Magazine Earns National Awards | Disaster Declaration Opens Relief Pipeline | State Okays Transmission Project | More Transmission to Come | Drillers Resist Waste Storage


Magazine earns national awards 

For a second consecutive year, Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News has won double recognition in a competition designed to reward quality work in co-op journalism.

The October 2018 article “Empowering Enterprise” and the April 2019 story “Good News is No News” each earned an Award of Merit this summer from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Statewide Editors Association.

The October article described Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative’s long-term success fostering economic development in the communities it serves. The April story contrasted negative public and media perceptions of environmental quality against the reality of several decade’s environmental improvement, exemplified by massive growth of U.S. energy production and consumption since 1970 even as pollutant emission volumes have plummeted.

Last year, the magazine won in the Best Editorial category and the Best News Feature category. There are 32 statewide electric co-op magazines that are eligible to submit entries in the nationwide competition.

Disaster declaration opens relief pipeline

Electric cooperatives facing high expenditures for system repair and reconstruction in the wake of damaging midsummer weather may be able to recover as much as 87 percent of eligible costs under a federal disaster declaration issued at the end of August.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced approval of disaster assistance funding for Wisconsin to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the widespread areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding that occurred over three days spanning July 18Ð20.

FEMA confirmed funding will be made available for repair or replacement of damaged facilities in Barron, Clark, Forest, La Crosse, Langlade, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Polk, Portage, Rusk, Shawano, Vernon, Waupaca, and Wood counties, and to the St. Croix Chippewa Indians and Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

The federal government is to cover 75 percent of eligible recovery costs, with the remaining 25 percent divided evenly between the state’s Wisconsin Emergency Management agency and the local cooperatives.

State okays transmission project

A unanimous Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) in late August approved the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission project proposed jointly by the American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

The approximately 102-mile, 345,000-volt line between Dubuque, Iowa, and Middleton, Wisconsin, is said to be an essential link in facilitating delivery of an expected 25 gigawatts of renewable energyÑmainly Great Plans windÑas well as alleviating grid congestion.

The PSC’s approval imposed one major condition. The original plan called for building the new line side-by-side with existing, lesser transmission lines that are to remain in service, almost doubling the width of the current right-of-way. The commission ordered the new project to share a 150-foot right-of-way with the existing lines.

Permit approvals are still needed from Iowa regulators and federal agencies. Assuming those are obtained, the new line is expected to be in service in 2023.

More transmission to come?

With Wisconsin’s approval of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project and a new transmission line between La Crosse and Madison energized last December, the multi-year buildout of major transmission lines across the upper Midwest might appear to be nearing completion.

But renewable energy advocates say the grid won’t be adequate to support future wind and solar development, and the CapX2020 group including co-op, municipal, and investor-owned utilities is opening a review of potential transmission upgrades.

CapX2020 is the consortium that built major new lines from the Dakotas, across Minnesota, and into Wisconsin during the past several years. Its study and report on potential new projects are expected early next year.

Drillers resist waste storage

Proposed interim storage sites for spent nuclear power plant fuel are being opposed by oil producers who say they intend to operate adjacent to and underneath the two locations straddling the Texas-New Mexico state line.

Companies based in Florida and Texas are in the midst of federal regulatory review of their plans for above-ground storage of high-level waste now held at or near power plant sites across the country. The proposals would provide an alternative to the nearly completed but mothballed Yucca Mountain permanent storage facility in Nevada, which is decades behind schedule.

One of the two companies, Interim Storage Partners, has been operating a low-level waste facility for about seven years at the location of its proposed new facility in west Texas. Both proposed facilities are within the Permian Basin, the nation’s most productive oil field.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to release its findings from an environmental study of the area next spring.