As the co-owners of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project, ATC, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative are extremely pleased with today’s decision issued by the Dane County Circuit Court. The ruling by Judge Jacob Frost upholds the September 2019 decision by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to approve the project and affirms the Commission’s approval was supported by substantial evidence while applying appropriate statutory criteria. The judge’s decision reinforces that Cardinal-Hickory Creek is a critical, backbone project for the regional power grid within the Upper Midwest. The need has increased over time and currently, 115 renewable generation projects totaling more than 17 gigawatts are dependent upon its construction to deliver at full capacity–enough to power millions of homes with clean energy.”
The Dane County Circuit Court has heard multiple challenges to the project’s state approval since 2019, including alleged issues of potential commissioner bias and issues related to the project’s need, environmental impacts and environmental analysis. Following the Supreme Court of Wisconsin’s July 2022 opinion rejecting the bias claims, the Dane County Circuit formally dismissed those claims in November 2022. The May 8 decision from this court rules on the remaining challenges pending in the state case related to the need for and environmental impacts of the project.
In October 2022, attorneys for the co-owners and project opponents delivered oral arguments on the merits of the case. The co-owners argued that the Dane County Circuit Court should uphold the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity the PSCW issued for the project. Attorneys for the co-owners further argued that the Commission fully complied with state law when issuing the CPCN and that the project is needed more than ever to improve transmission system reliability, relieve congestion on the transmission system to reduce energy costs, and provide greater access to renewable generation. The ruling from Judge Frost affirms the PSCW decision in all respects and concludes the litigation that has been ongoing for four years.
The co-owners look forward to moving past these proceedings and continuing construction of the 102-mile, 345,000-volt Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project, which is scheduled to be constructed and operational by December 2023. The project will reduce energy costs, improve the reliability and flexibility of the region’s transmission system, and support the surge of renewable generation interconnections forthcoming in the Upper Midwest.
Project opponents filed petitions for judicial review of the Commission’s decision granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project.
The Dane County Circuit Court issued an order stating the project’s opponents would be entitled to a temporary injunction of project construction if they posted a bond by two sureties in the amount of $32 million. If the parties had met the requirement of the Court’s order, the injunction would have impacted construction on the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project. The project’s opponents did not post the required bond. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on the bias allegations in July 2022, the circuit court dissolved the injunction in July 2022.
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin put an end to the contrived “fishing expedition” that the project’s opponents orchestrated against former Commissioner Huebsch. In that decision, the Supreme Court described the allegations of bias against Mr. Huebsch as being “meritless,” based on “absolutely no factual evidence,” and “borderline frivolous.” The lead opinion also recognized that there is wide, bipartisan support for this project and underscores the integrity, transparency, and fairness of Wisconsin’s regulatory process.
Attorneys representing the utility co-owners of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project argued in Dane County Circuit Court that the court should uphold the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity the Commission issued for the project in September 2019. The co-owners maintained the Commission fully complied with state law when issuing the CPCN and that the project is needed more than ever to improve transmission system reliability, relieve congestion on the transmission system to reduce energy costs and provide greater access to renewable generation.
The Dane County Circuit Court issued an order dissolving the temporary injunction on construction for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project—an injunction that was initially issued on Oct. 26, 2021, but never went into effect because the Petitioners failed to post the requisite bond. This decision resolved any question related to bias or perceived bias of the 2019 state regulatory approval of the project.
The Dane County Circuit Court issues an order, affirming in all respects the PSCW’s decision to issue a CPCN for the project.