Thursday, October 06, 2016

Oct 10 - Badger Coulee appeal at 3rd District Court, La Crosse - public invited to be present in courtroom

Hello fellow progressives - 

This Monday, Oct 10th the Town of Holland representatives and their attorney will appeal issues regarding the high voltage transmission line "Badger-Coulee" before Judge Todd Bjerke in La Crosse. The people of the Town of Holland are not speaking out against this just because this is "in their backyard." They are bringing up the very important environmental questions regarding the effect of high voltage transmission to our lands, water, and wildlife throughout the course of the lines.  They will present data-backed information that questions the actual need for these expensive, monstrous lines that will be with us for decades if they are built to connect to the recently completed Capx2020 and connect with other lines in the Madison area. 

They are asking the judge whether the Public Service Commission (three people appointed by Scott Walker) is required by law to publicly justify how our energy dollars are spent and our environmental goals met. There will be several important questions for the judge to consider. There may be history in the making as it is very difficult to turn around these transmission companies once they have been granted approvals by agencies such as the PSC. 

We are asking for a calm, peaceful presence at the courtroom. Press will likely be there and afterwards may interview persons who have an interest in the transmission issues. People observing will not have any chance to speak directly to Judge Bjerke or during the arguments, but it is hopeful that he will see that these questions are important to the community if there is a strong public presence. The attorney for Holland hopes to bring forth the truth in language that people can understand, compared to the difficult-to-understand language that might be used by the many attorneys for the American Transmission Company (ATC.)

Oral arguments start at 1:45 at the La Crosse County Court House - 333 Vine Street in La Crosse.

I am not personally able to attend due to work commitments, but I would hope that anyone interested and available might be able to attend. If you have any questions I could answer or direct to members of SOUL ("Saving Our Unique Lands") please let me know.

Thank you!

Rachel Teske, Onalaska WI

I am including the recent newsletter from SOUL below:

 The Proper and Prudent Public Discussion of Electricity Costs in Wisconsin
Badger-Coulee Appeal, October 10, La Crosse, WI 

       No public discussion stands to affect our electricity costs and environmental goals more than the possible appeal of the Badger-Coulee transmission line decision.

       In 2015, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected multiple public objections and stamped approval of the costly, 170 mile, high-capacity expansion line between La Crosse and Madison. Oral arguments challenging and defending the approval will be heard in 3rd District State court in La Crosse on October 10th. At question is whether the PSC is required by law to publicly justify how our energy dollars are spent and our environmental goals met.

       The PSC is not rushing to clarify its reasoning in approving the project. Instead, the PSC is asking the court to grant the agency "great deference” in their judgments despite the agency’s refusal to study potential need under current flat and declining electricity use and other irregularities.

       The agency does not dispute that the energy growth assumptions it used to economically justify the Paddock-Rockdale 345 kV line in 2008 never materialized. Rather than discuss how the agency will prevent repeating the same mistake in Badger-Coulee, their request for "great deference” aims to avoid discussions about the bottom line altogether. Such deference would effectively say to the court, to the public, and to the electric customers that such decisions are too complicated for all of us to understand, so we must defer to their “superior" judgment.

       The PSC takes this position despite five years of steady requests for transparency and cost analysis from more than 90 local governments, 12 state lawmakers, and record public participation in public hearings. With electricity use flat and declining, most states are shifting investments to energy efficiency, modern load management and local power development because, unlike utility expansion, they guarantee savings and rapid CO2 reductions. Electric customers, who would assume debt for Badger-Coulee over the next 30-40 years, do not take lightly any dismissal of economic and environmental accountability.

       Proven, lower cost solutions emphasizing efficiency improvements in our homes, farms and businesses were charted by state lawmakers in 2009 when they approved a $1 per month increase in Focus on Energy rebate pools. Though the lawmakers’ request met PSC inaction in 2010, public discussions with state lawmakers revived as utilities starting asking for historical fixed fee increases to pay for expansion and ballooning utility debt.

       Opposition to highly questionable transmission expansion is erupting in every hill and dale in southwest Wisconsin as transmission builders propose another high capacity expansion line between Madison and Dubuque. Cardinal Hickory Creek would be the eighth high capacity line approved in our state in ten years. Persons from these communities will be joining court observers in La Crosse.

       The appeal brought by the Town of Holland is already successful in exposing attempts by a state agency to discourage public discussion of prudent electricity cost accountability. This “day in court” presents a rare opportunity to let one’s presence speak for every concerned electric customer in the state.

       No matter the outcome on the 10th, it is very possible that we will look back at the PSC’s attempt to justify Badger-Coulee as a key turning point in our energy future. Oral arguments start at 1:45 pm at the La Crosse County Court House, 333 Vine St.

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