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Challenge to power line ruling advances  

Credit:  CHRIS HUBBUCH | Lee Newspapers | March 2, 2016 | lacrossetribune.com ~~

A challenge to a decision by Wisconsin regulators authorizing a high-voltage power line between Holmen and Dane County will be allowed to proceed in court.

La Crosse County’s town of Holland petitioned the court in April for review of the Public Service Commission’s approval of the Badger-Coulee line and its routing, which runs along Highway 53, across the street from another high-voltage line completed last year.

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke denied the PSC’s motion to have the case thrown out in an order released Thursday.

“Now we can deal with the substance of the matter,” said the town’s attorney, Frank Jablonski.

A joint venture of Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co., the 345-kilovolt line, as approved, will originate at a substation on Briggs Road that was built as part of CapX2020, the other high-voltage transmission project running across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. The chosen route would run through Jackson County.

ATC and Xcel said 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.

The three-member PSC, all appointed by Gov. Scott Walker, agreed, allowing the estimated $580 million cost to be passed on to ratepayers in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states.

Opponents contend the line isn’t needed and will allow utilities to profit by trading energy while discouraging more cost-effective local alternatives such as energy efficiency and solar power.

The town argued that underlying assumptions about the growing demand for electricity “do not stand up” and also objected to the approved route, which will travel north from Holmen to Black River Falls and then along the I-94 corridor to the outskirts of Madison.

The PSC sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the town’s petition was not filed within the statutory 30-day period after its final ruling.

The ruling, signed June 12, was not delivered to the town until June 15. The town filed its petition July 14, which PSC attorneys argued was more than 30 days after the ruling was signed, and therefore finalized.

“Holland would not be able to know what was in the PSCW’s final order until it was served upon them,” Bjerke wrote. “Without knowing what the PSCW’s final order was, Holland could not petition for judicial review until it was served upon them.”

The PSC in a statement said it will “defend the merits of the Badger-Coulee decison.”

Bjerke has not set a date to hear arguments on the petition.

ATC said the decision would not affect construction, which began last month in Dane County and is expected to continue through 2018.

The town has not sought to put the project on hold during the court proceedings, citing state statutes that would require it to put up a $580 million bond.

“The Legislature arranged things so that is out of reach for any municipality or individual,” Jablonski said.

Source:  CHRIS HUBBUCH | Lee Newspapers | March 2, 2016 | lacrossetribune.com

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