WISCONSIN ASSEMBLY COMPLETES WORK IN 2016 SESSION

The Wisconsin Assembly concluded what is expected to be
its final floor session on February 18, 2016. The State
Senate plans to return in mid-March for its last floor session
before adjourning for the year. The frenzy of legislative
activity in February included action on a number of energy
issues.

The Senate approved AB 384 that will lift the so-called
nuclear moratorium in Wisconsin. It had passed the
Assembly earlier this year. This legislation eliminates
significant legal hurdles that would have all but prohibited
the siting of a new nuclear plant in Wisconsin should one
be proposed in the future. The bill is awaiting the
Governor’s signature.

The State Assembly also passed a utility regulatory reform
measure, AB 804, which includes provisions streamlining
transmission siting and certain environmental regulatory
processes. This bill is expected to receive Senate approval
when it reconvenes in mid-March.

On the legal front, the U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed
the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan,
pending resolution of the underlying legal challenge brought
by 27 states including Wisconsin. This federal regulation
would require utilities to significantly reduce carbon dioxide
emission by 2030.  The State’s challenge is currently
pending before the District of Columbia Circuit Court of
Appeals which is set to hear oral arguments June 2 of this
year. The case is likely to be ultimately decided by the
Supreme Court in 2017 at the earliest.

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.

WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE TO RETIRE UNITS AT PULLIAM POWER PLANT

Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS), has filed with
the Mid-Continent Independent System Operator to retire
two of the four currently operating coal-fired electric
generating units at the J.P. Pulliam Plant in Green Bay,
Wisconsin.

If approved, Pulliam units 5 & 6 will be retired by July 2015.
The units were built in 1949 and 1951, respectively, and
generate a combined 112 megawatts. Pulliam units 7 & 8, built
in 1958 and 1964 respectively, will continue to operate at the
plant, generating about 200 megawatts. Also operating at the
plant, when needed, is an 82-megawatt natural gas peaking
turbine. Earlier, WPS announced an agreement with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency that called for Pulliam units
5 & 6 to be re-powered, refueled, or retired. Current electric
market conditions include generation from more efficient and
larger coal and natural gas units reducing the opportunities for
Pulliam 5 and 6 to operate.