Wis. power line opponents take fight to federal court

Source: By Associated Press • Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2019

Opponents of a power line in southwestern Wisconsin are taking their fight against the $492 million project to federal court.

The plaintiffs say state regulators have conflicts of interest that should have kept them from approving the power line project.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The groups say the Public Service Commission chairwoman and a commissioner have outside interests that should disqualify them from voting on the 100-mile, high-voltage line, known as the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project.

The plaintiffs say PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Valcq’s previous employment as an attorney for the state’s largest utility, WEC Energy Group, and Commissioner Mike Huebsch’s advisory role with the Midwest electric grid operator create a perceived conflict of interest, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Valcq called the allegations “opportunistic at best and at worst contemptible.”

The line, which will run between Dubuque, Iowa, and Middleton, is a joint venture of American Transmission Co., ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

PSC spokesman Matt Sweeney said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but he pointed to the commission’s written order that denied the groups’ initial request to have the commissioners recuse themselves, saying the groups failed to present any concrete evidence that either commissioners had any outside information about the project.