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July 6, 2010: CUB Sues PSC Regarding Subsidies for Industrial Customers

For Immediate Release: July 6, 2010

CUB Sues PSC Regarding Subsidies for Industrial Customers

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board filed a lawsuit on Friday, July 2 against the Public Service Commission for its decision to allow Wisconsin Power & Light to give discounts to industrial customers that will likely be subsidized by residential customers and others.

Wisconsin Power and Light, a utility subsidiary of Alliant Energy, applied with the PSC on November 13, 2009 for permission to offer an “economic development rate” that would provide certain large industrial customers with discounts on electricity service. The PSC issued an order approving this rate on June 4, 2010.

CUB has long been opposed to rates with discounts, because they usually force other customers to pay for the discount. The laws that regulate utility service in Wisconsin prohibit utilities from charging rates that provide discounts to one customer that are subsidized by other customers. CUB noted many of these concerns in correspondence to the PSC dated February 17 and March 16, 2010, and in its lawsuit filed last Friday.

Although PSC Chairperson Eric Callisto and Commissioner Mark Meyer approved the discounted rates, Commissioner Lauren Azar voted against them, noting that subsidies for certain industrial customers may cause higher rates for residential and commercial customers. Ms. Azar also issued a dissenting opinion on June 25, 2010, in which she called the rate “essentially a giveaway to businesses.”

“CUB filed this lawsuit to protect residential customers from subsidizing large, politically powerful companies,” said CUB executive director Charlie Higley. “The job of the PSC is to set electric rates that are fair, just, and reasonable, and the economic development rate approved by the PSC violates these legal principles.”

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April 16, 2010: CEJA Will Reduce Electricity Bills

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2010

Clean Energy Jobs Act Will Reduce Electricity Bills

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board would like to note that the energy efficiency and renewable energy provisions of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, as amended, will result in lower electricity bills than under a business-as-usual approach.

The Public Service Commission recently conducted an analysis of future electricity bills if investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy are increased as proposed in the amended Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).

Using conservative assumptions, the analysis by the Public Service Commission shows that the costs to meet electricity demand through 2025 are lower by at least $1.4 billion when compared to a status quo reliance on fossil fuels for producing electricity. In addition, the analysis shows that average monthly residential bills would increase more under the status quo reliance on fossil fuels than under the amended CEJA bill until the year 2025, when the status quo is $0.62 per month less, and with the most conservative analysis assumptions.

The PSC’s analysis does not include the positive impacts to the Wisconsin economy from increased investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, which other studies conclude will create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin during the next 15 years.

Regarding nuclear power, the original version of CEJA correctly reflected the recommendations of Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming, on which CUB served. Unfortunately, the amended CEJA bill greatly weakens Wisconsin’s protections against nuclear power. Should a new nuclear plant be built in Wisconsin, electricity rates would skyrocket to unimaginable levels, and we would be stuck with ever-increasing amounts of radioactive nuclear waste for which there remains no safe method of disposal.

However, the energy efficiency and renewable energy provisions of the amended CEJA bill would reduce electricity bills, as shown by the recent analysis by the Public Service Commission. These provisions would also reduce pollution and create more Wisconsin jobs than a continued reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels for producing most of our electricity.

CUB recommends adoption of the amended CEJA bill, provided the provisions regarding nuclear power are restored to the version found in the original CEJA bills AB 649 and SB 450.

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April 7, 2010: Telephone Deregulation Legislation Harms Consumers

For Immediate Release: April 7, 2010

Telephone Deregulation Legislation Will Harm Consumers

Statement of Charlie Higley, Executive Director

“The Citizens Utility Board strongly opposes telephone deregulation legislation AB 696 & SB 469.

“Although there are over 4 million cellphones in Wisconsin, there are still over 3 million landlines, which means hundreds of thousands of households and thousands of businesses still rely on landline service.  AB 696 & SB 469 would repeal almost all of the consumer protections provided by the Public Service Commission regarding landline service.  With this radical deregulation legislation, telephone utilities like AT&T:

  • would no longer need to provide reasonable service at reasonable rates;
  • would no longer need to file financial information with the PSC, allowing them to evade appropriate regulation and charge whatever they want for service;
  • could change telephone rates or stop providing service at their discretion;
  • would no longer need to maintain important equipment and facilities, such as the lines going to homes and businesses;
  • could charge customers discriminatory rates for similar service, thus favoring preferred customers while charging everyone else higher rates;

“This legislation was largely written by AT&T.  Many businesses and organizations, including CUB, had no input on the legislation.

“Given these concerns, I urge lawmakers to vote against AB 696 and SB 469.”

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April 1, 2010: Residential Ratepayers Subsidize Industrial Customers

For Immediate Release: April 1, 2010

Residential Ratepayers Will Likely Subsidize Industrial Customers

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board is sorely disappointed by yesterday’s decision by the Public Service Commission, which will allow Wisconsin Power & Light to give discounts to industrial customers that will likely be subsidized by residential customers and others.

Wisconsin Power & Light, a utility subsidiary of Alliant Energy, applied with the PSC on November 13, 2009 for permission to offer an “economic development rate” that would provide certain large industrial customers with a discount on electricity service.

CUB has long been opposed to rates with discounts, because they usually force other customers to pay for the discount. Indeed, the laws that regulate utility service in Wisconsin prohibit utilities from charging rates that provide discounts to one customer that are subsidized by other customers. CUB noted many of these concerns in correspondence to the PSC dated February 17 and March 16, 2010.

Although PSC Chairperson Eric Callisto and Commissioner Mark Meyer approved the discounted rates, Commissioner Lauren Azar voted against them, noting that subsidies for certain industrial customers may cause higher rates for residential and commercial customers.

“Today’s decision by the PSC ignores long standing laws that protect residential customers from subsidizing large, politically powerful companies,” said CUB executive director Charlie Higley. “The job of the PSC is to set electric rates that are fair, just, and reasonable, and in making this decision, the PSC has failed miserably at doing its job.”

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December 3, 2009: CUB Supports Gov. Doyle on Global Warming

For Immediate Release: December 3, 2009

Citizens Utility Board Supports Recommendations of

Gov. Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming

Statement of Charlie Higley, Executive Director

“Despite the inaccurate assertions by Rep. Mike Huebsch, the Citizens Utility Board supports the recommendations issued in July 2008 by Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming, including the recommendation to modify the so-called nuclear moratorium.

“On December 1, Rep. Mike Huebsch issued a statement saying that CUB is ‘walking away’ from supporting the task force recommendations, and that we ‘oppose an integral piece’ of the legislation being drafted to enact the recommendations, namely the task force’s recommendation to modify the nuclear moratorium. In a report from the Wisconsin Radio Network dated December 1, Rep. Huebsch is quoted as saying that CUB was lying when we voted in favor of the task force recommendations.

“Rep. Huebsch is wrong and appears to be intentionally misrepresenting our position. CUB has supported the task force recommendations, including the recommendation to modify the nuclear moratorium, since we voted in favor of the recommendations as a task force member in July 2008.

“Giving Rep. Huebsch the benefit of the doubt — perhaps he misunderstood CUB’s position — on December 2 I delivered a letter to Rep. Huebsch, reiterating CUB’s support for the task force recommendations, including the recommendation to modify the nuclear moratorium. I also asked if he would issue a retraction, but at the time of this release, I have not heard from Rep. Huebsch regarding this issue.

“During a press conference on December 1 sponsored by the Carbon Free, Nuclear Free Wisconsin Coalition, I specifically mentioned that CUB supports the task force recommendation to modify the nuclear moratorium, but that we continue to oppose bills that would repeal the nuclear moratorium outright, such as AB 516 and SB 340, which are cosponsored by Rep. Huebsch.

“Evidently, Rep. Huebsch is confused by the difference between ‘modify’ and ‘repeal.’

“Realizing that many task force members supported the outright repeal of the nuclear moratorium, CUB supported a compromise: the moratorium’s requirement that ‘a federally licensed facility… will be available… for disposal of the waste’ would be replaced by a requirement that ‘the [Public Service Commission of Wisconsin] must find that the nuclear waste plan for the plant is economic, reasonable, stringent, and in the public interest, given the safety and other risks presented by such waste.’

“In addition, the task force recommended that any new nuclear plant ‘must be built to meet Wisconsin electricity needs at a cost that is reasonable and advantageous to customers in comparison with available alternatives….’ and that this requirement would apply to nuclear plants proposed by utilities and non-utilities alike. This recommendation retains the nuclear moratorium’s current requirement that a new nuclear power plant must be ‘economically advantageous to ratepayers’ before the Public Service Commission can authorize construction.

“Finally, the task force recommended that these changes to the nuclear moratorium can occur only upon (1) enactment of a 25% by 2025 requirement for renewable electricity and (2) enactment or establishment of much larger investments in energy efficiency programs.

“When the task force recommendations are considered as a package, CUB supports the modifications to the nuclear moratorium as described above.

“Rep. Huebsch’s statement that CUB ‘[has pulled its] support from certain sections of the [task force] recommendations’ is not true, and he is undermining his credibility by not setting the record straight.”

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December 1, 2009: Nuclear restrictions still make sense

For Immediate Release: December 1, 2009

Nuclear restrictions still make sense, coalition says

Repeal of Wisconsin’s restrictions on new nuclear power reactors is “a gift to the dying nuclear industry that Wisconsin residents can’t afford,” a Carbon Free Nuclear Free coalition of 13 environmental, public interest and consumer groups said Tuesday.

At a holiday-themed State Capitol news conference, members of the coalition asked state lawmakers to “be nice, not naughty” by defeating the repeal, Assembly Bill 516, and supporting a state energy policy that would replace coal and nuclear power with renewable energy sources by 2050.

The coalition says that cost, safety, radioactive waste and environmental issues make nuclear power too expensive and too dangerous when renewable energy alternatives are now technically feasible and available.

“Clean renewables and energy efficiency are the gifts that really keep on giving — clean air, clean water, affordable electricity and reduced carbon emissions,” said Jennifer Nordstrom, national coordinator of the Carbon Free Nuclear Free campaign.

“Wisconsin’s nuclear plant law is one of the most sensible laws on the books,” Charlie Higley executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, said. The law requires that, before any new nuclear power plant is built in Wisconsin, a federally-licensed nuclear waste disposal site be operating, and that the cost of building, operating, and decommissioning the nuclear plant and disposing of the nuclear waste is economically advantageous to ratepayers. “Cost is a major concern,” Higley said, “and removing this protection would be a mistake.”

Dr. Jeffrey Patterson, national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said that health, safety and the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation all make nuclear power a bad idea. “With safer alternatives now readily available, this is not the time to try to revive the nuclear industry,” he said. “We don’t want dirty coal or radioactive waste in Wisconsin’s Christmas stocking, and we don’t need to have either one,”

Diane Farsetta, coordinator of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice’s Carbon Free Nuclear Free campaign, said. “Clean, safe, renewable energy really is a gift that keeps on giving. That’s what the Legislature should give Wisconsin citizens.”

The news conference highlighted a packet of material being distributed to state legislators, informing them about the dangers of nuclear and the promise of renewables.

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August 28, 2009: Electricity Consumers Sue PSC Regarding Wind Farm

For Immediate Release: August 28, 2009

Electricity Consumers Sue PSC Regarding Wind Farm

PSC Ignored Law in Approving Half-Billion-Dollar Project

MADISON – The Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and the Citizens Utility Board today filed a lawsuit against the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) for ignoring state law in approving a wind power project to be built in Minnesota, owned by Madison-based Wisconsin Power & Light Co. (WPL), and paid for by WPL’s Wisconsin customers.

“Electric rates have been rapidly rising so we simply can’t afford less stringent regulatory review of new energy projects,” said WIEG executive director Todd Stuart. “The cost and need of energy infrastructure can’t be ignored, especially right now with the massive job losses in Wisconsin.”

On June 6, 2008, WPL submitted an application to the PSC for approval to build and own a 200-megawatt wind farm called Bent Tree, to be located in South Central Minnesota, at an estimated cost of $497 million. WPL’s application requested a “certificate of convenience and necessity” or CPCN, which a utility must obtain from the PSC before the utility can build a new power plant of 100 megawatts or more.

Because the project would be built in another state, on November 6, 2008, the PSC issued an order following a 2-1 vote saying that it would review WPL’s application as one seeking a “certificate of authority” or CA, rather than under the more stringent requirements for obtaining a CPCN. Commissioner Lauren Azar disagreed and voted against reviewing the project under the CA process; she issued a dissenting opinion in which she asserted that Wisconsin law requires utilities to receive a CPCN, regardless of where the project is located. Earlier, in comments filed in July 2008, both WIEG and CUB urged the PSC to use the CPCN process as required by state law.

On July 31, 2009, the PSC issued an order granting WPL a CA for its Bent Tree Wind Farm, even though both WIEG and CUB had submitted legal briefs in May 2009, again pointing out that state law requires utilities to receive a CPCN before constructing a project like Bent Tree.

In general, a certificate granted under the CPCN process means that the PSC has determined that the project is needed to provide Wisconsin customers with electricity, and that the cost and environmental impacts of the project are reasonable when compared to alternatives.

In filing the lawsuit, WIEG and CUB contend that the PSC ignored Wisconsin law, which states that a utility cannot build a power plant of 100 megawatts or more unless the utility has received a CPCN.

This case is of statewide importance because significantly less review by the PSC is required in granting a CA, and customer groups like CUB and WIEG may have no opportunity to provide testimony and legal opinions regarding a proposed project’s appropriateness for providing Wisconsin consumers with electricity at reasonable prices.

“CUB and WIEG are suing the PSC because the agency side-stepped the more thorough CPCN process, which is designed to protect consumers from paying for poorly designed or expensive power plants that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars or more,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director. “Though CUB believes wind power projects like Bent Tree can play an important role in meeting Wisconsin’s electricity needs, the PSC must use the CPCN process to make sure consumer interests are protected.”

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May 21, 2009: Investment in Nuclear Power Endangers Taxpayers

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2009

Investment in Nuclear Power over Efficiency and Renewable

Energy Endangers Taxpayers, Ratepayers & Public Health

Twelve Wisconsin groups submitted a letter to the Governor and State Legislators today asserting that the substantive problems of long-term storage of radioactive waste and astronomically high lifecycle cost of make expanded nuclear power inadvisable for Wisconsin’s energy future.

In a letter to Governor Doyle and State Legislators, Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin and eleven other organizations show that the liabilities of nuclear power make it a risky investment, both to the public health and the public pocket book.

The letter states, “Unlike renewable electricity sources, the by-products of nuclear electricity generation exist in the environment for hundreds of years and are highly toxic.” In Wisconsin alone, 1,365 metric tons of high level nuclear waste will be stored at nuclear reactor sites by 2011, and that 58,000 metric tons has already accumulated at sites throughout the US. Current EPA standards require that the environment and public be kept safe from exposure to stored radioactive waste for up to one million years.

The groups also show that the lifecycle costs of nuclear power and means by which plants are funded shifts the financial risk from the nuclear industry to ratepayers and taxpayers. From the failed multi-billion dollar taxpayer investment in Yucca Mountain to ratepayer surcharges funding on-site storage of radioactive waste – all these costs and more are borne by the ratepayer and taxpayer, not the nuclear industry or nuclear plant shareholders. The fifty year old nuclear power industry can not even claim lower cost per kilowatt of delivered electricity, with costs higher than traditional coal and gas fired plants, and higher than wind power.

PSR Wisconsin and its partner groups assert that conservation and efficiency in all sectors of the economy are better investments for Wisconsin’s energy future. A fraction of the billions of dollars spent by government to support the nuclear industry would be a significant investment in improved public health if put to work on energy conservation, replacing polluting coal-fired plants with truly renewable power and investing in a “smart,” distributed electricity grid.

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May 8, 2009: Alliant Energy Hits Customers with Large Rate Hike Request

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2009alliant

Alliant Energy Hits Customers with Large Rate Hike Request

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board has grave concerns for the ratepayers of Alliant Energy, which today applied with the Public Service Commission to raise electricity rates for 2010 by 9.2 percent, or $85.5 million, and natural gas rates by 8.4 percent, or $6.2 million.

“With the worst economy since World War Two, Alliant’s request to raise electricity rates by over 9 percent will make it difficult for many families to pay their monthly expenses,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director.

Wisconsin Power & Light, a utility subsidiary of Alliant Energy, has steadily increased electricity rates by nearly 75 percent for the period 1998 through 2008, while inflation has only increased by 32 percent, and Wisconsin household incomes have barely kept pace with inflation. With electricity rates rising more quickly than household incomes, energy bills consume more of a household’s monthly budget, making it more difficult for families to meet monthly expenses.

The Public Service Commission will review Alliant’s rate hike request during the summer and fall, and will likely issue a decision by the end of 2009. CUB will intervene in the proceeding
on behalf of residential customers and look for ways to reduce the size of the increase.

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February 24, 2009: CUB and PSC Develop Energy Efficiency Program

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2009

Citizens Utility Board and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation to Develop Innovative Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program

Madison and Green Bay, WI – The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) have finalized an agreement to develop a program that will help consumers save energy.  The agreement was completed on February 17, 2009.

“CUB and WPS collaborated on the issues to develop a program that will provide substantial benefits to customers and the environment by aggressively pursuing energy efficiency and conservation,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director.

CUB and WPS are now working with Focus on Energy, which provides energy efficiency and renewable energy services to residents and businesses in Wisconsin, to design the details of the program, with implementation scheduled for later this year.

The principle components of the program include the following:

  • WPS will increase its annual contribution to Focus on Energy in each of the next four years, 2009 through 2012.  With more funds, Focus on Energy will be able to provide additional energy efficiency and renewable energy services to customers of WPS;
  • CUB, WPS, and Focus on Energy will develop energy-saving programs for three communities in the utility’s service territory.  The programs will feature innovative rate options, enhanced energy efficiency options, and other ways for customers to reduce their energy use;
  • WPS reduced electric and gas rates for residential and commercial customers by $2.1 million (these changes took effect in January 2009);
  • WPS reduced the “fixed charge” and increased the “volumetric charge,” which are the two major components of electric and natural gas rates.  These changes help low-income and other customers who already use a minimum amount of energy, and can encourage other customers to use less energy (these changes took effect in January 2009);
  • WPS will use a “revenue stabilization mechanism,” also known as “decoupling,” which will assure WPS of a certain level of revenue for its electric and natural gas service regardless of weather and other conditions.  WPS’s revenue level will be trued up annually.  If WPS’s revenues are higher than expected, customers will receive refunds.  If WPS’s revenues are lower than expected, WPS will recover the difference over the next year.

    The above items are part of a four-year pilot, as approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on December 18, 2008 and February 13, 2009.

    “This package contains a number of initiatives that encourage energy conservation in a number of new and innovative ways,” said Jim Schott, WPS vice president of regulatory affairs.  “The revenue stabilization mechanism ensures that WPS will be a strong and enthusiastic supporter of these energy conservation programs without worrying about how it will affect the bottom line.”

    In addition, CUB and WPS will support the recommendations from Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming regarding enhanced conservation and energy efficiency efforts; new or improved building codes; and new or improved standards for appliances.

    About CUB
    The Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin is a member-supported nonprofit organization that advocates for reliable and affordable utility service. CUB represents the interests of residential, farm, and small business customers of electric, natural gas, and telecommunication utilities before the Legislature, regulatory agencies, and the courts.  For more information, visit www.wiscub.org.

    About Focus on Energy
    Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed, or to complete projects sooner than scheduled. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control the state’s growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call (800) 762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.

    About Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
    Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE: TEG), is an electric and natural gas utility headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It serves approximately 433,000 electric customers and 314,000 retail natural gas customers in residential, agricultural, industrial, and commercial markets. The company’s service area includes northeastern and central Wisconsin, and an adjacent portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Additional information is available online at: www.wisconsinpublicservice.com.

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