“CHAMPION” AWARDS RECOGNIZE CO-OP SUPPORTERS
During the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s (WECA) recent Education and Lobby Days event, the group presented the first-ever “Champion of Electric Cooperatives” awards to those who went above and beyond in support of issues and priorities affecting electric co-ops in the state.
WECA presented awards to Governor Tony Evers, Senator André Jacques (R-De Pere), and Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), because each was influential in efforts to secure assistance for Washington Island Electric Cooperative after its ice-damaged, underwater cable line failed in 2018. The Wisconsin state budget included $2 million in disaster relief to help ease the $4 million replacement cost. The budget also ensured electric cooperatives are eligible applicants for disaster assistance grants.
Governor Evers kicked off the late-January event, which took place in Madison, with brief remarks touting his recently released plan to invest in farmers, agricultural industries, and rural communities.
Evers told the crowd of more than 160 attendees that he understands the importance of cooperatives because he has experienced the success of co-ops in the education world.
“I know that co-ops are a critical part of our state’s electrical infrastructure. For many, flipping on a switch and turning on a light is something we take for granted, and obviously it would be impossible without you folks,” Evers said. “Many of you are from co-ops that serve rural areas of the state, places that were hit hard in the recession, and have been slower to bounce back than other parts of our state, but I believe in investing in rural parts of our communities, farms, and our ag industries need to be part of our broader economic development strategy.”
SC APPROVES DPC SOLAR FACILITY
The Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin voted unanimously to approve the Badger State Solar facility project, with the entire 149 MW renewable energy output purchased by Dairyland Power Cooperative.
The PSC approved the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, following completion of the regulatory review. Badger State Solar will generate enough renewable energy to power more than 20,000 homes.
The solar energy facility will be located on private land in Jefferson County. The project is expected to bring hundreds of construction jobs to the area.
Dairyland and Ranger Power announced the proposed project in March of last year. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, and commercial operation should
LEGISLATORS FAST-TRACK FARM BILLS
Building on some of Governor Tony Evers’ proposals, and rejecting others, legislators passed several bills seeking to aid farmers across the state.
The proposals, which had broad bipartisan support, are part of a $33.6 million package of bills Republican lawmakers unveiled following Evers’ $8.6 million package aimed at bolstering agriculture and rural communities.
The plan includes a measure to al-low sole proprietors, including small family farms, to deduct health insurance costs from income taxes. Another bill creates an income tax credit for small and medium-sized farms that would sunset after three years.
Lawmakers modified two of Evers’ bills, including one that would seek to increase dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2024. Re-publicans amended the bill to increase the $1 million in Evers’ plan to $5 million, and also to require that agency to prioritize small dairy processing plants when awarding grants, which carries a $600,000 annual price tag.
The bills would be paid for with a projected budget windfall.
EPA ROLLS BACK “WATERS” RULES
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the Trump Administration is scaling back Obama-era rules relating to which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act.
The change put in place five years ago broadened the definition of “waters of the United States” and declared that tributaries and other small waters are subject to federal jurisdiction and pollution control laws. Opponents called it a massive federal overreach and within weeks, 27 states, including Wisconsin, sued to block it.