I’m representing Safe Wind in Freeborn County, and we’re working to increase the setbacks on the Bent Tree project to something that the neighbors can live with, participating in the PUC Certificate of Need and Siting dockets.

Last Thursday, Citizens Utility Board and Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group filed an appeal of the PSC’s Bent Tree decision.

CUB & WIEG Petition for Review and PSC-WI Bent Tree Decision

I’ve posted their pleadings on the Bent Tree dockets in Minnesota.  To review the Bent Tree dockets in Minnesota, go to www.puc.state.mn.us and then click “Search Dockets” and search for dockets 08-573 and/or 07-1425.

Here’s an article about the challenge from the WSJ (Wisconsin State Journal, that is):

More blowback: Suit challenges Alliant wind farm

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
Aug. 28, 2009

State regulators set a bad precedent for other energy projects when they gave the go-ahead to Alliant Energy Corp. to build a $497 million wind farm in Minnesota, two energy customer groups say.

The groups filed suit in Dane County Circuit Court on Friday to protest the vote by the state Public Service Commission to approve the project under a less rigorous review procedure than is typically required of major energy projects.

The Public Service Commission had used the less stringent review process because the project is an out-of-state project. The commission’s approval is needed for out-of-state project because the agency reviews whether a power plant is cost-effective for utility customers.

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

Rob Crain, a spokesman for Alliant, said the legal challenge could likely mean delays for the project, which is slated to be operational by 2011, Crain said. The wind farm is needed for the utility to comply with the state’s renewable energy mandate that requires 10% of the state’s electricity to come from wind power and other renewable energy sources by 2015, he said.

“We are surprised and certainly disappointed that WIEG and CUB have chosen to make this filing. We view it as more process over substance,” Crain said.

The commission decided in November to move forward with reviewing the project under a less-stringent standard, a decision that was supported by Commissioners Eric Callisto and Mark Meyer but opposed by commissioner Lauren Azar.

“As far as we were concerned the issue was settled at that point in time,” Crain said.

Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens’ Utility Board, said the customer groups couldn’t legally file a legal challenge on the issue until after the commission’s final vote on the project in July. In this summer, the groups had warned  Alliant’s Madison subsidiary, Wisconsin Power & Light Co., that it was proceeding at its own risk by moving forward with the project under the less-strict review.

The groups are concerned about the precedent the commission’s decision could set for other types of energy projects that utilities could seek to build outside the state’s borders, such as a costly nuclear power plant or coal-fired power plant.

“The bottom line is risk for customers,” Higley said. “And the risk is that poorly designed or expensive projects could be approved and forced on to ratepayers who would then pay higher rates than they should be.”