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Wisconsin One of Twenty Seven States Suing Over Emissions Rules

In a temporary but significant victory for the Obama
administration, a federal appeals panel has rejected an
effort by twenty-seven states and dozens of corporations
and industry groups to block the administration’s signature
regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while
a lawsuit moves through the courts.  The rule, issued last
summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, is at the
heart of Obama’s efforts to deal with climate change. It
would require each state to significantly cut carbon dioxide
emissions from electric power plants. If implemented, it
could result in the closing of hundreds of coal-fired plants
and would require sharply increased production of
inefficient and heavily subsidized wind and solar facilities.
The 27 states, many of which have economies that rely on
coal mining or coal-fired power, have sued the
administration to kill the plan. Wisconsin is one of those
states.  The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit has set June 2 to hear arguments in that case,
although it is widely expected to be ultimately decided by
the Supreme Court, most likely in 2017.

Legislative and Energy Policy Update by James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

The Wisconsin Legislature is
moving at a frenzied pace to
wrap up the 2015-16 session.
They were originally scheduled
to adjourn in April but the
leadership has indicated they
plan to take final action on
pending bills by the end of
February.  As a result things
are moving quickly by
legislative standards with as
many as a dozen hearings a
day on 40 or more bills.

 

There has been relatively little by way of energy policy
discussed in the Capitol this session. The utilities have
pursued a number of minor policy changes such as
legislation that would allow utility vehicles to exceed
seasonal weight limits on highways when responding to
a power outage and a bill that would extend utility aid
payments to counties and municipalities for 5 years, after
a property tax exempt generating facility is shut down.
There was little opposition to these measures and they
passed both houses and were signed into law by the
Governor.

One issue that has received more attention this session
is a bill that would repeal the virtual moratorium on the
construction of nuclear power plants in Wisconsin. With
concerns over global warming and carbon dioxide emissions
from coal fired power plants growing, there is renewed
interest in nuclear power as a zero emission option.  While
no company has proposed building a nuclear facility in
Wisconsin, passage of this bill would eliminate one legal
hurdle, if such a proposal emerged in the future. The bill
passed the State Assembly in January and is awaiting a
vote in the State Senate.  Perhaps the biggest energy policy
issues facing Wisconsin, as well as the rest of the country,
is implementation of the Federal Clean Power Plan, which
requires Wisconsin utilities to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions by 41 percent by the year 2030. Carbon dioxide
is a natural by-product of burning fossil fuels.  Utility CO2
emissions in 2012 amounted to 1996 lbs. per megawatt
hour of power generation.  As a result, achieving reductions
of this magnitude will be a daunting task.

Under the federal regulation the specific plans on how to
achieve reductions of this magnitude is left to the states.
Wisconsin utilities are looking to the Department of Natural
Resources to develop a plan so they can begin their planning
process to achieve compliance by the various deadlines in
the federal rule. The rule has triggered lawsuits from the
various states and could be affected by the outcome of the
Presidential election. This promises to remain a contentious
energy policy issue in the years ahead.

ALLIANT TO CLOSE OR REFURBISH IOWA COAL FIRED PLANTS

Alliant Energy Corporation will be burning less coal as a result of a settlement made with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and will shutter or clean up its coal-fired power plants in Iowa at a cost of more than $620 million.
The Madison-based utility company has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty on behalf of its subsidiary, Interstate Power
and Light Company of Iowa, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agreement covers power plants in
Iowa, similar to a settlement between EPA and Alliant two years ago covering its coal plants in Wisconsin. That
settlement will lead to the shutdown of its coal plant on the Mississippi River in Cassville later this year.

Railroads Agree to $10.5 Million Settlement

Two railroad companies identified as potentially responsible for contamination at the Ashland Wisconsin Lakefront Project
site have agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle claims brought by Northern States Power – Wisconsin and the United States
Environmental Protection Agency.

Wisconsin Public Service Makes Decision On Weston Units 1 and 2

Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS), has filed with the MidContinent Independent System Operator (MISO) to retire Weston 1 (60 megawatts), an older coal-fired electric generating unit at the Weston Plant near Wausau. In addition, WPS has decided to continue operating Weston 2 (75 megawatts) but switch fuel from coal to natural gas. If approved, Weston 1 will be retired by June 2015 and Weston 2 will switch fuels in 2015. Weston 2 was initially constructed with the capability to use natural gas as fuel. The units were built in 1954 and 1960, respectively. Weston units 3 & 4, built in 1981 and 2008, respectively, will continue to operate at the plant, generating more than 980 megawatts. Also operating at the plant, when needed, are two natural gas/fuel oil peaking turbines capable of generating around 72 megawatts.
Earlier, WPS announced an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that called for Weston units 1 & 2 and Pulliam Plant (Green Bay) units 5 & 6 to be re-powered, refueled, or retired. WPS previously announced the retirement of Pulliam 5 & 6 by June 2015, leaving two of eight generation units still operating at the plant. Current electric market conditions include generation from more efficient and larger coal and natural gas units reducing the opportunities for Weston 1, and Pulliam 5 & 6 to operate. While the retirement of Weston 1 will require fewer employees at the complex, the full-time employees will shift to other positions at Weston.