Articles on challenges to Badger-Coulee xmsn

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on May 15, 2015 @ 6:40 am

Petitions for Rehearing went in on Wednesday:

Segment A-Petition for Rehearing

SOUL/CETF Motion for Rehearing

Look what’s arrived today in Google Alerts!  An article about challenges to the Badger Coulee transmission project:

Several groups opposed to a high-voltage transmission line across western Wisconsin have petitioned state utility regulators for a new hearing on the controversial $580 million project that was approved last month.

The Citizens Energy Task Force and Save Our Unique Lands jointly petitioned the Public Service Commission Wednesday for a rehearing on the panel’s April 23 decision to approve the line, known as Badger-Coulee.

A joint venture of Xcel Energy and American Transmission Company, the 345-kilovolt line will originate at a substation under construction near Briggs Road that is part of CapX2020, another high-voltage transmission project running across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Crews are at work raising towers along the $211 million portion of that project between Alma and Holmen, with work expected to be completed this summer.

ATC and Xcel say the project will improve system reliability, deliver cheaper power and provide a pipeline for wind energy from Minnesota and Iowa to population centers to the east. Opponents contended the line will allow utilities to profit by trading energy while discouraging more cost-effective local alternatives such as energy efficiency and solar power.

The groups, both intervenors in the case, claim new evidence corroborates their position that the line is not needed, citing data from the federal Energy Information Administration that shows U.S. electricity sales fell steeply during the recession and have not grown since rebounding in 2010.

In Wisconsin, they point out, sales last year were about 1.8 percent below 2005.

“Savings potential from high capacity transmission lines generally declines as energy use drops,” the groups said in a news release. “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.”

A group of 30 Dane County landowners filed a separate rehearing petition Wednesday asking the PSC to reject a 4.6-mile segment near Middleton, noting that route comes within 100 feet of three homes. As an alternative, they ask commissioners to require ATC to bury the line, a more expensive option.

Like SOUL and CETF, the Segment A landowners argue the PSC failed to determine the project’s cost-benefit ratio for electric consumers.

The project could end up losing money, they argue. And while state law allows utilities to recoup losses, there are no such protections for customers.

The PSC has 30 days to consider the rehearing requests. If commissioners take no action, it is by default denied.

“We acknowledge we have received a petition for rehearing,” said PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad. “It’s up to the discretion of the commissioners as to whether to grant that petition.”

Last month the Town of Holland challenged the ruling in circuit court, also arguing that the line is not needed and the decision was based “on deficient environmental analysis.”

The PSC has yet to file a response in that case.

Construction of the new line is not expected to begin until 2016, but ATC said it will begin acquiring easements along the route next month, working from south to north. Altogether, there are 318 residences – including 169 homes – within 300 feet of the approved route, which cuts through 617.5 acres of farmland.

Nearly 90 percent of those residences are along the northern portion of the route, through La Crosse, Trempealeau, Jackson, Monroe and Juneau counties. Almost half are in the Holmen area.

Utilities, like governments, have the power of eminent domain, which means they have the legal right to take ownership or cross private property. Landowners must be compensated for their loss but do not have the power to refuse.

And elsewhere:

Real estate acquisition work on Badger Coulee Line to begin in May – WKBTApr 23, 2015

Land acquisition set to begin for Badger-Coulee transmission line

La Crosse Tribune – ‎Apr 23, 2015‎

And this one with the “against evidence” headline:

How’s this for a headline?

Filed today — Badger-Coulee Petition for Rehearing

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on May 13, 2015 @ 4:36 pm


Today was the deadline for Petitions for Rehearing of the Badger-Coulee Final Order.  Here’s the April 23, 2015 Order:

Final Order 05-CE-142

And here’s the Petition for Rehearing I filed today for the “Segment A Landowners” in Middleton:

Segment A-Petition for Rehearing

CETF/SOUL also filed one today:

150513 SOUL/CETF Motion for Rehearing

150513 Exhibit A (they have other exhibits, look in the Motion for links)

And remember, last week Town of Holland filed directly with the District Court:

Circuit Court – Town of Holland Petition for Judicial Review

Well, here’s where Diane “Ransom” is!

Filed under:Wisconsin — posted by admin on May 6, 2015 @ 8:13 am

OH.  MY.  DOG.  Did you know Diane Ramthun, formerly PSC Counsel, is now at Reynolds Oliveira, LLC?  Diane’s Reynolds Oliveira page HERE!  Diane’s own “Diane Ranthum” page HERE!


Diane Ramthun is the one who called me up as the Wisconsin CapX 2020 Hampton – La Crosse project was getting going, and she told me I couldn’t practice before the Wisconsin Public Service Commission!  That non-attorneys were not allowed to practice!  Here’s the WI Code:

PSC 2.22  Representatives. A person desiring to participate in a docket, whether on his or her own behalf or as an authorized agent or attorney, shall enter an appearance in person by giving his or her name and address and the name and address of any party he or she represents and in what capacity he or she is employed by that party.

Diane, that’s not true!  There it is in brown & white…  Yup, not true, but that was her statement, which I interpreted as a threat.  She was so unreasonably insistent that, in filing the Petition for Intervention, I offered to file a Pro Hac Vice Motion if necessary.

NoCapX 2020 Letter and Intervention-PSC-ERF

When we got before Judge Newmark about it, he rolled his eyes and said it’s not an issue, non-Wisconsin attorneys can practice before the PSC.  DOH!

She’s also the one who pushed so hard for, and got in the CapX Prehearing Order, onerous copying requirements; that despite use of ERF, the PSC’s electronic filing system, we had to file 15 copies of everything for PSC staff, that color files required color copies, and we had to mail them a 55# box of copies, and THEN she changed it to CDs of documents.  None of that is necessary.  Since use of ERF, no other cases required those copies.  It was a waste of effort and $1,500 of money that we could ill afford.

I was told by a little birdie at a PSC prehearing conference that such a requirement was not normal, in fact had only occurred in that one case.


There are more examples, but these are two points in the line of abuse of process by this one particular PSC staff attorney, trying to keep the people out.

And now look where she is!  After a brief trial of private practice after she left the PSC, she’s now at Reynolds Oliveira, also where Oliveira is the “new owner.”  From their website:

Reynolds Oliveira LLC Welcomes New Owner and New Attorney

February 15, 2015

Attorney Marcel S. Oliveira has become the owner and principal attorney of Reynolds Oliveira LLC as the firm welcomes energy law veteran attorney Diane M. Ramthun to its team.  Read more…

This is as of February 15, 2015, but when did this change start?  It’s not something done lightly or done overnight.

The website is “under construction.”

How involved was she in this Badger-Coulee docket?  The Reynolds Oliveira site says, “Diane M. Ramthun, our practice leader in this area…” Oh my!  What was her influence was on the CETF/SOUL intervention?  What was her influence on the path they took, the issues raised and issues not raised, down to the very questions asked or not asked, including questions not asked of PSC witnesses at the hearing?

ITC tariff adder cut, just as costs are showing up!

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on May 5, 2015 @ 3:50 pm


In an interesting twist that will take some digging to fully understand, ITC got smacked upside the head recently at FERC.  Well, a little, but they should have been sent packing altogether.

They’d requested a tariff adder, in addition to the 12.38% that they’re getting as return on equity.  WHAT?!?!?!  MORE?!?!?! They didn’t get the full 100 basis points, but did get 50… so if I understand this correctly, the interest rate now will rise by 0.50% to 12.88%.  Why?  And their objection is that FERC always has given the adder requests to transmission only companies, and so now, why didn’t they get it.  Whine, whine, whine…

To read about this, check the FERC docket.   Go HERE and search for docket ER15-945.  Here’s their original Petition from January 2015:

Initial Filing_20150130-5273(30113346)-1

And surprise, here’s what FERC said (hint: they only got half of their request!):

Order Conditionally Accepting & Suspending Tariff Filing _20150331-3061(30452072)

Regarded as so extreme that the two Dissenters felt a press release was in order:

Moeller & Clark PressRelease_Dissent_20150401-3044(30455217)

I love it when they don’t get their way, but there’s also no justification for the 50% adder, no way, no how, not in this day of low, low prime rate interest.



Dedication of CapX 2020?

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on May 4, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

WHAT?!?!  The dedication ceremony for the CapX 2020 Brookings – Hampton and Fargo – St. Cloud – Monticello projects, and I didn’t get a gold engraved invitation?  And of course there’s Beth Soholt, “Wind on the Wires” (f/k/a a program of the Izaak Walton League) toadying for these projects — how much did Wind on the Wires get in grants to promote transmission?  Minnesota Department of Commerce represented as well, though it’s the Commissioner!  Why wouldn’t they send Beth’s old boss, Bill Grant, particularly given that he’s now Deputy Commissioner of Commerce!  It’s all connected, don’t cha know.

They say these are energized.  Wonder if/when they’re going to put transformers in?  Anyone know?

CapX Dedication Ceremony

How’s this for a quote, from the Forum:

The power buzzing in the transformers come from another power line that stretches west to the coal power plants in Center, N.D.

And the full article here: Xcel energizes new Fargo to St. Cloud powerline

Here’s the poop from KNSI News:

CapX2020 transmission lines celebrated

May 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) – A dedication ceremony was held today in St. Cloud to commemorate the completion of two high-voltage electric transmission lines — part of CapX2020. 

The CapX2020 Brookings County-Hampton and Fargo-St. Cloud-Monticello projects complete $1.3 billion worth of electric grid investment in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Will Kaul is chairman of CapX2020, a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin

“It’s just in time when the concern about the grid and the security and the resilience of the grid is very high … a time when the resource mix that is coming into play is in transition and new resources are coming online,” Kaul said.

The two projects took 11 years and were completed on time and without going over budget to provide reliable, affordable service to Minnesota and the surrounding region, while also expanding access to renewable energy, according to Teresa Mogensen of Xcel Energy.

“We compare our CapX2020 lines to another big project – the Vikings stadium – that’s a $1 billion investment, too,” said Mogensen, who provided some perspective.

The CapX2020 projects include four 345 kV transmission lines and one 230 kV line — the largest development of new transmission in the Upper Midwest in almost four decades.

One way the CapX2020 projects help keep prices low is by alleviating congestion on the system. When more electricity is needed in an area than the area’s transmission system can provide, electricity is dispatched from a different generation source that can serve the area, but at a higher cost.



Town of Holland files challenge in Circuit Court

Filed under:Appeal,BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on @ 9:22 am

Last week, Frank Jablonski, representing the Town of Holland, filed an appeal challenging the Wisconsin Public Service Commission Badger Coulee decision.  Holland went directly to the court, and didn’t bother with an administrative Motion for Reconsideration at the PSC.  Given their decision, and lack of substantive review or consideration, I can see why!

Here’s the PSC’s Final Order – Badger Coulee – 05-CE-142.

Here’s the Town of Holland’s Circuit Court – Petition for Judicial Review.

Others?  We shall see…

A Petition for Rehearing has to be filed within 20 days of the April 23, 2015 service of the Final Order. by my count, the 13th of May:

Petition for Rehearing

And for a Circuit Court Petition for Judicial Review, its 30 days, with Saturday the 23rd the 30th day, so Monday the 25th would be the deadline (but hey, do it on Friday the 22nd just because!):

Petition for Judicial Review

In an administrative decision, the further away from the decision, the further away you are from success in challenging it.  The important action is at the PSC, building the record for the decision, and the specifics in the Final Order.

And if someone wants to challenge it, what to do?  In Wisconsin, you have your choice, as above (in Minnesota, it requires a Petition for Reconsideration, and then after that’s resolved, on to the Appellate Court).  Either way, whether a Petition for Rehearing, or a Petition for Judicial Review to a Circuit Court, it’s an uphill battle to say the least.  If a Petition for Rehearing is filed, they’ll have to take it up, but can just say, “No, we’re not interested in a Rehearing,” and that’s the end of that.  If it goes directly to the Circuit Court, skipping the Petition for Rehearing step at the PSC, it’s still tough going.  Courts give administrative decisions “great deference,” as they are the “experts” in their field of jurisdiction, and it is a rare PSC Order that is remanded by a Circuit Court.  We can argue whether they’re “experts” or not (most of us would agree that they’re NOT!), but that won’t change the order.


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace