The Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin staff, as they have in previous sessions, have drafted a bill of modest process reforms for consideration by the legislature. This session, PSC staff are working legislation to:
- Exempt from the need for PSC approval a rebuild of an existing transmission line (and associated facilities) provided that not more than one-half mile of the centerline of the rebuilt line is located more than 60 feet on either side of the centerline of an existing transmission line.
- Make a technical change to a shoreland zoning issue affecting a particular facility in eastern Wisconsin.
- Create a statutory procedure whereby PSC may consider settlements of all or part of utility rate cases (such settlements have been conducted on an ad hoc basis in Wisconsin).
- Update Wisconsin’s “Digger’s Hotline” law to conform with recent recommendations from the federal government, as well as some ancillary excavation issues sought by the Wisconsin road-building industry.
Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) introduced the bill (AB 532/SB 475) on Oct. 11. The Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities held a public hearing on the Assembly bill on Oct. 17. Discussion at the Assembly hearing focused mainly on the Digger’s Hotline provisions. The Assembly Committee voted on the Assembly bill in executive session on Tuesday, Oct. 24. AB 532 passed 10-3, with Reps. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay), Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), and Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) voting no. The committee passed the bill as a substitute amendment authored by Kuglitsch.
The Senate Committee on Election and Utilities held a public hearing on the Senate bill on Tuesday, Oct. 24. At the Senate hearing, legislators again asked PSC about the Digger’s Hotline provisions. An issue was also raised about a provision that would prohibit water utilities from including certain advertising expenditures in utility rates. This prohibition already exists for electric and gas utilities under current law. The Senate committee has yet to vote on the bill.
Road-building interests in Wisconsin have initially registered opposition to the bills and successfully sought language changes regarding excavating near utility infrastructure. Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric, Xcel Energy, WEC Energy Group, ITC Holdings, and Wisconsin Utilities Association are among those registered in favor of the bill.