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The Battle Over Unnecessary Transmission Behemoth Cardinal-Hickory Creek – Far from Over

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Four years ago Driftless Area Land Conservancy began actively opposing the Cardinal-Hickory Creek (CHC) high-voltage transmission line after our board learned that it could directly threaten some of our land conservation easements. As we learned more about the project it became clear that this is an unnecessary, costly threat to all of southwest Wisconsin. Unfortunately, last September the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the project, but the battle to stop it is far from over.

Here is what’s been happening lately…

Court challenges -- Driftless Area Land Conservancy and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation along with Dane and Iowa Counties and other municipalities are challenging the PSC’s decision in court. In a joint suit in Dane County Circuit Court, we contend that the PSC failed in many ways to follow the rule of law throughout the formal review process. At the federal level in the U.S. District Court - Western District of Wisconsin, we’re charging that two of the three Public Service Commissioners should have lawfully recused themselves because of ties to and communications with the developers and other proponents of the line.

Crossing the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge -- Our legal team from the Environmental Law & Policy Center has pointed out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to move forward with allowing a route through the National Wildlife Refuge violates the letter and spirit of the Refuge Improvement Act of 1997. Recently, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, a member of the Fish & Wildlife Service Oversight Committee, soundly criticized the lack of rigor exhibited during the permitting process and has requested she be provided with the justifications for these oversights.

.20 Cardinal Hickory Creek Proposed

The “court of public opinion” — Grassroots opposition to the line is unwavering. The Driftless Defenders have launched a political cartoon ad campaign in the major and local papers throughout southwest Wisconsin. They’re also freshening up the NO ATC signage across the region. Look for bright “In Court” banners festooned on area signage. And our case was just featured again in today’s Wisconsin State Journal - the ELPC team recently learned that Mike Huebsch, who resigned from the Public Service Commission in February, later applied for the job of chief executive officer of Dairyland Power Cooperative.

Opposition against this threat to our unique Driftless Area continues to be an amazing collaboration of legislators like Senator Duckworth, volunteers led by organizations like the Driftless Defenders, environmental organizations, and of course the Environmental Law & Policy Center that has donated hundreds of hours of legal services. We’re so grateful to be partnering with this tremendous range of folks.

Visit our website and follow us on social media for updates and consider writing a Letter to the Editor. It’s important that we keep this issue in the public eye until we finally prevail. It will be a victory not only for ecological stability and the landscape viewshed, but for all of our pocketbooks as well.

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