Wisconsin regulators have announced dates in December for public hearings on a proposed high-voltage transmission line to connect La Crosse and Madison.
The hearings, scheduled between Dec. 8 and 15, will be the last opportunity for the public to testify in person for the record that regulators will use in ruling on whether the project is approved and if so what route the lines should follow.
Concerned citizens can submit written comments to the Public Service Commission through Jan. 5.
A joint venture of Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co., the 345-kilovolt Badger-Coulee line would run from a substation under construction on Briggs Road in Holmen to the outskirts of Madison.
The lines would follow one of two general routes through the Coulee Region: north through Holmen to Black River Falls and along the Interstate 94 corridor; or west through Onalaska and West Salem and across Monroe County to the interstate.
ATC and Excel say the line, which would tie in to another high-voltage project now being built between Hampton, Minn., and Holmen, would improve system reliability, deliver cheaper power for Wisconsin consumers and provide a pipeline for wind energy from Minnesota and Iowa to population centers to the east.
Wisconsin ratepayers would pay a share of the estimated $540 million to $580 million price tag.
The PSC is expected to release a final environmental review Tuesday of the potential impact.
Opponents of the project complain the draft review did not adequately address cultural, health and economic impacts of the project, nor did it do what more than 90 municipalities and a dozen lawmakers had asked: to provide a cost-benefit analysis of other alternatives such as energy efficiency and local power generation.
“It was grossly inadequate,” said Deb Severson, a representative of Citizens Energy Task Force, one of the intervenors in the case. “There were issues totally ignored.”
Installing solar panels to meet half a home’s energy needs would save a homeowner $20,000 over the course of the project’s 40-year lifetime, said Rob Danielson, spokesman for Save Our Unique Lands, one of several citizens groups opposing the project. Danielson said there are another $20,000 in savings from increased energy efficiency.
“Those are all economic benefits,” he said. “There’s no detractions.”
The project, informally proposed in 2010, has generated letters, comments and resolutions from about 100 units of government, including La Crosse County, the city of Onalaska and village of Holmen, which have either opposed the project or routes through their borders.
The PSC has since logged more than 200 public comments on the draft environmental review.
It will be up to the three-member Public Service Commission to determine whether the project is necessary and serves the public interest. The commission can approve, deny or modify the proposal and will select the route if the project is approved.
A final decision is expected in April following testimony from applicants, 25 registered intervenors, and the public.
At the federal level, the project would need permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Conservation Service, National Park Service and Federal Aviation Administration.
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