January 18, 2012

A massive $1 billion proposal for transmission lines that would run through Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula should not be allowed to continue on a special, fast-tracked “out-of-cycle” approval process, according to the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin (CUB).

American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed “Northern Plan” transmission proposal is being reviewed on a rapidly accelerated schedule by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO), a regional organization that manages access to the electricity grid. MISO granted the faster, out-of-cycle review process because of WE Energies’ statements that it might shut down the Presque Isle coal plant in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette, Michigan. Recently, WE Energies and Wolverine Power Cooperative announced a joint venture to explore retrofitting the coal plant with modern pollution control equipment and continuing to run the plant.

“Consumers should not be asked to pay for $1 billion of new transmission lines running through Wisconsin’s Northwoods, without a full and fair review of alternatives that might save money and prevent the disruption of key habitats and natural areas,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

According to the groups, a more thorough, normal review process should include a consideration of the cost impacts of siting, as well as a detailed consideration of alternative transmission routes. The proposed high-voltage transmission lines would run through the Northwoods in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

“Should we spend many years and consumer dollars to analyze the technical details of a plan that might not even happen because of the significant natural resources and other concerns it already raises,” asked Charlie Higley, Executive Director of Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin. “Should we build transmission lines through one state to primarily serve another state? These are questions MISO should ask – and answer – after careful review.”

Although the MISO review process is closed to the public, MISO agreed to allow ELPC and CUB to submit expert comments for its consideration. Read them here.

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The Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin is a member-supported nonprofit organization that advocates for reliable and affordable utility service and that represents the interests of residential, farm, and small business customers of electric, natural gas, and telecommunication utilities before regulatory agencies and the courts.