Initial reply briefs split over proposed Alma-La Crosse line

There were few, if any, surprises in the initial reply briefs in response to three days of hearings on the proposed Alma-La Crosse CapX2020 line (Docket No: 05-CE-136), filed with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) March 30.

Documents filed by the applicants Dairyland Power Cooperative, Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, and WPPI predictably supported the line. “It is beyond reasonable dispute that the project is needed, and as proposed, is reasonable and should be approved,” the applicants stated in their brief.

The Midwest ISO (MISO) also filed in support of the project. The grid operator said the project is needed to provide an adequate supply of energy, that it provided significant regional benefits, and that the project was needed to meet North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards, which it said could not be met by other alternatives, including additional generation.

American Transmission Company (ATC) was also supportive of the proposed project. saying the line “would provide significant reliability, usage, and service benefits to Wisconsin customers and these benefits are reasonable in relation to the project cost.”

Opponents to the project included the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and NoCapX2020/Citizens Energy Task Force.

The CUB said the project was “excessive relative to the local need in the La Crosse area.” Notably, the CUB took a position opposite MISO in stating that the proposed project “cannot be justified on the basis of regional need because no regional benefits arise from the project by itself. All purported regional benefits are dependent upon installation of another 345 kV transmission line to the east of the Applicants’ proposal, the application for which has not been filed,” the CUB said in its filing.

NoCapX2020 and Citizens Energy Task Force filed a joint brief, in which the two groups asserted that the applicants’ “need” claims were overstated, and that the project was excessive, even in view of that overstated claim. The groups also stated the project would not be needed to meet the local needs of La Crosse until 2024, was not needed for regional reliability, and the costs were not reasonable.

The brief filed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) stopped short of supporting or opposing the project as a whole, instead focusing its comments on whether it would be able to permit or accommodate the project along each of the nine proposed alignments that cross land with scenic or other easements for which WisDOT is responsible.

“WisDOT has determined that it can permit and/or accommodate four of the proposed nine routes [but] cannot permit or accommodate the remaining five routes, absent an underground solution,” the agency said in its brief.

The five routes it found it could not approve “are in opposition with the values, purpose, and public investment in the Great River Road National Scenic Byway and National Parkway. To permit and/or accommodate the five remaining routes would constitute an abrogation of WisDOT’s duties and responsibilities under law and public policy,” WisDOT said in its filing.

The PSCW is required to take action on the application for a CPCN by June 4.