Power line construction legislation advances in Assembly

By: - November 2, 2023 5:05 am
Utility companies are spending billions building out transmission and distribution lines around the country, leading some to call for an independent monitor to protect customers. Photo by Robert Zullo.

Power transmission lines cross a Midwestern landscape (Robert Zullo | States Newsroom)

Legislation that would give Wisconsin power transmission companies first dibs on building interstate power line systems in the state handily passed an Assembly committee Wednesday.

The bill, AB-470,is backed by major utilities in Wisconsin and by the American Transmission Co., which operates much of the state’s electric power transmission lines. It is opposed by a cross-section of consumer groups, environmental interests, smaller electric cooperatives and conservative free-market advocates. Critics say it would encourage monopoly in the power transmission business.

Both support and opposition to the measure were bipartisan in the 12-4 Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee vote, with nine Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor and two Republicans and two Democrats voting against it.

The legislation would give in-state power transmission companies the right build interstate power lines in their operating area without having to bid on the work.

Interstate transmission lines are constructed under the supervision of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The operator is a multi-state private company that controls the regional electric grid and is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Since a 2015 FERC order, MISO has used a competitive bidding process to select  operators for new interstate lines that connect to the regional network. If enacted, the legislation would let in-state transmission companies do the work in their territory without bidding on it.


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.