Wisconsin PSC combines SOUL and CETF for Intervenor Funds

By Bev Vaillancourt, CETF Board Member

As you may know, XCEL Energy and American Transmission Company (ATC)’s application for the Badger-Coulee line has been received by the Wisconsin PSC. Following that, SOUL and CETF separately applied to the Wisconsin PSC for intervenor funds to cover the cost of expert testimony as part of the application review process. Though together the request was for over $200,000, the Wisconsin PSC determined that the intervenor applications were duplicative enough to award a joint amount of $75,000.

With that decision, SOUL and CETF were faced with the problem of having to dramatically reduce what the two groups could offer in compensation to expert witnesses while still presenting a solid and compelling stance that the Badger Coulee line is 1) not needed, 2) environmentally harmful, and 3) economically obscene. In effect, SOUL and CETF were expected to divide the funds in any way the two groups could agree to do so.

After a great deal of introspection and discussion, the SOUL and CETF boards independently voted to join forces and dollars, with a focus on compensating key expert witnesses. A newly developed joint workplan, as required by the WPSC, will be submitted soon. A steering committee made up of 2 SOUL board members and 2 CETF board members has been formed to monitor progress of all documents required of expert witnesses, to ensure that filings with the WPSC are done in a timely manner, and to maximize our opportunities for collaboration and effective dissent.

Fund raising efforts are ongoing to try to maximize the dollars awarded by the WPSC. Look for more information on this website posted as this process unfolds.

We will keep you updated as more happens. The CETF Board is excited about working in joint effort with SOUL. In unity there is strength! The CETF board very much wants to hear from you. Feel free to post your thoughts to this blog. More about SOUL can be found here.


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


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.

Wisconsin Public Radio talks Badger Coolee Project

It’s time to turn our attention to Badger Coulee. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has accepted Xcel Energy’s and ATC’s application regarding the Badger Coulee Transmission Project. Scoping meetings are planned in the near future.

Deb Severson from Citizen’s Energy Task Force was invited to a Wisconsin Public Radio forum on the merits of the Badger Coulee line. Her candid comments are well worth the listen. Click on the link to move to the WPR website. Click “Listen” to hear Deb’s comments, along with those of ATC and the WPSC. Deb, as always, presents measured and well researched comments that go to the heart of this unneeded and costly project.

Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project


Songs of the Badger Tallgrass Prairie

Songs of the Badger Tallgrass Prairie, Part 4

by Laura Olah, executive director CSWAB


Documented rare species at Badger Army Ammunition Plant include the Eastern Whip-poor-will.  Made famous in folk songs, poems, and literature for their endless chanting on summer nights, Whip-poor-wills are easy to hear but hard to see. Their brindled plumage blends perfectly with the gray-brown leaf litter of the open forests where they breed and roost.  These birds are on the decline in parts of their range as open forests are converted to suburbs or agriculture.

Sound and Disturbance

There is significant scientific literature documenting the physical and ecological effects of off-road vehicle use, ranging from soil compaction to non-native plant dispersal.  However, the most widespread impact on songbirds and other wildlife is disturbance. Disruption of breeding and nesting birds is a particularly well documented problem.  Many species are sensitive to human disturbance with the potential disruption of courtship activities, over-exposure of eggs or young birds to weather, and premature fledging of juveniles. Repeated disturbance can eventually lead to nest abandonment and long-term bird community changes.

Acoustic interference from noise can hamper the detection of song by birds of the same species, making it more difficult for them to establish and maintain territories, attract mates, and/or maintain pair bonds. This, in turn, may reduce breeding success in noisy roadside habitats. When begging for food, nestlings may need to call louder to elicit the desired response from their parents, thereby increasing the energetic cost of obtaining food and potentially decreasing fitness.

High levels of traffic noise may also interfere with the detection of alarm calls such as those signaling the presence of predators, which may lead to higher rates of predation.  In addition to road noise, scientific studies have documented a correlation between high urban noise levels and songbird diversity – the more noise, the fewer the number of bird species.

Activities that create an urbanized environment (clean pavement, mowed grass, maintained buildings, and ornamental landscaping) are predicted to produce a bird community dominated by a few non-native and common native bird species, WDNR biologists caution.

All of these considerations make clear that high-impact use and sound disturbance will be detrimental to the songbirds of Badger.

To  hear the song of the Eastern Whip-poor-will, go to:



NEXT WEEK: Wisconsin ranks second nationally in the proportion of citizens considered birders, with fully one-third of residents 16 and older reporting they travel to watch birds, or actively watch and identify birds around home, according to a new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report.  PLUS, how you can help save the songbirds of Badger.


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CETF Weighs in on State Energy Planning


Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) appreciates the opportunity to provide input regarding the Quadrennial Planning Process generally, and the specific goals, priorities and measurable targets related to the Focus on Energy Program. These comments will address not only some of the questions posed but also decisions made in the first quadrennial planning process that should be revisited.

Phase 1, 2): Should the energy efficiency and renewable resource programs address longer term market changes in addition to short-term goal achievement? If yes, what is the appropriate balance between short-term achievement and longer term market changes.

CETF agrees that both short and longer term market change goals should be considered. Our comments will focus on benefits of a micro-grid, and the need to better consider externalities and carbon reduction in energy policy.

Grid reliability concerns have made grid security a national imperative, whether the concern is based on the threat of cyber or terrorist attack, increases in severe weather or solar flares, human error or interruption by vegetation or wildlife. A comprehensive, three-year Department of Defense (DoD) and Federal Emergency Management Agency study, Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security,1 concluded that relying on massive, complex, and interconnected infrastructures to transmit and deliver power from centralized generation creates unavoidable, and costly, vulnerabilities.

Read the entire document uploaded to the WPSC (docket #5-fe-100). CETF Comments on Quadrennial Planning Process II_03.14.14


Just the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…….

The March 2014 Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News cover story, Line Litigation; Transmission Opponents Battle On, left out crucial information, which would lead to a very different understanding of the situation.

SOUL of Wisconsin and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) believe the way regional transmission is being approved conflicts with existing state policies and statutes, and ignores known reliability and cost-issues associated with sending electricity great distances — no matter if the generation comes from coal or wind. SOUL and CETF further believe the energy infrastructure should be comprehensive, transparent and accountable to ratepayers.

Critical to this is a true understanding of cost and need, and an unbiased comparative analysis of all energy solutions that takes into account impacts on communities, job creation and property.

Read more at Rebuttal to WI Energy Cooperative News Cover Story_March 2014

CETF Applies for Intervenor Status on Anticipated Badger-Coulee Application

The Wisconsin PSC chose to disregard over 550 signatures asking for the PSC to reopen the CapX2020 docket based on new information. It is yet another example of the Wisconsin PSC ignoring the will of the public it is supposed to serve.


The Citizens Energy Task Force recognizes that the issues related to CapX2020 go beyond transmission lines to the heart of the right of the people to be heard. The paternal pat on the head by the Wisconsin PSC is simply unacceptable, especially in light of recent studies that drive home the fact that electrical use is declining.  A recent white paper published by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy underscores what Wisconsin citizens have been trying to get the WPSC to acknowledge for the past two years.

So, what is driving the Commissioners of Wisconsin’s PSC to continue to ignore the obvious, continue to disrespect its duty for due diligence, and continue to give a welcomed nod to the transmission line industry? When did the duty to serve the “public” leave the Public Service Commission? To whom does the PSC answer? The public? The transmission line industry? Who really controls Wisconsin’s destiny?

The Citizens Energy Task Force will not step back from the right of the people to hold government accountable. To that end, it has petitioned for intervention in American Transmission Company’s and Xcel Energy’s expected Badger-Coulee Transmission Line  Application. CETF contends that CapX2020 and Badger-Coulee are one in the same line, though applied for at different points in time. These applications present each line as independent of any other, when in truth one line creates a dependency on another. State and federal law requires that environmental and financial impacts of dependent acts be considered at the same time since segmenting them would mask the true costs. This is but one of the issues CETF continues to raise.

CETF Badger-Coulee Line Intervenor Status

For all of you who signed the online petition asking the Wisconsin PSC to reopen the CapX2020 docket, CETF thanks you. If you are interested in knowing more about the three commissioners who chose to ignore your concerns, you can read about them here.

Commissioner Phil Montgomery

Commissioner Eric Callisto

Commissioner Ellen Nowak

To comment on how the request to reopen the CapX2020 was ignored, post individual comments on the PSC website docket 5-CE-136 (you will need to set up an account if you don’t already have one) and send emails to:



… for a sustainable energy future