Bipartisan group of legislators introduce wind siting bill

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Terry McGowan of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 speaks at the press conference for the introduction of a bill to set uniform siting standards for wind projects in Wisconsin.

From a news release issued by Sen. Jeff Plale, Rep. Jim Soletski, Sen. Randy Hopper, and Rep. Phil Montgomery:

MADISON – A bipartisan coalition of Wisconsin legislators announced that they are introducing legislation that calls for the creation of uniform siting standards for wind energy projects. Senate Bill 185 (SB 185), and its Assembly companion, directs the Public Service Commission (PSC), after public input, including a stakeholder committee, to establish by rule, permitting standards to be applied by local or state government to wind energy installations, regardless of size and location.

“Too many wind projects are victims of delay tactics and other obstructions,” Senator Jeff Plale, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail said. “SB 185 will enhance Wisconsin’s economy by protecting and creating “green-collar” jobs; it will attract new investment to our state and support state energy policy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we can make Wisconsin more attractive to wind energy and achieve the resulting economic and environmental benefits.”

“A sensible wind energy policy will help Wisconsin harness the jobs and growth opportunities that green power provides,” stated Representative Jim Soletski, Chair of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee. “I am excited to be working with a bipartisan group of legislators from diverse regions of the state to remove the obstacles to more development of wind power in Wisconsin. By advancing this legislation, Wisconsin utilities can move toward meeting their obligation to generate clean energy and much needed jobs can be created for our workers.”

"We can't build a 21st century energy infrastructure by digging in our heels,” Senator Randy Hopper said. “This legislation will ensure that interested parties from all over our state can take part in developing the Public Service Commission's guidelines."

"Wind power is job-creating power," according to Representative Phil Montgomery. "A fair and uniform state standard for siting wind developments will create an environment of investment in our state while moving us closer to our green energy goals."

In addition to RENEW, the following organizations issued statements of support for Senate Bill 185: CREWE, Clean Wisconsin, Citizens Utility Board, Customers First!, Renewegy, Wind Capital Group, WPPI/Municipal Electric Utilities.

Madison Peak Oil Group signs letter in support of RTA

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From the letter sent to members of the Wisconsin Legislature:

April 29, 2009

To the members of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly:

Regional Transportation Authorities can create jobs and a stronger economy by empowering communities to operate cost-effective, balanced transportation systems . . . .

Many states have RTAs or similar mechanisms that provide governance and financial stability for transit across municipal boundaries. They have used RTAs to vault ahead of Wisconsin in providing business-friendly, green, and convenient transportation choices. Under Wisconsin’s cumbersome and antiquated rules, cities that provide transit must contract with one another and squeeze transit funding out of their general revenues, mainly from property taxes. The resulting unstable, underfunded transit cannot compete for federal construction dollars, and cannot provide sustainable service to its communities.

We support the Governor’s RTA proposal in A.B. 75 to create the Dane County RTA, Fox Cities RTA and Southeast RTA. In addition we support language in A.B. 75 that will permit Wisconsin’s communities not covered in the Governor’s Budget to form RTAs with the authority to levy a sales tax of up to 0.5 percent.

Signed by the following: 1000 Friends of Wisconsin; AARP Wisconsin State Office; American Council of the Blind – Wisconsin Chapter; Bike Federation of Wisconsin; Citizen Action of Wisconsin; Citizens Utility Board; Clean Wisconsin; Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG); Dane Alliance for Rational Transportation - DART; Disability Rights Wisconsin; Environmental Law & Policy Center; League of Wisconsin Municipalities; Madison Area Bus Advocates; Madison Peak Oil Group; Midwest Environmental Advocates; One Wisconsin Now; Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce; Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter; Southeastern Wisconsin Coalition for Transit NOW;
Wisconsin Alliance of Cities; Wisconsin Apollo Alliance; Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired; Wisconsin Interfaith Climate & Energy Campaign; Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters; Wisconsin Urban & Rural Transit Association; WISPIRG

Exploring a solar cooperative here in Madison

Monday, April 27, 2009

Come to a free talk open to all in the community to discuss investing in and owning local solar projects!

Monday, May 4th
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa Street, between Atwood & Milwaukee

Gil Halsted & Kurt Reinhold, Community Solar
Burke O’Neil, Full Spectrum Solar

More information: email Kurt at

Regional transit authority on committee agenda this week

The legislature's Joint Committee on Finance will take up the proposal to create a regional transit authority for the Madison metropolitan area. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a lengthy description the proposal:

Specify that the Dane County regional transit authority (DCRTA), a public body corporate and politic and a separate governmental entity, would be created if the governing body of Dane County adopts a resolution authorizing the county to become a member of the authority. If Dane County creates an regional transit authority (RTA), all municipalities located in whole or in part within the Madison metropolitan planning area would be members of the authority. In addition, any municipality located in whole or in part within Dane County, that is not located in whole or in part within the Madison metropolitan planning area, may join the Dane County RTA if the governing body of the municipality adopts a resolution to join the authority and the RTA Board approves the municipality's request to jointhe RTA.

Specify that the jurisdictional area of the Dane County RTA would be the geographic area formed by the Madison metropolitan planning area combined with the territorial boundaries of all municipalities that adopt a resolution to join the authority.

Rail pointless if it doesn't go downtown

Friday, April 24, 2009

A letter to the editor of The Capital Times by Roger Danielsen:

It would be nice if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would measure what's actually being proposed in regard to high-speed rail in Wisconsin against the words recently spoken by President Barack Obama.

Obama said: "Imagine boarding a train in the center of the city. No racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes. Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 110 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination. Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America."

According to the proposal from the Department of Transportation, no one will be boarding in the center of Madison. You will in fact have to "race" to the Dane County Regional Airport for the train.

As a frequent traveler to Madison, what possible reason would I have to want to be dumped off at the airport? I've asked this question to several state and national officials with no response as of yet. If it isn't going to actually get you to somewhere meaningful in Madison, why bother spending the millions of dollars to get you just somewhat closer to your destination?

I look forward to someday maybe being able to take high-speed rail to Madison, but I have no desire to pay to go to an abandoned former Air Force base in the middle of nowhere.

Oil & gas industry seeks energy dependence, ignores peak oil, and opposes climate protection plans

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The oil and gas industry's energy policy: Drill, baby, drill! Import, baby, import!:

+ Increase, not decrease energy production by promoting all sources. [In other words, peak oil doesn't exist.]
+ Encourage energy efficiency as a core American principle.
+ Encourage investment in advanced technologies and long-term energy initiatives.
+ Allow market forces to allocate products and adjust to changing conditions.
+ Refrain from new taxes that make it more expensive to develop our domestic supplies.
+ Support the need to participate actively in global energy markets rather than isolate the U.S. [In other words, become more dependent on foreign sources.]

From print ad of the oil and gas industry:

Congress will soon consider massive new taxes and fees – which could easily exceed $400 billion – on America’s oil and natural gas industry, yet this level could produce devastating effects on our economy, all when America can least afford it.

These unprecedented taxes and fees would reduce investment in new energy supplies at a time when nearly two-thirds of Americans support developing our domestic oil and natural gas resources. That would mean less energy, and it would cost thousands of American jobs, actually reduce local, state and federal revenue, and further erode our energy security.

Learn more and tell Congress to oppose these proposals to impose $400 billion in tax hikes on America’s oil and natural gas companies. By using SocialCapital, you can voice your opinions to public officials and members of Congress about key energy issues via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more.

'Clean coal' debate plays out on the airwaves

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From a story by Quinn Bowman posted at the Online NewsHour With Jim Lehrer:

American television audiences are likely noticing a battle being waged during commercial breaks as millions of dollars are being spent on advertising to promote or denigrate a mysterious-sounding buzzword: clean coal technology.

In an ad produced by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry group, then-candidate Barack Obama tells a cheering crowd that he wants to create new clean energy jobs with clean coal technology. "Yes we can," the crowd chants.

Rival organization the Reality Coalition, made up of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Foundation, produced a spot with a mock salesman touting clean coal technology as he sprays an aerosol can of soot inside a family's home.

The public relations battle is the face of an ongoing debate among environmentalists, the government and the coal industry about how to contend with the massive amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by coal-burning power plants.

This Earth Day, take your pledge one step further with CO2gether

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Mpowering Madison:

Once you’ve joined 3,500 Madison area residents in taking the Mpower Pledge, you can document your progress with the help of an interactive carbon calculator specific to south-central Wisconsin.

Register for, take the video tour, join the Mpower discussion group and begin to track your carbon footprint!

CO2gether is brought to us by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, MG&E and UW-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

Seven businesses become Mpower ChaMpions

Monday, April 20, 2009

From the spring newsletter of Sustain Dane:

Sustain Dane and the Mpower partners have announced the selection of seven area businesses into the Mpower Business Champions program. These local businesses collectively employ over 783 individuals and occupy over 539,800 sq ft of building include Webcrafters Inc., Great Big Pictures Inc, Sergenian's Floor Coverings, The Payroll Company, Capital Insurance Companies, designCraft Advertising and JJR.

The participating businesses are very enthusiastic about the opportunities the program will bring them. . . .

The effort is made possible through a two-year grant from the EPA and sponsorship from several area organizations including MG&E and Alliant Energy. Each of the Mpower Business Champions will receive one-on-one assistance to take significant steps towards reducing their carbon footprint including:

+ Training from various Mpower partners including MG&E, Alliant Energy, Madison Water Utility and UW-Extension SHWEC on how to incorporate sustainability into business practice with an emphasis on green building, environmentally preferable purchasing and energy and water conservation.
+ On-site energy audits and assessments, including a findings and recommendations report provided by Focus on Energy.
+ Direct access to MadiSUN Solar Agent to provide a wide array of technical, financial and policy information related to solar energy options through the City of Madison.
+ Use of the Energy Stewards software program from Rapid Improvement Associates to trackenergy use history, action performance tracking and online forums to learn from other business participants.
+ On-site waste audit and assessments, including recommendations to stream line their waste handling procedures and help determine what recycling options are available provided by Waste Management.
+ Support to develop and empower employee-based teams to take actions in their daily lives to reduce the environmental impact of their household through the EnAct program.
+ Assistance from the Madison Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in developing a transportation demand management plan to provide a comphrehensive set of commuter options for employees.
+ The chance to be featured by Mpower Madison media partners WKOW and in web-based case studies.

MG&E visits solar projects; people give energy saving tips

Friday, April 17, 2009

High speed rail in Madison, Midwest on Obama's top 10 list

Thursday, April 16, 2009

From an article in The Capital Times:

A high speed rail project that includes Madison is in President Obama's strategic plan of a "top 10" list of rail projects that have been identified to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system in America.

The president released his strategic plan for high speed rail Thursday morning -- a plan that would spend $8 billion in stimulus funds and another $1 billion a year for five years as a down payment to revitalizing the country's passenger rail system.

The 10 corridors identified in the plan include the Chicago Hub Network, which would link Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and also would have high-speed lines serving St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.

A Peak Oil Presentation, April 15

Monday, April 13, 2009

Energy, Natural Resources, and Human Behavior on a Full Planet
April 15, 2009, 7:00pm
Science Hall, Rm 180
Madison, WI

This talk by Nate Hagens, Editor,, will provide a framework for planning supply and demand mitigation and adaptation strategies to fossil fuel depletion. Nate believes by acknowledging and understanding both our biophysical (resource depletion) and biological (cognitive barriers, habituation, and belief systems) constraints we will be better able to choose cultural opportunities for sustainability. He synthesizes recent research in cognitive neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and evolutionary biology and their applications to sustainability oriented behaviors in addressing energy and environmental limits. Ultimately Hagens looks for those solutions that are aligned with not only what we have, but who we are. Discussion to follow.

Nate Hagens is a PhD Candidate at the University of Vermont Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and Editor of The Oil Drum, an online global think tank devoted to energy and sustainability. Prior to UVM, Nate developed trading algorithms for commodity systems and was President of Sanctuary Asset Management, Managing Director of Pension Research Institute, and Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Nate has an MBA with honors from University of Chicago and a BBA in Business Administration from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

More details at Energy Hub.

Fuel cost savings doesn't equal fare decrease for bus riders

Friday, April 10, 2009

From a post on Mayor Dave's Blog:

A few weeks ago I asked city staff to go out for fuel bids for 2010. I didn't expect to decide to lock in, but I wanted to see where the market was at. As it turned out we got surprisingly strong bids, so I made a decision to lock in. The result is that the city will save about $2.6 million on fuel in 2010 as compared to what we're spending in 2009.

About $1.8 million of that savings will go to the Metro bus system, and so some have asked how that impacts the need for the fare increase that went into effect this week.

Of course, locking in on lower fuel prices next year is good on two fronts. It will allow us to plan better because our fuel budget won't be a wild card. And it will also make it more likely that I can make good on my determination not to raise fares or cut service next year.

But the good news on the fuel contract doesn't lessen the need for the fare increase now. For one thing, the new fuel contract doesn't kick in until next year, so it doesn't help with 2009 prices, which were locked in at a higher level. If we were to roll back the fare increase, we'd still be looking at a budget deficit in Metro of about $700,000.

Some say Badger Bus' plan to close is shortsighted

Thursday, April 09, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

By most accounts, the proposed redevelopment of the Badger Bus depot on West Washington Avenue into a mixed-use retail and luxury apartment site is a relatively modest project, maxing out at five stories along one of the city's most prominent corridors. But it's what the development will replace -- a downtown transit hub that has been in place for decades -- that is generating controversy and sparking discussion about the future of downtown transportation in Madison.

The Madison Peak Oil Group and Madison Area Bus Advocates, two local organizations that frequently work together on transportation issues, have advocated at numerous meetings in recent weeks for a transit center downtown. Madison Peak Oil Group member David Knuti said city officials have shown interest in their argument, but little desire for action.

"Obviously nobody's making it a priority," Knuti said. "The long-term bus thing is really going to be a mess when the station gets shut down."

According to John Meier of Badger Bus, the company has discussed redeveloping the depot site for several years. Badger Bus regularly runs between Madison and Milwaukee, stopping at Johnson Creek along the way, and provides charter and tour bus services, as well. The bus, which costs $35 round-trip from Madison to Milwaukee, is popular among University of Wisconsin-Madison students, who comprise 80percent of Badger Bus' current customer base. . . .

Whether high-speed rail even goes into downtown Madison may be another factor in where a major transit hub is located. Currently, the state Department of Transportation has expressed "a strong preference" for putting a high-speed rail stop between Minneapolis and Milwaukee at the Dane County Regional Airport, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said, and there may be an advantage to putting a hub at the airport if that's the only rail stop in Madison.

"Ideally, you would like a hub to be in your downtown, but there are advantages to putting it at the airport," he said. "Our airport has the advantage of being very close, a 10-minute ride to downtown. … I think in our case, having it at the airport might work."

Ultimately, despite being an "exciting time" for transit, Cieslewicz and other officials agree that it is likely that Madison will operate for at least part of 2009 or 2010 without a downtown bus depot.

"It is fair to say that the proposed Badger Bus station (redevelopment) absolutely has brought to the forefront the implications of the fact that we don't really have a clear plan for an expanded public transportation system downtown," Verveer said.

Energy on the docket at Earth Day conference

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

From an article in The Capital Times:

Biomass, wind, solar and the strategy to produce and maintain a sustainable homegrown energy plan will be the topics of the day on April 22 during the third annual Earth Day conference at Monona Terrace in Madison.

The conference is put together by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is co-sponsored by American Family Insurance, Madison Gas & Electric, Alliant Energy, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the British Consulate-General of Chicago.

Participants at the one-day conference will discuss emerging federal and state energy policies, opportunities for homegrown energy resources, how to create jobs, and how the state responded to previous energy challenges.

Guest speakers will include Eric Callisto, chair of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission; Charles Cicchetti, former PSC chair and co-founder of Pacific Economics Group; Donald Albinger, vice president for renewable energy at Johnson Controls; Faramarz Vakili-Zadeh, director of the We Conserve program at UW-Madison; and Alastair Totty, head of the national climate change team at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Details online.

Speak up or the Badger Bus depot comes down!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

From an email on the listserve of the Madison Peak Oil Group:

The city of Madison continues to slouch toward loss of its only bus depot, and letting "the market" decide haphazardly the future of any rail and intermodal connections with the buses. City officials, committees, and the UW seem to be equally passive. Meanwhile, Gov. Doyle was in Chicago yesterday to say we're all ready for trains from Chicago, Milwaukee to Madison, the money is there, and please come Olympics. Badger Bus Company is making decisions in its own interests and moving ahead with a rapid redevelopment/conversion of its depot to new apartment buildings on its site. Their plan will formally be submitted to the city on April 15th we expect, and all city approvals will be in place lickety-split by July. Our bus depot, and some big options for rail, will be gone by July unless the public begins to question it.

Please consider giving a short statement at the next Long Range meeting in the middle of this month. Members of the public get 3 minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Last week there was some useful testimony on the Badger Bus. This agenda will include time for the committee members to delve into more discussion on the topic. It's especially useful to come since there may be two new Alders on the committee (after the election today), so a refresh and expansion of our concerns is in order.

Long Range Transportation Planning Commission
Thursday, April 16
5:00 pm

Meets in the Madison Municipal Building (one with the post office) on 215 MLK Jr. Blvd. Usually meets in Lower Level, Room 110, but last time met on the 3rd floor, so if you don't find it on the lower level, ask around.

One cluster of issues to discuss include the Badger Bus and what are the options for intermodal transportation hub in Madison (particularly something downtown is needed)? FYI, there is NO plan for Greyhound buses, and UW says they don't have room for them to stop at Memorial Union...will there still be a bus to the Twin Cities, or can't you get there from here??

The other main cluster of issues is around the subject of Hi Speed Rail coming to the Airport (or to elsewhere in the city). The LRTPC seems to think it has no right to advise the Plan Commission on some of these subjects (?). We need to check in with the LRTPC on 4/16 also to see if they've gotten further information from
city traffic engineering, as they said they would, on all these plans to use Langdon outside the Union for all Badger Bus originations (as well as Van Galder, the campus buses, etc.) -- it's getting crowded!

Also look for an article on this subject this THURSDAY [April 9] in The Capital Times.

University of Wisconsin-Madison honored as bike-friendly campus

Monday, April 06, 2009

From an article in The Capital Times:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s push for more bicycle usage on campus has earned a silver award from the League of American Bicyclists in the league’s Bicycle Friendly Business program.

The program honors corporations, organizations and nonprofit groups that promote bicycling into their everyday culture and encourage their employees and constituencies to become active in cycling.

“We’re delighted to highlight the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the ways in which they are getting more people on bikes,” said Andy Clark, president of the League of American Bicyclists.

UW-Madison is using bicycling as a major component of its alternative transportation program, UW Commuter Solutions, and has developed the Campus Drive Pedestrian and Bicycle Path, complete with solar-powered lighting, to reaffirm its commitment to biking on campus.

Planned fast-train stop at Madison airport disappoints some

Friday, April 03, 2009

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
On the drive from Waukesha to Madison, Roger Danielsen has often wondered why he couldn't take a train instead.

But now that the state is pushing for $519 million in federal money to build a 110-mph passenger rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, Danielsen says the planned train still wouldn't lure him out of his car.

The reason: Madison's new train station would be built at Dane County Regional Airport, on the city's east side, not downtown near Capitol Square or the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. And Danielsen, a Waukesha graphic artist who travels regularly to Madison on business, is one of a number of state residents complaining about that decision.

"If traveling to Madison, what possible reason would I want to be dropped off at the Dane County Regional Airport, miles from downtown?" Danielsen wrote in a recent e-mail to state and federal officials. "If I have to take local bus / snail transportation to get from the airport to where I wanted to be in the first place downtown, you just put me back in my car again, time-wise and convenience-wise."

Others voiced similar comments after the Journal Sentinel reported recently that Gov. Jim Doyle was seeking federal stimulus dollars to pick up the full cost of the long-planned rail route linking Wisconsin's two largest cities. If approved, the line would offer six daily round trips, starting as early as late 2012 or early 2013, with stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown.

The problem with a downtown Madison station is that this train line isn't just a Milwaukee-to-Madison route, a state official says. It's intended to become a segment of a longer route that would eventually run all the way from Chicago to the Twin Cities, as part of a Midwestern network of fast, frequent trains. And a side trip through the capital city's crowded isthmus and back again would eat up too much time for travelers continuing beyond Madison, said Randy Wade, the state Department of Transportation's passenger rail manager.

To reach downtown Madison, trains would have to slow down on their way through numerous crossings, then back up all the way to the airport to leave town, Wade said. That also would boost the cost of the route, he said. Wade did not have figures on how much time or money a downtown spur would add.

Danielsen said he would be happy with a connecting local train, like the St. Louis light rail line that connects that city's downtown to its airport. And planners have considered running a Dane County commuter train to the airport. But the current plan for that $250 million project is to run from Middleton to downtown to Sun Prairie, bypassing the airport.

Wind-energy leader Vestas forges partnership with UW-Madison College of Engineering

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

From a news release issued by the UW-Madison:

Vestas, the world's leading producer of wind-power technology, has entered into a long-term partnership with the College of Engineering that promises to propel wind-energy research, provide student learning opportunities and give the company a long-term presence in Madison.

"Wind energy is a growing source of new power generation in the world and the technology has even greater untapped potential," says Grainger Professor of Power Electronics and Electrical Machines Thomas Jahns, who helped establish the partnership. "By teaming with an industry leader like Vestas, our research environment will thrive, and Wisconsin will see expanded opportunities in wind energy and other renewable-energy options."

Under the partnership, Vestas will begin providing funding support this year that will grow to sponsor as many as 10 graduate and undergraduate students working on wind technology projects. The company also plans to provide visiting research fellows to campus and start a small research-and-development facility near the engineering campus that will focus on technology transfer.