Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), two area organizations which oppose the Badger Coulee regional transmission line, said April 23 they will ask the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) to reconsider its approval of the project, which will move through Juneau County alongside I-94-80.
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.
Without the request for a rehearing, American Transmission Co. (ATC) and Xcel Energy had planned to begin preliminary construction plans immediately.
The PSC rejected the groups’ objections, writing in its order approving Badger Coulee that 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. Also, since the hearings, 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,” said 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 consider the appeal, saying, “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.”
The line has been estimated to cost $580 million and take until 2018 to be completed. ATC and Xcel Energy have said the line is needed to increase capacity for Wisconsin’s portion of the Midwest power transmission grid.