ITC Midwest President: Ownership dispute with ATC over Dubuque-Cardinal only solved by FERC

Though ITC Midwest continues to discuss the Dubuque to Cardinal transmission project with American Transmission Co. (ATC), it is unlikely that the question of who owns the line will be resolved outside of the FERC process, ITC Midwest President Doug Collins told TransmissionHub on Dec. 21. 

“I keep hoping we’ll reach ownership settlement outside of the FERC process, but at this point I think FERC is going to have a make a ruling before we move forward with what I think are productive discussions along those lines,” Collins said. “I don’t think we’ll reach settlement on the ownership side without some FERC indication of what should be done.”

Despite contention over ownership of the line, the two companies’ project teams have met to discuss the more logistical aspects of the project, such as coordination on regulatory filings and the determination of river crossings, Collins said.

“We’re trying to work together to make sure that customers get the maximum benefit when we get the ownership straightened out,” Collins said.

The Dubuque-Cardinal project is a 136-mile, 345-kV line that runs from ITC’s Dubuque substation in Iowa to ATC’s Cardinal substation in Wisconsin. As originally approved in MISO’s transmission expansion plan (MTEP), the project runs from Cardinal to a new substation at Spring Green, which is a short distance from Madison, Wis., and then from Spring Green to Dubuque.

In its complaint filed with FERC, ITC Midwest said ATC unilaterally proposed a reroute from Cardinal to a substation at Montfort, Wis., which is closer to Dubuque, and then from Montfort to Dubuque. 

“Our point … was that they unilaterally went in to propose a change to what we view as a joint project, and we had no input on that at all,” Collins said. “The dispute really comes out of the MISO transmission owners agreement (TOA), [which says] that if a project touches multiple transmission owners, each owner is responsible for an equal percentage of that project. In the case of Dubuque to Cardinal, it touches ATC and ITC Midwest and so a plain reading of that TOA says we’re responsible for 50% of that project.”

Any changes to the project should have been discussed first with ITC Midwest and MISO, and then, if deemed necessary, vetted through a stakeholder process, Collins said.

For its part, ATC on Dec. 14 responded to ITC Midwest’s arguments, saying it made the project changes in a March 26 quarterly status report in response to a request for updates of all MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP) projects.

“Under the commission’s interpretation of the share equally provision, the only pertinent question is what facilities are already existing and what new facilities will interconnect between the already-existing facilities of two MISO transmission owners,” ATC said in the filing (Docket No. EL13-13).

Collins also noted that a connection at Montfort to a 138-kV system has not yet been studied, and therefore it is not known whether additional work would have to be done to support that connection.

Regulatory filings in Iowa and Wisconsin have not yet been made, as the project is in the very early stages of development, Collins said. 

Xcel Energy vs. ATC case serves as proxy

ATC is involved in a similar ownership dispute with Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) over the La Crosse-Madison transmission project, which, like the Dubuque-Cardinal project, is split into three legs and which serves as a kind of proxy to ITC Midwest’s complaint.

When FERC ruled in favor of Xcel Energy in its dispute with ATC, Collins said he believed ITC Midwest’s settlement negotiations with ATC would progress. ATC, however, filed an appeal to FERC’s finding. Answer to that appeal is pending.

“If FERC rules in Xcel’s favor on appeal as well, then I think that’s a pretty clear signal that would enable all of us to get to the table and resolve the ownership issues,” Collins said.

ITC Midwest is a subsidiary of ITC Holdings (NYSE:ITC).

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.