SPECIAL PLACES

New Poll Shows SW Wisconsin Voters Prioritize Safe Clean Drinking Water as Top Issue of Concern & Favor Specific Regulations to Improve Water Quality

Contact: Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, (312)795-3706

New Poll Shows SW Wisconsin Voters Prioritize Safe Clean Drinking Water as Top Issue of Concern & Favor Specific Regulations to Improve Water Quality

 Majority said they’d favor candidate supporting more regulation to protect safe clean drinking water

CHICAGO – Nationally-recognized pollster J. Ann Selzer‘s new poll of 601 registered voters in southwest Wisconsin for the Environmental Law & Policy Center Action Fund (ELPC Action Fund) found 89% of respondents said safe clean drinking water is the most important issue – ahead of infrastructure, health care, funding for public education and agricultural practices. While Southwest Wisconsin voters are initially divided on whether more regulation to protect drinking water supplies is needed, when presented facts and arguments about specific proposals that would address water quality, a majority support policy actions, including a freeze on new or expanded construction of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Additionally, a majority said they would favor a candidate supporting more regulation on drinking water over a candidate supporting the status quo when it comes time to vote.

“Candidates should recognize that strong policies to protect safe, clean drinking water are winners with the voters in Wisconsin. The poll results show that southwest Wisconsin residents are concerned about safe clean drinking water and would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting stronger regulations that protect the water supply from pollutants,” said Howard Learner, ELPC Action Fund’s executive director. “The recent well water testing shows that our drinking water needs better protections. Voters in southwest Wisconsin care about this issue and will support candidates who support policy actions and solutions.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Nearly nine in ten (89%) voters in largely rural counties in southwest Wisconsin say drinking water quality is very (82%) or fairly (7%) important to them.
  • An underlying reason for the importance of safe clean water may stem from voters’ responses that good quality of life for them is connected to multiple elements including outdoor recreation (87%), scenic landscapes and quiet places.
  • Three specific legislative proposals were favored by the majority. They include a requirement for best management practices to reduce fertilizer and manure runoff from crop farms and CAFOs (72% support), allowing counties to impose stricter local standards to protect drinking water compared to state law (75% support), and requiring greater disclosure and regulation of how CAFOs spread manure on fields where it can run off or seep into nearby waterways (72% support).
  • There is high awareness among voters in southwest Wisconsin about the contamination causes of drinking water, including over-application of commercial fertilizer on fields that seeps into the groundwater (85% awareness), CAFOs spreading more manure on fields than can be naturally absorbed (74% awareness), and the fractured bedrock and sandy soil allows contaminants to get into the groundwater (67% awareness).
  • A pro-regulation candidate is preferred over one favoring the status quo. 52% say they would be inclined support a candidate who supports more regulation to a candidate who does not. Two in three see water quality as a major or minor issue for the next general election.

The poll was conducted in November 2019 in five southwest Wisconsin counties: Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richmond.

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Wisconsin PSC Will Approve Unnecessary High-Voltage Transmission Line that Will Permanently Damage the Driftless Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

David Clutter, Dave@driftlessconservancy.org, 609-692-2153

Chuck Tenneson, Charles@driftlessconservancy.org, 608-930-3252

George Meyer, georgemeyer@tds.net, (608) 516-5545

Wisconsin PSC Says Will Approve Huge Unnecessary High-Voltage Transmission Line that Will Permanently Damage the Driftless Area

There Are Better Clean Energy Solutions and Alternatives for Wisconsin

Dodgeville, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Public Service Commissioners met and voted to approve moving forward to issue a written decision approving the proposed costly Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line that would cut a wide swath through Wisconsin’s scenic Driftless Area natural resources and communities.

David Clutter, Executive Director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, said: 

“The Driftless Area Land Conservancy is very disappointed in today’s decision by the PSC Commissioners to approve this unneeded 120-mile transmission line with 17-story towers that would create irreparable and permanent damage to the scenic Driftless Area. The Commission’s own staff testified that this transmission line is not the most economical option in most modeling scenarios. It’s not needed for energy demand nor reliability to keep the lights on. We expect that this decision will be challenged before federal and other state agencies, and in the courts if necessary.

Dane County, Iowa County, and many municipalities and school districts throughout Southwest Wisconsin opposed this unneeded transmission line. Furthermore, all of the state legislators of both parties and two members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation expressed serious concerns regarding the construction and maintenance of this transmission line.

Numerous Wisconsin environmental, agricultural, grassroots citizen and consumer protection groups opposed this transmission line. Thousands of Wisconsin residents submitted written comments and testified at public hearings in opposition to this destructive proposed project.

The direction the Commissioners’ seem to be taking is contrary to Wisconsin state law. Their decision is not supported by expert witness testimony, the PSC’s own staff testimony or thousands of members of the public.

Wisconsin needs to transition to renewable energy and we can do so without damaging the natural areas and special places of our Driftless Area. There are better clean energy solutions and alternatives for Wisconsin. The PSC’s decision will result in higher utility rates in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, and will allow ATC and ITC to condemn private land through eminent domain.

The Driftless Area Land Conservancy hopes that the Commissioners will reconsider their apparent decision before entering a final order in this case. Upon reviewing the final order, the decision will be appealed if the Commission’s decision stands.

 

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said: 

“The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation is extremely disappointed with the Public Service Commissioners’ decision to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage transmission line.

The Driftless Area is a truly unique landscape and home to a large number of valuable and heavily used Federal, State and local recreational areas. There has been a substantial amount of public and private investment in the natural resources and the recreational facilities of the Driftless Area including hundreds of small businesses that derive their income based on the resulting tourism economy.

The construction and maintenance of the proposed line and very high towers will have significant and undue adverse impacts on environmental values, including land and water resources. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation will continue to challenge this destructive transmission line before federal and other state agencies, and in the courts if necessary.”

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Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act is a critical step in fixing Illinois’ coal ash problem

*Note a teleconference with activists and legal experts will be held at 4:00pm CST to speak about the impacts of the law. Dial (605) 313-5111, Access Code 643244

CONTACT: Al Grosboll | Environmental Law & Policy Center | AGrosboll@elpc.org (217) 652-3866

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Today, bipartisan legislation to protect Illinois’ citizens and the environment from the effects of toxic coal ash became law. The  Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will result in stronger rules for coal ash cleanup and fund cleanup programs through permit fees — while also requiring performance bonds or other financial security to ensure that companies set aside the money to close and clean up coal ash ponds.

The legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. It also requires Illinois to put in place standards for coal ash impoundments that are at least as protective as federal coal ash rule requirements, with additional protection against dust and water pollution.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons, passed the Illinois Legislature in May. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law today.

The legislation was badly needed. Organizations and community leaders have demanded state action for years. A recent report by Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club found widespread pollution in groundwater around 22 of the state’s 24 coal ash dumpsites. Pollutants found in nearby groundwater include arsenic, cobalt and lithium. That report found that Illinois is one of the worst states in the nation for pollution from coal ash pits.

Iconic Illinois landscapes such as the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River, the State’s only Wild and Scenic River are threatened by leaking coal ash impoundments constructed under loose regulations or no regulations whatsoever.

Now that the bill has become law, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will begin writing and proposing draft rules. The Illinois Pollution Control Board (PCB) will finalize the IEPA rules once they are approved. Both the rulemaking proposal process by IEPA and the approval process by PCB will allow stakeholders and community members to provide input before the final rules are put in place.

“This coal ash legislation is an important environmental protection success to protect safe, clean and drinkable water in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “ELPC is pleased that Gov. Pritzker signed SB 9 because it will protect our water quality, air quality and public health.”

 

STATEWIDE PARTNER QUOTES

“Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing the landmark Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act,” said Andrew Rehn with Prairie Rivers Network, “We would not be here today with the incredible leadership from Senator Bennett and Representative Ammons and heroic efforts from community groups across the state. We are now taking the first steps in cleaning up the toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across Illinois.”

“With this law, Illinois is joining other states that are working to protect their citizens from toxic pollution from coal ash dumps,” said Jennifer Cassel, an Earthjustice coal program attorney  based in Chicago. “For too long, utilities have been allowed to dump this pollution into unlined pits with no regard for the consequences. That will no longer be the case in Illinois.”

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Pritzker has taken a historic step in protecting communities and the environment from dangerous coal ash pollution across Illinois,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “Now, polluters will be held responsible for the clean up of their toxic waste–not residents of Illinois.”

“The communities of faith represented by Faith In Place Action Fund applaud the Governor signing SB9 into law. Illinois joins other states that are putting its residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash on the rulemaking process.” Celeste Flores, Faith in Place Action Fund

“This is the most significant step to protect clean water and public health that has made it into law in years. People across the state who have struggled with the impacts of toxic coal ash are grateful that their calls for action to protect our groundwater and hold big polluters accountable have been heard. It’s now critical that the Illinois EPA develop the strongest possible coal ash rules with community input to ensure that this historic bill realizes its promise for coal ash communities across Illinois,” said Joyce Blumenshine of the Sierra Club.

 

REGIONAL PARTNER QUOTES

Wood River/Alton/Metro East

“It is always encouraging when people who have long felt ignored and powerless discover that someone finally listened. Metro East Green Alliance members have worked for several years to get the Texas-based coal giant Dynegy and the previous Rauner administration to do the right thing–to clean up the Wood River Power Plant that was shuttered over three years ago in a responsible way and to compensate the vulnerable community left unemployed and at increased health risk,” said Toni Oplt, MEGA member. “Now that SB9 is law, we feel the state legislature, Governor Prizker and IEPA have, at last, pulled up a chair for us at the table. We have faith they will continue to listen as the SB9 rulemaking for coal ash cleanup and the accompanying requirements for corporate financial assurances move forward.”

Waukegan

“This is a great win for Coal Ash Communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters. The Governor is putting the State of Illinois in a good trajectory in signing SB9 into law, by sending a message that environmental justice communities across the state are being put before profitable industrial polluters like NRG Energy. Waukegan residents commend Governor Pritzker and our state legislators for making SB9 into law. Our land is our children’s future and we look forward to the state of Illinois to continue strengthening protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities.” Dulce Ortiz, Clean Power Lake County

Vermilion County/Danville/Champaign

“We are so pleased that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 9 into law”, said Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco-Justice Collaborative. “Community calls to clean up pollution from coal ash dumped on dozens of power plant sites across the state, including the unlined, leaking pits along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, Illinois’ National Scenic River, have been ignored for far too long. This bill ensures that those living near coal ash will have a say in how these dumps are cleaned up, so that water quality, public health, and local economies are protected.”

“The Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advisory Group sincerely thanks Governor Pritzker for signing SB9. This bill will help keep Illinois water resources clean in perpetuity; ensure that communities like ours have a voice in how polluting coal ash pits impacting our water are closed; and require financial assurances for coal ash impoundment closures. This is a good day for Illinois!” Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advocacy Group

Peoria

“This legislation is a critical step forward in ensuring that frontline communities like Peoria, impacted by coal ash pollution, are protected and won’t be left behind as we transition to a clean energy economy. We applaud the leadership of community members and legislators who have pushed for stronger coal ash protections and now it’s critical that the Illinois EPA propose the strongest rules possible with public input from those most impacted.” Reverend Tony Pierce, President of Illinois People’s Action and Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship in Peoria.

“The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance applauds the Governor signing SB 9, showing his commitment to communities that live with the prospect of abandoned coal ash pits and the toxins that threaten both groundwater and the Illinois River. The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect communities by demanding real financial assurances instead of allowing these continually reorganizing energy profiteers to insure themselves,” said Tracy Fox, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance.

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes
(312) 795-3706
JNemes@elpc.org
 

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over Next Five Years

“Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue”

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends bipartisan Congress leaders for taking a big step forward to reauthorize and increase funding for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The Great Lakes is where we live, work and play. Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue.”

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 42 million people. Reauthorizing GLRI for the next five years with increased funding is necessary to combat harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie, Green Bay and Lake Superior, and threats of invasive species throughout the Great Lakes. More intense rain storms driven by climate change create significantly more stress on Great Lakes infrastructure and the ecosystem. The best defense is a good offense.

“The next five-year GLRI funding cycle, beginning in 2022, should ramp up to $475 million annually during that time from the current $300 million annual allocation. The funding increase would bring the program back to the original FY 2010 level of $475 million.

“Trump’s War on the Great Lakes must be kept in check since his administration attempted to either eliminate or cut funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the last three years. The administration fails to address toxic algae blooms by not requiring enforceable regulatory standards to reduce agricultural runoff of phosphorus pollution from manure and fertilizers that impairs safe clean drinking water for millions of people.

“Great Lakes protection and restoration has strong bipartisan support. Protecting clean water for fisheries and outdoor recreation and ensuring safe drinking water for all is not a partisan issue in the pivotal Midwest states where the 2020 election may be decided. Great Lakes protection is a core value shared by all.

“Since GLRI was launched in 2010, it has provided essential funding to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI projects also protect safe clean drinking water for 42 million people and support a $62 billion economy based on fishing, boating and recreational activities.”

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Minnesota Court of Appeals Declares Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3 Crude Oil Pipeline Inadequate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Mary McClelland, mmcclelland@elpc.org, 312-522-5706

Minnesota Court of Appeals Declares Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3 Crude Oil Pipeline Inadequate 

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided that the environmental impact statement prepared for the controversial line 3 crude oil pipeline was inadequate due to the near complete lack of analysis of the potential impact of a tar sands oil spill near Lake Superior. This is a significant step forward to stop this unneeded and risky oil pipeline through Minnesota’s lake country.

The proposed line 3 project would carry Canadian tar sands oil to Enbridge’s tank farm on the Nemadji River, just before it empties into the Lake.  Heavy tar sands oil can sink to the bottom of any water body it enters, and make any spill cleanup extremely difficult and expensive.  Enbridge’s 2010 pipeline spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan has cost more than $1.3 billion to clean up so far, and it did not involve one of the Great Lakes.

Under Minnesota law, the court’s ruling means the certificate of need and the route permit the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission previously granted are no longer valid. It also means that no other state certification or permit can be granted by any state agency unless and until an environmental impact statement that meets the law’s requirements is completed.

“While the court did not agree with us on every point, the bottom line is that the court found that the basic legal requirement of an adequate environmental impact statement has not been met. Until that problem is fixed, nothing can move forward on line 3,” said Scott Strand, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center and lead attorney for the plaintiff’s Friends of the Headwaters.  “This is an important victory to protect our waterways in Minnesota and we will keep fighting until the end to protect Minnesota’s special places from unneeded pipelines.”

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Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Concerns of Unneeded Transmission Line Harming Driftless Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Dave Clutter, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, (608) 692-2153, Dave@driftlessconservancy.org
George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, (608) 516-5545, georgemeyer@tds.net
Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org

Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Conservation Groups & Natural Resource Experts’ Concerns of Unneeded Huge Transmission Line Harming Scenic Driftless Area

State report identifies harmful impacts, need for huge transmission line questioned

Dodgeville, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ and Public Service Commission’s just-released draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) confirms many of the same vital natural resources concerns over American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and 17-story high towers already voiced by local conservation groups and leading natural resources experts. The proposed transmission line would cut a wide swath through the Driftless Area’s scenic landscapes, conservation lands, parklands, key waterways, and other natural resource treasures. This is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which, in any case, is not needed for electricity reliability.

According to Driftless Area Land Conservancy Executive Director David Clutter: “The Driftless Area is a nationally significant landscape that should be protected. We appreciated that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources’ draft EIS recognized many of the same potential harms we and others identified that a massive transmission line and its 17-story high towers would inflict upon this unique treasure in the Midwest.”

A top-rate team of Wisconsin’s leading natural resources experts presented their concerns in written comments filed in January with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Their comments were submitted on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is serving as their public legal counsel.

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former Director of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, said: “The Driftless Area and specifically the locations that would be harmed by the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. State, federal and local governments have invested many millions of dollars in lands for fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational purposes including hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, hiking and birdwatching which generate scores of millions of dollars into the local and state economies. The value of these public lands will be significantly degraded by the construction of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.”

Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation said:  “The Driftless Area is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which is not needed for reliability in any case as electricity demand is flat and there is already surplus power. The proposed costly transmission line is yesterday’s misguided way to meet future energy needs for people and businesses in Wisconsin.  There are better, cleaner, and more flexible solar energy, storage, wind power and energy efficiency resources in southwest Wisconsin that would create jobs and economic growth here instead of subsidizing out-of-state energy including fossil fuel generation.”

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2018 Year End Report

ELPC has been protecting the Midwest’s environment and natural heritage for 25 years. In 2018, we expanded our team of skilled public interest attorneys, policy advocates and communications specialists. We remain focused on the strategic legal, policy and advocacy work that has made ELPC so effective. This work has never been more important and we look forward to more successes in 2019.

To learn more about our 25 years of successful environmental advocacy, download our 2018 End of Year report or view below.

A+ Team of Wisconsin Natural Resources Experts Oppose Huge Transmission Line That Endangers Scenic Driftless Area Values

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A+ Team of Wisconsin Natural Resources Experts Oppose Huge Transmission Line That Endangers Scenic Driftless Area Values

Threats to Unique Landscape, Recreational Tourism and Fragile Ecosystems

Dodgeville, WI – Four of Wisconsin’s leading natural resources experts filed strong written comments opposing American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and 17-story towers that will cut a wide swath through the Driftless Area’s scenic landscapes, conservation lands, parklands, key waterways and other natural resource treasures. This is the wrong place for a huge transmission line that is not needed for electricity reliability.

The experts’ written comments were filed individually by January 4th with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They were also submitted on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC) and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) by public interest attorneys at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is serving as legal counsel for DALC and WWF.

According to DALC Executive Director David Clutter: “The Driftless Area is a nationally significant landscape that should be protected. This massive transmission line and its 17-story tall towers are not needed for reliability, and the Driftless Area should not be sacrificed for ATC’s profits.  We are pleased to have a superb team of natural resources experts weigh in on the importance of protecting and conserving a unique treasure in the Midwest.”

The natural resources expert team includes:

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former Director of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, stated:

“The Driftless Area and specifically the locations proposed to be traversed by the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. State, federal and local governments have invested over $100 million dollars in lands for fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational purposes including hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, hiking and birdwatching which generate scores of millions of dollars into the local and state economies. The value of these public lands will be significantly degraded by the construction of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.”

Don Waller, Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies and former Department Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“As a professional conservation biologist, I am concerned about the environmental impacts of this proposed transmission line as I know this project would have both immediate and sustained deleterious impacts on plant, bird, and other animal populations in the region.”

Stephen Born, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“One of the greatest losses associated with a major transmission line across this special region is the degradation of scenic and amenity resources. Because these highly-valued scenic resources are among the surest victims of a huge transmission line, those impacts should be thoroughly and carefully assessed in the review process for the transmission line.”

Curt Meine, Senior Fellow at the The Aldo Leopold Foundation and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“We must strive together for energy solutions that do not sacrifice other conservation goals and degrade the quality of our land (in the Driftless Area). The decision on this proposed powerline is a test.  It will show if we as a society are willing to resist the easy path of expediency and short-term profit.”

The proposed 345 kV high-voltage transmission line is on a route cutting a wide path from Dubuque, Iowa, through the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Refuge, across protected conservation lands, wetlands, family farms, school district property and many sensitive natural areas in the Driftless Area. The huge transmission line routes would run through the protected Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area and Black Earth Watershed Conservation Area, and by Governor Dodge State Park and Blue Mounds State Park.

ATC is requesting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Public Service Commission so that it can assert eminent domain in order to take private land for its expensive transmission line and high towers.

Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for DALC and the WWF said: “The Driftless Area is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which is not needed for reliability in any case. The proposed costly transmission line is yesterday’s misguided way to meet future energy needs for people and businesses in Wisconsin.  There are better, cleaner, and more flexible solar energy, storage, wind power and energy efficiency resources in southwest Wisconsin that would create jobs and economic growth here instead of subsidizing out-of-state energy including fossil fuel generation.”

 

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New Environmental Study of Proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Improperly Rejects Alternatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Chuck Tenneson, charles@driftlessconservancy.org, 608-930-3252

Sarah Eddy, seddy@elpc.org, 312-795-3710

DODGEVILLE, Wis., Dec. 10, 2018 – The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line includes only a cursory review of non-transmission alternatives to the high-voltage line such as greater energy efficiency, local renewables, and energy storage, despite requirements in federal law that alternatives be considered thoroughly. The draft EIS admits that non-transmission alternatives, along with lower-voltage and underground alternatives, were “not carried forward for detailed analysis.”

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line in southwest Wisconsin would cut a swath through the state’s scenic and ecologically unique Driftless Area. The cost of the project would be borne by electric ratepayers in Wisconsin and other states and energy experts have concluded that the new transmission line is not needed due to flattened demand for electricity in Wisconsin and recent advances in energy technology.

The costs and environmental damage that would be created by the transmission line has sparked opposition and legal challenges from local grassroots citizens and conservation groups. Wisconsin’s Dane and Iowa Counties voted to oppose the transmission line and have intervened in the Public Service Commission proceedings to fight the project.

“We wouldn’t think of putting a power line across the Grand Canyon, so why would we think of putting one through one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the Upper Midwest?” Said Dave Clutter, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. “We have a national treasure in the Driftless Area, and we should treat it like one.”

“RUS is required by federal law to ‘rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives’ to proposed transmission lines like the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project,” said Howard Learner, one of the Environmental Law and Policy Center attorneys representing DALC. “RUS cannot simply look at different environmentally harmful routes for this huge transmission line and call it a day.”

“Iowa County residents have come together to adamantly oppose this unneeded high-voltage power line, which would irreversibly damage the landscape, ecology, and recreation economy we depend on,” said Betsy D’Angelo, a member of the Driftless Defenders’ leadership team. “There are alternatives that can improve our electric system without damaging the Driftless Area’s most important natural areas.”

“The draft environmental impact statement for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project ignores the reality of new technology that has improved energy efficiency and decreased the demand for electricity,” said David Meylor, chairman of the Western Dane Preservation Campaign, the Mount Horeb area citizens group formed to oppose the line. “Recent analyses of electric demand demonstrate that the expensive, invasive Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line project simply isn’t needed.”

“The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission line will have a significant negative impact on fish and wildlife habitat and the management of public lands in Southwestern Wisconsin and in light of other energy alternatives should not be constructed,” stated George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line would install towers of up to 175-feet along a 100-mile route that would affect sensitive natural areas and disrupt economic activity. The project could cost ratepayers more than $1 billion during the life of the project, including a profit margin for the transmission line’s utility owners that is guaranteed by Wisconsin law.

Legal counsel for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy will be reviewing the RUS’s draft EIS in greater detail and will submit comprehensive public comments to the agency. Members of the public are strongly encouraged to submit comments before the deadline of Feb. 5, 2019.

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Issued by:

Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Defenders

Environmental Law and Policy Center

Western Dane County Preservation Campaign

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

The Prairie Blog: Conservation Groups to Refinery: “Cease and Desist!”

September 4, 2018

Conservation Groups to Refinery: “Cease and Desist!” 
By Jim Fuglie

Lest we let the threat of an oil refinery beside Theodore Roosevelt National Park slip from our minds as we go about our busy fall lives, here’s an update on where things stand right now.

Meridian Energy has started dirt work at the site beside I-94 on the road into the park, flouting the attempt by conservation groups to require a site compatibility review by the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

So last Friday, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and the Dakota Resource Council (DRC) filed a request to the PSC to “issue a cease and desist order requiring Meridian to halt all construction activities for the Davis Refinery to preserve the PSC’s jurisdiction over whether Meridian is required to obtain a certificate of site compatibility for the Davis Refinery.”

That’s the latest volley in the ongoing paperwork battle over whether the state’s PSC should step in and conduct a full site review to see if the proposed location for the refinery is a good one. Public Service Commissioners Randy Christmann, Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus have seemed a bit skeptical of the location, and are weighing whether to step in and order such a review.

At issue, though, is what the conservation groups are calling “bait and switch” tactics by the refinery company, changing its story on the refinery’s capacity to come in just under the 50,000 barrels per day limit which would subject them to regulatory review by the PSC.

READ FULL ARTICLE

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