Courthouse News

The Seventh Circuit ruled federal litigation challenging construction of a $500 million, 100-mile power line in Wisconsin must be stayed pending developments in parallel state litigation.

Environmental groups fighting construction of the power line say two members of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin with ties to transmission companies involved with the project were biased in approving the corridor and that the line’s approval is doing ongoing harm. The commissioners and transmission companies say there is no cognizable harm being created by the finished deal and that the allegations of bias are not supported by fact.

The Driftless Area Land Conservancy and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation sued the PSC and three of its commissioners in December 2019 over the approval of a 345 kilovolt, 17-story-high transmission line that will run more than 100 miles through Wisconsin and into Iowa, cutting through several protected wildlife refuges.

Private property in Wisconsin’s rural Dane, Grant and Iowa counties would be condemned in construction of the $492 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line. The counties are in what is known as the Driftless Area, a rugged swath of forested ridges unaffected by glaciation that once spread across parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

The environmental groups say the project could cost Midwest taxpayers more than $2.2 billion over the next 40 years and could have catastrophic environmental impacts. Cardinal-Hickory Creek’s website says construction is planned to start in fall 2021.