Area reaction was mixed March 26 following the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) vote to approve the Badger-Coulee Transmission Line Project submitted by the American Transmission Company and Xcel Energy.
“$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,” said Debra Severson on behalf of Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF), which opposes the project.
During the hearing, the Commission accused CETF and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) of La Farge of using “red herring” tactics to delay the project.
Severson disagreed, saying, “The countless hours and dedication by volunteers were not red herring tactics meant to distract, mislead or delay but to stop construction of the line by getting issues addressed that were being omitted or obscured in the planning and application process.”
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.
CETF maintains economic benefits will go to utilities while ratepayers will be saddled with massive debt and health, environmental and quality of life consequences.
CETF and 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 validity of the decision.
State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), said in a statement, “I appreciate all of the testimony and public input from individuals, local businesses and community organizations throughout this process. Over the past four years, I have joined a bipartisan group of legislators to repeatedly request that the PSC complete a full needs assessment of the project and provide more opportunities for the public to take part in the process. I am disappointed that our requests were not met and encourage more opportunities for public input moving forward.”
Joe Kruse, CAO of Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare, was happy with the decision, saying in a statment, “Franciscan Healthcare would like to thank the Public Service Commission for its thoroughness in making this decision. As a large consumer of energy, we are supportive of efforts to meet future energy needs of the Midwest.”
The 345-kilovolt line will connect to the CapX2020 line at the Briggs Road Substation in Holmen, travel north to Black River Falls, and follow the I-94 corridor to Madison.