can eminent domain and rate payer dollars be sacrificed to expand utility access to the wholesale energy market?

On January 9, 2014, CETF and SOUL petitioned the Commission to Reopen the CapX2020 docket providing relevant new information that negated or deferred the need for the CapX2020 Hampton-La Crosse transmission line, and demonstrated that less expensive and less denigrating solutions were available to address critical load concerns in the La Crosse area.

The Commission ignored the request, and CETF takes issue with the Commission’s ignoring citizens who present crucial, valid and new information while choosing to reopen the docket when the utilities make the request.  Because of this, CETF asked the Commission to be certain the project benefits the ratepayers the Commission is meant to serve by considering new information presented in its May 30 response  but also in January 2014.

Comment period has been extended to Friday June13, 2014 12:00 noon and CETF encourages interested citizens to provide their own comments.