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Great Lakes Article:

PSC to appeal recent ruling on power plant
Dane County judge nixed two coal facilities near Milwaukee
The Associated Press
Published December 30th, 2004

MILWAUKEE — The state Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to appeal a ruling overturning approval of plans to build two coal-fired power plants on the Lake Michigan shore in suburban Milwaukee.

The ruling halted plans to build the state’s largest power generator, striking a blow to Wisconsin’s largest utility and signaling a victory for environmental and consumer groups that opposed the project.

Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan ruled the PSC was too quick to approve We Energies’ plan to build two coal-fired power plants at the site of its existing generating facilities in Oak Creek.

He said the commission failed to require the company to get necessary permits or force it to study alternate plans for the $2.15 billion plant, among other things.

The PSC acted quickly in deciding to appeal his decision, which ordered state regulators to redo the approval process.

Commission attorney David Gilles said in a written statement the PSC is worried that construction delays could hurt the electricity supply in southeastern Wisconsin and drive up the cost of building a plant.

We Energies also is weighing whether to appeal the ruling, fix its application or submit a new one for review, any of which could cause lengthy delays in construction.

“This has the potential for reopening this whole question of what’s going to be built and where,” said Charlie Higley, executive director of the utility watchdog group Citizens Utility Board.

CUB has worried the PSC was rushing projects through too quickly and at too high a cost, Higley said Tuesday.

“They had 360 days to make a decision on a huge project. So the commission may have been rushed, and we’ve been concerned that they’ve been rushed and understaffed to deal with a lot of these proposals,” he said.

But We Energies said the plan was the most studied project in recent PSC history. The company believes the commission followed its own rules and was right to approve the plants, spokesman Thad Nation said.

He said the company, which is part of Wisconsin Energy Corp., is weighing its options.

Construction was slated to begin in the first quarter of 2005.

“We have fixed contracts in place on commodities like steel, concrete, that have all gone up substantially since the contract was put in place,” he said.

Critics of the project, Racine-based S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. and the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, had filed suit to stop it.

Mark Redsten, executive director of Clean Wisconsin, said the PSC has approved incomplete applications in the past, and the judge’s decision signals that is no longer acceptable.

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