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June 28, 2005: Supreme Court Decision

For Immediate Release: June 28, 2005

Supreme Court Decision

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board called today’s decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to support the construction of two power plants in Oak Creek a major setback for Wisconsin’s consumers and the environment.

In a 4 to 2 vote, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s invalidation of the construction permit issued to We Energies by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC).

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court shirked its responsibilities to protect the public interest by supporting the harm to our health, economy, and environment caused by coal-fired electricity,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court sends the message that the needs of utilities outweigh the needs of the public.”

The four justices that formed the majority ruled that the PSC and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) appropriately reviewed the information presented in the proceedings at the PSC, and that the court had no reason to overrule the decisions made by these two agencies in approving the two 615-megawatt coal-fired plants to be built near Oak Creek.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote a dissenting opinion, criticizing the inadequacy of the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared by the PSC and the DNR. Abrahamson and Bradley were concerned that the impacts on Lake Michigan that will be caused by the power plants’ cooling system were not adequately explained in the environmental impact statement, nor were alternative technologies examined. They explained that the courts have a responsibility to throw out poorly prepared environmental impact statements. They criticized the majority’s acceptance of the flawed EIS as a “whitewash.”

Although not a party to the legal challenge, CUB opposes the Oak Creek power plants because they will be too costly to consumers and damaging to the environment. If built, the $2 billion Oak Creek project will bring huge profits to We Energies while causing unacceptable damage to aquatic life in Lake Michigan by using a power plant cooling technology banned in Illinois for more than 30 years.

“Without checks by our courts, agencies like the Public Service Commission and the Department of Natural Resources will continue to approve harmful and costly power plant proposals put forward by utilities by failing to do their jobs under state and federal law,” concluded Higley.

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June 09, 2005: CUB Fights WPS Attempt to Steal $127 Million from Ratepayers

For Immediate Release: June 09, 2005

CUB Fights WPS Attempt to Steal $127 Million from Ratepayers

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) will fight the attempt by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) to keep $127 million that instead should be quickly refunded to ratepayers if the sale of the Kewaunee Nuclear Power plant is finalized.

On June 6, WPS filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to keep $127 million, which was collected from ratepayers to decommission (dismantle) the Kewaunee plant when it is retired from service. Instead of returning the money to ratepayers, WPS wants to keep it to pay for costs caused by the ongoing outage at the plant and the expected loss on the sale of the plant to Dominion Resources, an energy company headquartered in Virginia.

CUB will fight this request by WPS to keep the decommissioning money in a proceeding at the PSC to determine the electricity rates WPS will charge electricity customers during 2006. WPS has requested permission to increase 2006 electricity rates by $90 million or 11.4 percent.

In April, WPS and Wisconsin Power & Light Company (WPL) received permission from the PSC to sell the Kewaunee nuclear plant to a subsidiary of Dominion. When the Wisconsin utilities proposed to sell the Kewaunee plant, they claimed that the sale would result in a financial gain. They also sweetened the deal by promising to return decommissioning funds to ratepayers. In its order approving the sale, the PSC required the Wisconsin utilities to return the decommissioning money to ratepayers.

“WPS touted the return of this $127 million as a benefit to ratepayers and an incentive to sell the plant,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director. “WPS should keep its promise to return these funds to customers if the sale to Dominion is completed, rather than use the money to bail out its shareholders.”

CUB will argue that decommissioning the nuclear reactor was the only reason the $127 million was collected from WPS ratepayers, and that the money should be returned since Dominion will be responsible to dismantle the reactor if the sale is closed. CUB will also argue that the costs caused by the outage at Kewaunee may be the fault of management and should not be paid by ratepayers. In addition, CUB will argue that shareholders should pay for any loss from the sale because the utilities wanted to sell the plant, not ratepayers.

In May, CUB filed a lawsuit against the PSC to stop the sale of the Kewaunee power plant to Dominion, which would threaten the health, safety, and pocketbooks of Wisconsin ratepayers by eliminating state oversight over a nuclear power plant located in Wisconsin.

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May 20, 2005: CUB Takes PSC to Court to Stop Nuke Sale

For Immediate Release: May 20, 2005

CUB Takes PSC to Court to Stop Nuke Sale

MADISON – Today the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) filed a lawsuit against the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) to stop the sale of a nuclear power plant to an out-of-state, unregulated energy company.

“In approving the sale, the PSC sold out Wisconsin ratepayers and accepted meaningless promises from an out-of-state company that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,” said Charlie Higley, executive director. “CUB is suing the PSC to ensure that the Wisconsin public maintains control and oversight over this nuclear power plant located in Wisconsin.”

The PSC approved the sale of the 540-megawatt Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant on March 17 to a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, an energy company headquartered in Virginia. The plant is currently owned by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Wisconsin Power & Light Company (WPL).

This sale would be the first time a major power plant, owned by a regulated Wisconsin utility and paid for by Wisconsin ratepayers, is sold to an out-of-state company. Allowing the sale would threaten the health, safety, and pocketbooks of Wisconsin ratepayers. The sale would also be another step toward utility deregulation, which has caused higher rates in other states.

The lawsuit was filed in Dane County. Others joining CUB on the lawsuit include the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Local 2150 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin.

In approving the sale, the PSC accepted agreements that they hope Dominion will heed regarding the dismantling of the plant, the treatment of ratepayer funds to be used to dismantle the plant, and the storage of nuclear waste, among others. The lawsuit argues that these agreements are worthless, which means that Dominion can snub its promises without fear of retribution by the PSC. CUB is also concerned that, after 2013, ratepayers would lose financial benefits that would accrue if the plant was still owned by Wisconsin-based regulated utilities.

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