Say no to revving up rickety reactors

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From a column by John LaForge of Nukewatch, a Wisconsin-based organization, in The Capital Times:

The owners of two 40-year-old nuclear reactors at Point Beach, on Lake Michigan north of Two Rivers, want to increase the power output for each unit by 17 percent -- from 1,540 megawatts to 1,800.

The gunning of rickety old nukes is getting a green light all over the region.

The Monticello reactor, 30 miles from Minneapolis, will boost its output to 120 percent of the original licensed limit -- from 613 megawatts to 684. Monticello’s been rattling along since 1971, and it rattles badly. In 2007, a 35,000-pound turbine control box (6 feet by 6 feet and 20 feet long) broke its welds and fell onto a large steam pipe that was cut open, causing the loss of so much pressure that an automatic reactor shutdown was tripped. Decades of intense vibration and poor welding were blamed for the crash. The reactor had been operating at 90 percent power. So why not push the limits to 120 percent?

In 2009 the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected claims that the accident record at the two Prairie Island reactors, south of Minneapolis, is so bad that its license extension should be denied. In May 2006, one of them accidentally spewed radioactive iodine-131 gas over 110 of its own workers, who inhaled it. Internal radiation poisoning is the kind for which there is no decontamination. Even so, the NRC could soon OK letting the Prairie Island jalopies run until 2033 and 2034, respectively, rather than shut them down in 2013 and 2014 as the license now requires.

Back in Wisconsin, Point Beach’s “extended power uprate” (EPU) plan was published in the Federal Register by the NRC Dec. 10. The draft environmental assessment and “finding of no significant impact” are hair-raising. The public has until Jan. 8 to comment.

Should we be skeptical? Point Beach has received two of only four “Red findings” -- the worst failure warning available -- ever issued by the NRC. In 2006, the NRC found that operators had harassed a whistle-blower who documented technical violations. In 2005, Point Beach was fined $60,000 for deliberately giving false information to federal inspectors. In May 1996, it was the site of a potentially catastrophic explosion of hydrogen gas that upended the 3-ton lid on a huge cask filled with high-level radioactive waste. The lid was being robotically welded when the gas exploded.

Gas could hit $5 a gallon in 2012, former oil exec warns

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From an article by Bill Novak in The Capital Times:

Fueling up on New Year's Eve might be more expensive this year than ever before.

But it could seem cheap compared to what's coming by 2012, according to an industry analyst and a former president of Shell Oil.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, predicted that average national prices for regular will be between $3.25 and $3.75 a gallon this spring in an article in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

And John Hofmeister, a former Shell president, told the Platts News Service that consumers should brace for $5 a gallon gas by 2012.

The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.049 on Tuesday, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge report, only a few tenths of a penny away from the all-time record year-end high of $3.053 a gallon set on Dec. 31, 2007.

In Madison, prices for regular range from $2.98 to $3.12 a gallon on Tuesday, according to

Nationally, prices are 44 cents higher than a year ago.

"We will end the year with the highest prices ever for this week," Kolza told the Times, adding that there will be a break in prices this winter before they rise again in the spring.

After the year-end record in 2007, gas prices kept rising to the all-time record high of $4.11 a gallon nationally in July 2008.

AAA said the average price for regular in Wisconsin was $3.087 a gallon on Tuesday, up nine cents from a week ago.

Illinois forms partnership with Wisconsin's money to develop high-speed rail to St. Louis

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From an article in BizTimes Daily:

Illinois forms partnership to develop high-speed rail to St. Louis
State of Illinois announced today it will use some of the federal funds rejected by Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker to create a public-private partnership that will develop high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis, Mo., by 20114.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the signing of the historic cooperative agreement by the federal government, state government, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak as a crucial advance in the development of a planned high-speed passenger rail network that will serve Illinois and the Midwest region.

“ Clearly, the leadership, perseverance and commitment of Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin, and our private sector partners, has vaulted Illinois into the lead on the development of high-speed rail,” Hannig said. “This announcement is about more than just an historic achievement for Illinois and the Midwest. It is a celebration of the kind of partnership and vision that is creating jobs now and providing needed access to a crucial regional transportation alternative.”

In September 2010, Quinn announced that Illinois had become the first state in the nation to begin high-speed rail construction through an initial agreement to upgrade 90 miles of track between Alton and Lincoln. With the full Cooperative Agreement now in place, construction will continue in early spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight. That phase of work is expected to conclude next fall.

“It’s a wonderful day for Illinoisans as we celebrate a milestone achievement towards becoming the first state in the nation to bring high-speed rail to fruition,” Quinn said. “We applaud the cooperation and hard work of all participating agencies to bring high-speed rail service, thousands of jobs, and economic growth to communities across the state.”

Group releases recommendations to cut pollution

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From a news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

Expansion will save homeowners and businesses million

MADISON -- After more than a year of meetings and studies, the Midwestern Governors Association's (MGA) Low Carbon Fuel Advisory Group has released a report detailing a regionally coordinated cleaner fuels policy. These recommendations are designed to lower pollution in transportation fuels.

"The MGA report shows that cleaner fuel policies can be developed in ways that take advantage of our region’s economic and natural resource strengths and move Wisconsin away from the fossil fuels we import to our state at a cost of $13 billion a year," says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director, Clean Wisconsin.

While California and other states have already adopted similar policies, these recommendations differ in key respects. For example, they propose to measure greenhouse gas emissions for transportation fuels in a way that does not penalize the use of food-based crops for fuel, such as corn ethanol. A decision on evaluating potential market effects of food-based crops would be delayed until there is greater scientific consensus.

The Midwest is the leading producer of corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel, both of which can contribute to cuts in carbon pollution. The region is also a leader in the development of next-generation, clean-burning biofuels, from sources like wood waste and biogas, which benefits local economies. Wisconsin leads the country in farm-based biogas energy that turns cow manure, cheese wastewater and other byproducts into a valuable fuel for natural gas vehicles. And, of course, the region is the nation’s leading automotive and automotive components manufacturer. For instance, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls is building car batteries and electric drivetrains for vehicles such as the Ford Transit electric van. Electricity qualifies as a low-carbon fuel due to the greater efficiency of electric drivetrains.

"Moving to lower carbon fuels not only reduces dependence on imported oil but helps develop new economic opportunities in the advanced biofuel and electric vehicle industries," says Reopelle. "The recent announcement that United Ethanol of Milton will be installing a biogas system to reduce fossil fuel consumption will lower the carbon footprint of ethanol fuel produced in Wisconsin."

Some proposals were recommended for state or region-wide action, but the Advisory Group made recommendations for federal policymakers as well. The Advisory Group included state policymakers, business leaders, including the oil and gas industries, academic researchers and environmental groups.

MGA asked the Advisory Group to develop mutually acceptable recommendations for action to cut the carbon pollution from transportation fuels by 10 percent in 10 years. A technical evaluation found that nearly a 15-percent cut in pollution could be achieved in the same timeframe.

Departing rail money puts freight line in a pinch

Monday, December 20, 2010

From an article in Joe Lunane in The Daily Reporter:

The state and some Wisconsin counties are stuck with the $35 million tab to upgrade a freight line between Madison and Watertown now that federal high-speed train money is gone.

“The state had been waiting nearly a decade for federal money to come to Wisconsin to upgrade this freight line,” said Ken Lucht, manager of community development for Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., the state-contracted operator of the 33-mile track. “But because it is being redirected to other parts of the country, it’s pretty clear now the state is going to have to rebuild it themselves.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Dec. 9 redirected nearly all of Wisconsin’s $810 million in high-speed rail money to 13 other states. That pushed any potential rail upgrades back at least five years, Lucht said, and requires his company apply for a grant from the state’s rail preservation program.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation grant would cover 80 percent of the upgrade price, while the remaining costs for such projects typically would be divided between Wisconsin & Southern and the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission.

The commission represents eight southern Wisconsin counties that pool money to pay for local rail projects. Each county chips in $27,100 for a total of $216,800 per year — far less than the anticipated $3.5 million needed to cover the commission’s required 10 percent for the freight line.

The commission spends all of the money each year.

Van Schwartz, Dane County transit rail commissioner and finance committee chairman, said the commission recently has been unable to match its 10 percent local contribution, forcing Wisconsin & Southern to make up the shortfall for other projects.

“There’s no question work on this rail line needs to be done,” he said. “It’s valuable and will lead to additional jobs and traffic. But the economic reality is that counties don’t have the money to fund schools or roads, let alone any other activities.”

Co. Exec. Falk, farmers help start Dane County “Cow Power” facility

Thursday, December 16, 2010

With the push of a button by Dane County Exec. Falk, the innovative facility north of Waunakee began the process of converting manure into electricity, instead of pollution.

From a news release issued by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Dane County’s first “Cow Power” facility officially started operating today, as County Executive Kathleen Falk, representatives of Clear Horizons (the private operator), and the three farm families partnering on the project pushed a button to start filling the first manure digester tank.

Once this one-million gallon tank is full (in approximately two weeks), the manure will be heated and the process of converting it into electricity for homes and compost for gardens will begin. The facility is expected to begin producing electricity for sale to Alliant Energy in February.

The Dane County “Cow Power” facility will generate about $2-million worth of electricity each year - - enough to run 2,500 Dane County homes. It also includes first-of-its-kind equipment slated to remove much of the algae-producing phosphorous from the manure.

“Today begins the next exciting step in this innovative project - - turning a whole lot of cow manure into a valuable commodity for our homes and businesses and keeping it out of our lakes,” Falk said. “Thanks to the unique design of this one-of-a-kind digester, manure from 2,500 cows will go into powering our homes instead of polluting our waters.”

Dane County and a Wisconsin company, Clear Horizons are partnering on this project with three family farms in the Towns of Vienna and Dane - - the Ripps’, the Endres’ and the Maiers’. This digester is the first in the state to be shared by a cluster of several farmers and one of only a handful in the country to substantially remove pollutants that cause algae and weed growth in local lakes. That primary pollutant is phosphorus which studies have shown is the leading cause of green algae and other weed growth in Dane County’s lakes.

Today’s start of operations culminates years of pioneering work by County Executive Falk, the farm families and Clear Horizons to build this unique digester.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin's executive director, attended the ceremony.

Governor Doyle included $6.6 million in the 2009-11 state budget so two new Dane County “Cow Power” facilities would have additional phosphorus removal technology not used in other digesters in the state. To date, private dollars from Clear Horizons has funded the $12 million total project cost. Once the project is fully operational, half of the state funding ($3.3 million) will be used to pay for the phosphorus removal equipment while the other half will go for a second digester. No county dollars were used.

Dems to Walker: Where's the money for other rail projects without the $810 million?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

From an article on the Web site of the Wisconsin State Journal:

Two Democratic state lawmakers are asking Gov.-elect Scott Walker to explain how he'll pay for certain train-related expenses after the Republican refused federal funds that would have covered them.

Walker turned down $810 million to build high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee. He said the state could get stuck paying for upkeep.

Mark Pocan in the Assembly and Mark Miller of the Senate told Walker on Wednesday his refusal means Wisconsin taxpayers could now be liable for related projects worth $101 million.

Those include $52 million for a train-maintenance facility and $30 million for freight-rail upgrades.

However, fiscal analyst Jon Dyck of the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau says lawmakers have the option of scaling back the projects to save money.

Madison mayor lashes out at Walker over high-speed rail

Friday, December 10, 2010

From an article by Jessica Vanergeren in The Capital Times:

A visibly angry Mayor Dave Cieslewicz lashed out at incoming Gov. Scott Walker at a news conference Thursday, blaming him for an announcement that federal transportation officials were pulling $810 million in free stimulus money to Wisconsin that could have been used for high-speed rail.

Cieslewicz, joined by Dane County Chair Scott McDonell, Steve Hiniker of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin and Downtown Madison Inc. President Susan Schmitz, called Walker's decision to campaign on a pledge to kill the high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison a "purely irrational" decision that has led to a "black day for the state."

"He put himself in a ridiculously tight corner during the campaign that he couldn't get himself out of," Cieslewicz said.

Walker has not yet made a public statement on the federal transportation's decision.

The mayor said he repeatedly reached out to Walker to talk over options to keep the project on track.

Cieslewicz said he would have been open to the city contributing to the train's operating cost, an idea he also had discussed with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Barrett, a Democrat and a high-speed rail advocate, was defeated by Walker in the November election. The mayor said he first tried to contact Walker days after Walker was elected. Cieslewicz said his calls and messages were never returned.

"I was met with a blank wall. I was never able to speak with him," the mayor said. "I think it is very telling about a person. He is not getting off to a good start."

U.S. transportation dept. redirects $1.195 billion in high-speed fail funds

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.

“High-speed rail will modernize America’s valuable transportation network, while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life. . . .”

Under the Recovery Act, the Federal Railroad Administration originally announced $810 million for Wisconsin’s Milwaukee-Madison corridor and $400 million for Ohio’s Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland “3C” route. The Federal Railroad Administration will redirect $810 million from Wisconsin and $385 million from Ohio, and will work with these states to determine whether they have already spent money under their contracts that should be reimbursed.

The $1.195 billion originally designated for those high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio will now be used to support projects in the following states:

California: up to $624 million
Florida: up to $342.3 million
Washington State: up to $161.5 million
Illinois: up to $42.3 million
New York: up to $7.3 million
Maine: up to $3.3 million
Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
Vermont: up to $2.7 million
Missouri up to $2.2 million
Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
Oregon: up to $1.6 million
North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
Iowa: up to $309,080
Indiana: up to $364,980

650 people attend session on Milwaukee-Twin Cities rail plan

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

From an article by Steven Verberg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A boisterous crowd of more than 650 couldn't get all the answers it wanted Tuesday night about the impending collision between boosters of a Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line and an incoming governor who plans to stop it.

But that didn't keep people from peppering planners of a Milwaukee-to-Minneapolis passenger rail service with questions for about 90 minutes during a Wisconsin Department of Transportation information meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on East Washington Avenue in Madison.

Many of the queries were loaded, lobbed by critics of Gov.-elect Scott Walker's vow to block a passenger train line through the capital.

"I cannot speak for the governor-elect," Wisconsin passenger rail planning manager Donna Brown replied at one point. "If we have to put (plans) on the shelf, that's something we can do, but then the plan is there if it's needed later."

A Madison route is one of 25 being evaluated based on cost, ridership and dozens of other factors. A Federal Railroad Administration time line calls for narrowing the options to a single proposal sometime in 2012, said Charlie Quandel, a consultant hired by the Minnesota transportation department.

Some routes would take the high-speed line along the existing Amtrak route north of Madison, or along the state's east side, or through Iowa, Quandel said.

Planning is part of a nine-state initiative that started in the mid-1990s and that involves routes across the Midwest.

No evidence of health impacts from wind energy

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

From a column by Robert J. McCunney, Robert Dobie and David M. Lipscomb in The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon:

While opponents of wind energy have attempted to use self-published reports to block projects, the science is clear. Independent studies conducted around the world consistently find that wind farms have no direct impact on physical health. In fact, with no air or water pollution emissions, wind energy is essential to reducing public health impacts from the energy sector.

A minority of residents living near wind projects may sometimes find the turbine sounds annoying and the same is true with any environmental sound. Annoyance is a subjective effect that varies among people and circumstances. Many residents in Oregon and across the United States find wind turbines to be a non-intrusive neighbor.

In 2009, we participated in an international multidisciplinary scientific advisory panel to review current literature on the perceived health effects of wind turbines. The panel found no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects. It is important to note that while this effort was funded by the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations, we are independent scientists who had no involvement with the wind industry prior to this engagement.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council also conducted peer-reviewed research on the issue: Its findings: "There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects."

Robert J. McCunney is a research scientist in occupational and environmental medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Biological Engineering. Robert Dobie is a clinical professor of otolaryngology at both the University of Texas-San Antonio and the University of California, Davis. David M. Lipscomb is president of Correct Service Inc. in Stanwood, Wash.

The disconnect on connections

Monday, December 06, 2010

From a column by John Gurda in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The state thrived because of previous travel 'connections'

It's not the money, really. In the long run, it's all about connections. Scott Walker has made no secret of his aversion to high-speed trains, but before he goes any further with his plans to derail the planned Milwaukee-Madison line, Walker might consider some earlier chapters in Wisconsin's transportation history. They indicate that the governor-elect could be putting his state in reverse.

As long as there has been a Wisconsin, residents have labored mightily to establish connections with each other and with the world beyond the state's borders. Although disputes often arose in working out the details, the general trend was unmistakable.

Milwaukee, for instance, became the state's commercial capital largely because it had the best harbor on Lake Michigan's western shore, but that harbor did not come without some built-in obstacles. A sandbar at the river mouth made it impossible for large vessels to land downtown, and local leaders besieged Congress with pleas for federal assistance. It was only fair, they argued, for Washington to return some of the money it was collecting from land sales in Wisconsin. When federal help did not arrive, Milwaukeeans taxed themselves for port improvements, creating what the Milwaukee Sentinel (Dec. 18, 1857) called "the safest, most accessible and roomiest Harbor on all these inland seas."

Connections by land were just as important. The first farm-to-market roads turned to muddy ruts in rainy weather, spawning a network of privately built plank roads that eased the journey into town. One of the longest made it possible to cover the 58 miles from Watertown to Milwaukee in a day and a half.

Plank roads were only a stopgap measure until the trains began to roll. Few transportation breakthroughs have been half as influential as railroads, and none have been more ardently pursued. A rail connection could, and frequently did, spell the difference between prosperity and obscurity for towns aspiring to something more than crossroads status. The state's first railroad chugged from Milwaukee to Waukesha in 1851, and dozens more followed. "The present seems to be the age of railroad mania," said F.H. West, president of Milwaukee's Chamber of Commerce in 1872. "Every town of a dozen inhabitants is working up some railroad scheme." The mania became so general that scores of communities, including Milwaukee, issued public bonds on behalf of private railroad companies.

The one connection that Milwaukee resisted was with Chicago. Another Chamber of Commerce official described the Chicago & North Western Railroad, based in the Windy City, as "Milwaukee's most formidable enemy." Local boosters feared that Chicago would divert Wisconsin's trade to the foot of the lake, and they worked diligently to develop a home-grown railroad. It was, in fact, an independent line - the fabled Milwaukee Road - that enabled the city to thrive despite the proximity of Chicago.

Railroads were Wisconsin's prime movers for generations, carrying passengers and freight throughout the state and far beyond, but a new technology began to threaten their primacy after 1900. The number of motor vehicles licensed in Wisconsin soared from 1,492 in 1905 (when a lifetime license cost all of $1) to more than 124,000 in 1916, and the fleet kept growing. On every level - state, county, and town - Wisconsin worked to develop a network of roads that could handle them all. The first state highway system, covering 5,000 miles, was laid out in 1918, and federal aid helped to make it a reality.

Government led the way into the air as well.

Rail meeting changes location

Friday, December 03, 2010

Meeting on high-speed rail study scheduled for Madison - LOCATION CHANGE

Open house meeting to focus on passenger rail between Milwaukee and Twin Cities

The Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation are announcing a change in location of the open house meeting for the Milwaukee to Twin Cities high-speed rail study.

The meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 2010. The open house will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4402 East Washington Avenue, Madison.

Attendees will have the opportunity to share thoughts on possible routes and environmental impacts for high-speed passenger rail between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.

The Crowne Plaza is accessible to wheelchair. To request an interpreter for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, please contact the Wisconsin Telecommunication Relay System (dial 711). Ask the communication assistant to contact Alyssa Macy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at (414) 220-6802.

For more information, contact:
Alyssa Macy, High Speed Rail Program
(414) 220-6802,

Wisconsin Cannot Afford to Ignore Rising Coal Prices

Thursday, December 02, 2010

For immediate release

More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Wisconsin Cannot Afford to Ignore Rising Coal Prices

Long-considered an inexpensive and reliable fuel source, coal has become subject to market and regulatory pressures that threaten to make it an expensive and risky way to generate electricity, according to national news reports and pertinent utility filings with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC).

“The expectation of continued increases in coal prices reinforces the value of relying on Wisconsin’s own energy resources. If there’s an effort to find savings for utility customers, the logical move would be to shutter antiquated coal plants before they become more of a liability,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide, nonprofit renewable energy advocacy organization.

A key driver behind coal’s rising cost is China, which has moved from an exporter to an importer of coal. The New York Times (NYT) reported last week that Chinese coal imports will hit all-time highs for November and December of this year. Some of this coal is coming from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the coal field that also supplies many Wisconsin power plants.1

In the New York Times story, an executive from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, predicted that his company will send larger and larger quantities of coal to China in the coming years.

Further adding to the upward price pressure on coal is the rising cost of diesel fuel. The PSC has estimated that half of the delivered cost of coal in Wisconsin is attributable to rail shipment, that is highly sensitive to the price of diesel fuel, which sells for 38 cents more per gallon than it did a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.2 Tom Whipple, editor of the Peak Oil Review, expects diesel fuel supplies to tighten in 2011 as a consequence of flat production volumes and increasing demand from Asia.3 This phenomenon could affect Wisconsin electric utility rates as early as January 2011, according to Vickerman.

We Energies’ coal costs have escalated by $57 million, of which transportation costs account for almost $33 million, according to the utility’s most recent rate filing with the PSC. On top of that, We Energies expects to pay an additional $8 million in oil surcharge costs.4

Click to continue

300 years of fossil fuel addiction explained in just FIVE MINUTES!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

High-speed rail hearing set for Madison, Dec. 7

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is holding a series of public hearings around the state in the next week, and these hearings could make or break the future of high speed rail in Wisconsin.

This is our chance to stand together and send a message loud and clear to our public leaders that Wisconsin supports high speed rail.

The meetings will run from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and will take place in the following cities over the next week:

Thursday, Dec. 2 in Fond du Lac at UW-Fond du Lact campus, 400 University Drive in Fond du Lac.

Tuesday, Dec. 7 in Madison at the WisDOT Southwest Region Office, 2101 Wright Street

If you can't attend one of the hearings, you can still make your voice heard by signing our 'Save the Train' letter to Governor-elect Scott Walker at

“What are you fighting FOR, Mr. Walker?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My letter to the Wisconsin State Journal is below. 
Hans Noeldner

Dear Governor-elect Walker:

You and your cohorts spent the past election season fighting tracks and trains and high speed rail. But what are you fighting FOR?

Are you committed to making your community - Wisconsin - a place where it is safe and practical for people to walk, bicycle, use wheelchairs, and share transit? Are people who cannot drive, families who cannot afford a car, and those who don’t have the luxury of 24/7/365 chauffeur service welcome in YOUR neighborhood?

Are you fighting to keep “them” out? Or are you committed to access for all?

Madison Peak Oil Group at the train rally in Madison

Monday, November 22, 2010

David Knuti represented the Madison Peak Oil Group, an event sponsor, at the Madison rally to convince Governor-elect Walker to accept $810 million from the federal government for a Madison-Milwaukee train line.

Solar-powered hot water system to be installed at Dane County Public Safety Building

Friday, November 19, 2010

From a news release issued by County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Federal Energy Stimulus Project to Save Taxpayers
Thousands in Energy Costs

Starting in early 2011, hot water that comes out of faucets, showers, or clothes washers in the Dane County Public Safety Building (PSB) will be heated by the sun. That’s because Dane County has been awarded a federal energy stimulus grant for installation of a new solar-powered hot water system that will save taxpayers thousands of dollars in energy costs.

The Public Safety Building includes the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, the Dane County Department of Emergency Management, and the Dane County Jail where hundreds of inmates take showers and have laundry done daily.
Instead of just using costly natural gas to heat water, the new system will use heat generated by a series of 16 solar panels on the roof of the PSB to heat hundreds of gallons of water for use in the building. Once the water is heated, it will be stored in insulated tanks in the basement and ready for use. Those tanks will hold 620 gallons of hot water.

“By harnessing the power of the sun, we’re going to save taxpayers thousands in energy costs,” County Executive Kathleen Falk said. “This federally-funded project has the added benefit of putting paychecks in the back-pockets of local workers from a local company.”

In addition to the $150,000 in energy cost savings over the life of the system, the county will also receive a one-time $25,000 rebate from Focus on Energy for installing the new system. . . .

Rally for trains this Saturday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Saturday, join the Sierra Club and local leaders to urge Governor-elect Scott Walker to continue construction to restore train service to Madison. This will create thousands of jobs, increase travel choices to Milwaukee, take 500,000 cars off of the road, and reduce greenhouse air pollution by 418 million pounds. Or will we give $810 million in federal grant funding to Illinois, lose at least 5,000 jobs for Wisconsin workers, and continue our dependence on dirty big oil?

12:00 Noon
Rally at the Wilson Street Surface Lot, 400 S. Hancock St.

Speakers include:
Bob Lien, Owner, Lien Tech Inc, Steel Fabricator, Stoughton;
Chris Klein or Dave Cieslewicz, Mayor’s office, invited;
Rep. Mark Pocan, AD 78;
Scott Ross, Director, One Wisconsin Now;
Steve Hiniker, Director, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

UW official: Walker rejection of biomass project would mean loss of jobs and rail upgrade

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From an article by James Briggs in The Daily Reporter:

A University of Wisconsin official warns that an initiative of Gov.-elect Scott Walker could prevent rail upgrades and cost jobs.

If that sounds familiar, there‘s good reason. High-speed rail advocates have said Walker’s plan to stop efforts toward a Madison-to-Milwaukee line would kill as many as 9,570 jobs (a Sierra Club estimate).

Walker has said only 55 permanent jobs would be eliminated.

In this case, though, Alan Fish, UW-Madison’s associate vice chancellor for facilities, isn’t talking about high-speed rail. Fish on Monday said if Walker removes a biomass boiler from plans for the Charter Street Heating Plant conversion on the UW-Madison campus, it would mean fewer jobs.

Walker hinted at the move last week in a letter to Department of Administration Secretary Daniel Schooff, but has neither clarified nor confirmed his intentions. A Walker spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“In order to have a biomass boiler constructed on the site, we’re going to have to have both a fuel storage capacity and some increases in the rail lines, so we can park rail cars right next to the plant,” Fish said. “That would mean building another rail bridge over Park Street and the East Campus Mall so we can make sure freight traffic can still go through while we’re parking cars and unloading.”

The rail work is included in the $251 million conversion project that is under way and set to be completed in 2013. Because the project is phased, though, Fish said it would not be difficult to leave out the biomass boiler. Such a decision would downsize the project, he said.

“If we go to (only) natural gas, we’re going to concentrate all the capital investment in the plant and expansion of the plant,” Fish said. “Fuel handling would come out, the rail work would come out and the biomass boiler and air pollution control is going to come out.”

LaHood says high-speed rail funds will be quickly reallocated to other states

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From an article in BizTimes Daily:

The Obama administration plans to quickly reallocate money designated for high-speed rail if states granted the funds reject them, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood made the announcement Monday night to hundreds of politicians, businesspeople, urban planners and rail enthusiasts gathered in New York City to assess the state of high-speed rail in the United States. The three-day conference was presented by the U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR).

Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, a Republican, has called a planned $810 million high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison a “boondoggle” and is vowing to stop the project.

Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich, also a Republican, has called a planned $400 million high-speed rail line to connect Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland a “dead train.”

LaHood said Wisconsin and Ohio will forfeit those federal funds if their governors reject the rail lines.

When the state funds are rejected, LaHood said Monday night, they will be redistributed "in a professional way in places where the money can be well spent,” according to The Washington Post.

Walker urges Doyle to halt projects, including UW biomass plant

Monday, November 15, 2010

From an article by Jason Stein and Lee Bergquist in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Governor-elect Scott Walker asked Gov. Jim Doyle Thursday to freeze his administration's push on high-profile issues ranging from the implementation of the federal health care law to a costly upgrade of a state power plant until Walker takes office on Jan. 3.

Doyle and his aides made no commitment to do that, though a top cabinet secretary said Doyle would work with Walker in an "orderly and responsible manner."

Three past governors from both political parties and the top aides to two more past governors said Thursday that the transition duel playing out between Walker, a Republican, and Doyle, a Democrat, is unprecedented in a generation of Wisconsin politics. . . .

In a letter Thursday [November 11] to Doyle Administration Secretary Dan Schooff, Walker requested:

• Stopping unfinished negotiations with unions on the 2009-'11 labor contracts so they can be considered as part of the upcoming 2011-'13 state budget. Walker campaigned on making public workers cover more of their benefits, including pension contributions.

• Freezing the implementation of the new health legislation, including the establishment of a state health insurance exchange that would allow individuals to purchase coverage.

• Making plans to shift the source of power from biomass to natural gas at a University of Wisconsin-Madison power plant that is being upgraded.

Carrotmob ‘green buycott’ at Ian’s Pizza increases business

Friday, November 12, 2010

From an article by Tessa Hahn in The Daily Herald:

What did carrots, a solar powered water heater and lots of Ian's pizza have in common Thursday night? The mission student group Carrotmob has to make Madison "green."

Carrotmob, which aims to raise awareness about environmental issues, teamed up with Ian's Pizza on State Street on their latest quest to help local businesses go green. The objective for the event was to raise money so Ian's could buy a solar-powered water heater.

The group held a "buycott," instead of a "boycott," in which the group promoted business for Ian's by attracting students to the restaurant, hosting a disc jockey, dancing and a carrot mascot.

"Right now we're running an electric [water heater], which is really inefficient," Ian's manager Jack Thurnblad said. "The electricity we'd be replacing with it can power a normal family home for seven months."

With 50 percent the proceeds from every slice going toward the fund for the solar-powered water heater, Hayley Blum and Claire Howick, co-managers of Carrotmob, hope to make a dip into the fund for the $13,000 purchase. Compared to a normal Thursday night, profits were already up 45 percent by 9:30 p.m.

Business leaders in Milwaukee, Madison differ on train

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From an article by in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Madison - Milwaukee business leaders are showing little public opposition to Governor-elect Scott Walker's plans to stop a Milwaukee to Madison passenger rail line while some business leaders in Madison are trying to revive the $810 million federally funded project.

One reason for that difference: Milwaukee already has the successful Amtrak Hiawatha line connecting the city to the Midwest business powerhouse of Chicago while Madison residents would need the Milwaukee line to have a rail connection to the Windy City.

Tim Sheehy, president of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, said that his members are much more focused on seeing what Walker can do to balance the state budget, lower or hold down taxes and refocus Wisconsin's strategy to grow businesses. Supporting the passenger rail line - or actively opposing the newly elected governor on the issue - just isn't a priority, he said.

"Quite frankly, our focus was on ensuring that we had that (Hiawatha) connection to Chicago for lots of reasons. (The Madison line has) been more of a nice-to-have discussion than a need-to-have discussion in the business community in southeastern Wisconsin," Sheehy said Wednesday. "In a sense, why beat a dead train?"

But in Madison, business leaders do see more of a benefit to the connection to Chicago. The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has gone on record supporting the project.

Kevin Conroy, president and chief executive officer of the Madison biotech company Exact Sciences Corp., has been seeking to revive support for the passenger rail line. Conroy is no stranger to politics - he briefly considered running for governor last year as a Democrat before bowing out to let Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett run unopposed.

Illinois: We'll take Wisconsin's $810M for Chicago-St. Louis route

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

From an article by Mary Wisniewski in the Chicago Sun Times:

Illinois wants the $810 million in federal high-speed rail money that Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker has promised to reject.

“We’d love to have it,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. He said Illinois, which has already received $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding, could spend Wisconsin’s money making further improvements to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to add more passenger runs.

The money also could be used to build stations in Joliet and Rockford, Hannig said.

Walker, a Republican, made opposing a high-speed train line from Milwaukee to Madison a key part of his campaign against Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker objected to the state having to pay up to $7.5 million a year in ongoing operational costs.

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) said he would work with other lawmakers to persuade the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer the money to Illinois. He also would like to see trainmaker Talgo, Inc. move here. Talgo has said it can’t promise to stay in Milwaukee if the state rejects the rail project.

Walker asks Talgo to stay; says rail decision isn't final

Monday, November 08, 2010

From an article by Jason Stein and Tom Heldin the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Madison — Governor-elect Scott Walker reached out to a Milwaukee train manufacturer Friday, seeking to keep its operations in the state long-term as he advocates for stopping a passenger rail project involving the company.

"Governor-elect Walker is reaching out to leadership at Talgo to encourage them to stay in Wisconsin," Walker spokeswoman Jill Bader said Friday.

A spokeswoman for Talgo, the U.S. unit of the Spanish firm Patentes Talgo, said that Walker told company officials that his decision to stop a proposed Madison-to-Milwaukee passenger rail line is "not final."

Walker, a Republican, campaigned on an unambiguous promise to end the passenger rail line, funded with $810 million in federal stimulus money, which he has called a boondoggle. Bader said Walker was not backing away from that promise.

This week, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, a supporter of the project, halted work on that line temporarily after Walker's election.

That has thrown some doubt over jobs at Talgo, which is building two trains for an existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago rail service and had plans to build two more for the proposed Milwaukee-to-Madison line. The company has a site at the former Tower Automotive property.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said Friday during a briefing in her Milwaukee office that other states are clearly in line to take the funds if Wisconsin turns them down. A lack of public transportation is a significant cause of the high unemployment in the central city because residents there can't reach jobs in the suburbs, she said.

"Walker has a record of being anathema to public transportation," Moore said.

New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo made a pitch for the rail money that the governors-elect in Wisconsin and Ohio have pledged to reject. He sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that the roughly $1.26 billion be redirected to pay for a rail project that would connect New York City, upstate New York, Toronto and Montreal.

"High-speed rail is critical to building the foundation for future economic growth, especially upstate," Cuomo said in a statement. "If these governors-elect follow through on their promises to cancel these projects, a Cuomo administration would move quickly to put the billions in rejected stimulus funding toward projects that would create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers."

PSC backs bigger investment in energy efficiency

Friday, November 05, 2010

From a blog post by Tom Content on JSonline:

Wisconsin’s energy efficiency programs would receive increased funding from electricity ratepayers in the next four years under a proposal adopted Thursday by the state Public Service Commission.

The state's Focus on Energy program has been reallocating its budget to meet the heavy demand for energy-efficiency services from the business community, according to the PSC.

The commission’s action must be endorsed by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

A study by the Energy Center of Wisconsin, released last year, concluded Wisconsin could triple funding for energy efficiency and achieve $1 billion in savings on energy bills for customers.

Citing the economy, the commission voted to increase funding for efficiency initiatives, but didn’t increase spending as much as advocates had sought.

PSC Chairman Eric Callisto urged the agency to adopt a more gradual ramp-up in funding for energy efficiency given the state of the economy.

“Rates will go up over time if we don’t invest in energy efficiency,” he said. “I’m also cognizant of the economic woes the state is now facing.”

The PSC decision would set a target of reducing the state’s electricity demand by 1.5% beginning in 2014.

Under the proposal, funding for energy-efficiency programs would expand to $120 million in 2011 from $100 million this year, with the goal of expanding incentives aimed at reducing energy bills.

Funding would then increase to $160 million in 2012, $204 million in 2013, and $256 million in 2014, under the PSC proposal.

For the next four years, the minimum funding level for renewables will be $10.8 million in 2011, $14.4 million in 2012, $18.36 million in 2013 and $23.04 million in 2014.

Walker says he will stop train project to Milwaukee

Thursday, November 04, 2010

From an article by Clay Barbour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Some $800 million in contracts, a series of difficult legal hurdles and a struggling economy will not stop Governor-elect Scott Walker from doing what he promised on the campaign trail — stopping the train.

Walker, a Republican, soundly defeated Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for the right to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. He takes power Jan. 1.

The Milwaukee County executive ran a strong campaign on a series of checkbook issues, vowing to cut government spending by $300 million, bring 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin and roll back $1.8 billion in tax increases approved last year.

But few issues so caught the public's attention as Walker's promise to stop the $810 million Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger rail project, a project officials hope one day will link the Midwest, from Chicago to Minneapolis.

Wisconsin transportation officials earlier this week signed a deal to commit the state to spending all of the $810 million in federal stimulus money on rail project, a significant move because it makes it harder for rail opponents like Walker to stop it.

Many political experts felt Walker was simply using the train to gin up voters, never truly intending to bring a halt to the project — a move that could end up costing the state millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Some assumed Doyle rushed the contracts through in an effort to tie the governor-elect's hands.

But on Wednesday, Walker reiterated his intention to stop the train and said he believed there was a way to do it without the state losing its shirt.

Voters say no in advisory referendum on commuter rail

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

From an article by Steven Verburg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

In almost all of the 45 suburban and rural Dane County communities that held advisory referendums on commuter rail Tuesday, voters said no to the idea of a half-cent sales tax.

One of the lead organizers of the referendum campaign, Mike Thomsen, said the vote shows county leaders are out of touch.

"They should start paying attention to the people out there," said Thomsen, a leader of No Tax for Tracks, which spent about $6,500 on radio advertising, signs and fliers urging a no vote.

"They should drop the entire idea of commuter rail," Thomsen said. "We need to have a transit plan, but it has to be something we can afford and something that serves the purpose."

Proponents of a commuter train system said they weren't surprised by the results because the ballot questions — put together by train opponents — don't reflect what eventually will be proposed: a system heavy on buses, with only a fraction of expenditures going to rail.

"To spend that much money on rail alone, you would have commuter rail running down about every street in the county," said Scott McDonell, Dane County Board chairman. "If I were in Sun Prairie, I would have voted no."

Forty-five municipalities had a version of a rail referendum on their ballots. Most asked if voters support a half-cent sales tax for commuter rail between Middleton and the town of Burke, just west of Sun Prairie.

The municipalities voting represent roughly 40 percent of the county's population and more than 75 percent of the population outside Madison. The city of Madison, along with Fitchburg and a dozen towns and villages, didn't hold referendums.

Wisconsin, feds sign high-speed rail deal

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Transportation officials have confirmed that Wisconsin and federal administrators have signed a deal to commit the state to spending all $810 million of its federal stimulus cash on a proposed Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail line.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on its website Monday night the agreement was reached just days before today's election.

The deal is significant because it could make it harder for opponents to stop the controversial project, which officials originally hoped would one day connect the Midwest, from Chicago to Minneapolis.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the Republican nominee and gubernatorial frontrunner, has said repeatedly that he wanted to stop the rail project, even if it meant repaying hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government. On Monday, he called the deal "raw political power at its worst."

But Cari Anne Renlund, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, said Gov. Jim Doyle's administration was only following its original plan for the project to create construction jobs as soon as possible.

"Essentially what this means is that we've satisfied the federal government that we are ready to start the construction phase," Renlund, the No. 3 official at the state Department of Transportation, told the State Journal. "We can put people on the job and pay them."

Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

Friday, October 29, 2010

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website:

Feds allocate more dollars for Chicago-to-Twin Cites rail

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From an article in BizTimes:

The federal government is allocating another $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects across the country, on top of the $8 billion for high speed rail that was previously announced as part of the federal stimulus act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The additional high-speed rail funds will include $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor, on top of the $822 million that was allocated for the corridor earlier this year, including $810 million for the controversial Milwaukee to Madison line.

The additional $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor includes $3.7 million to replace two rail bridges between Chicago and Milwaukee that will allow for higher-speed trains to travel between the two cities. The Department of Transportation announcement did not say where the bridges are located, but a recent Chicago Tribune report said the bridges are in Wadsworth, Ill.

UW-Madison earns an "A" for sustainability efforts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From a news release issued by the UW-Madison:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received the highest possible grade, an A, in a national college sustainability ranking released today.

The grade makes UW-Madison one of just seven schools, out of 322 campuses surveyed across the United States and Canada, to receive top marks on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011, an independent ranking prepared by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

UW-Madison was also named an Overall College Sustainability Leader for its high score.

The seven “A”s awarded this year are the first granted by the program since it began its rankings in 2006. In addition to UW-Madison, the other top-ranking schools are Brown University, Dickinson College, the University of Minnesota, Oberlin College, Pomona College, and Yale University.

“We have been working hard to make our campus more sustainable and we are very pleased with this reflection of our efforts,” says Faramarz Vakili, the UW-Madison director of sustainability operations. “But we are not going to rest until we know we are doing everything we can as a university to be a great steward of the environment and to make sustainability a state of mind and philosophy of operation in all aspects of the University’s research, education, operations, and community lifestyle.”

Schools were graded on 52 sustainability indicators across nine equally weighted categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, student involvement, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement. Teaching, research, and other academic activities were not included in this analysis.

UW-Madison earned “A”s in eight of the nine categories and a “B” in food and recycling. The report card specifically highlights the new campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, a 24 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, sustainability efforts of numerous campus units, and the accomplishments of the We Conserve initiative.

Governor Doyle breaks ground on coal plant conversion to biomass

Monday, October 25, 2010

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today broke ground on the Charter Street Biomass Heating Plant project. The $251 million project is one of the largest biomass projects in the nation and will create construction and clean energy jobs. The project follows Governor Doyle’s 2008 announcement that Wisconsin would stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus.

“In 2008, I announced plans to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus,” Governor Doyle said. “Today, we are breaking ground on the Charter Street biomass plant and taking a major step forward to make this goal a reality. The Charter Street plant will turn a waste stream into clean energy, it will keep energy dollars in our communities, and it will help clean our air and water. This project will create great jobs in Wisconsin and will develop a new biomass market from our great fields and farms.”

The Governor’s 2009-2011 capital budget included $251 million for the Charter Street project and $25 million to convert the Capitol Heat and Power Plant to natural gas. The Charter Street plant will support local biomass providers and eliminate over 108,000 tons of coal burned every year. In March, the state stopped burning coal at the Capitol Heat and Power Plant – eliminating 4,500 tons of coal burned by the state each year. When the Charter Street project is completed in 2013, the Doyle Administration will have reduced State of Wisconsin coal use by 65 percent.

The Charter Street project is a joint effort between AMEC and Boldt Construction. The plant’s coal boilers will first be replaced by natural gas and biomass fuel. The plant will run completely on biomass by late 2013, with the capacity to burn wood chips, corn stalks and switch grass pellets and power 300 local buildings.

Madison gets $950,000 grant for rail station planning

Friday, October 22, 2010

From a news release issued by the City of Madison:

City officials announced today that the City of Madison has received $950,000 TIGER II planning grant from the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The grant will fund the planning process for the city's economic development efforts surrounding the high speed rail station.

"The high speed rail station presents tremendous economic development potential for Madison," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "This grant will accelerate our planning efforts and make sure we realize that potential to grow our tax base, create jobs and build effective, intermodal transportation downtown."

"The rail terminal that these funds will go toward will create jobs and stimulate economic growth and educational opportunities in the Madison metropolitan area. I'm proud to support this worthy federal/local partnership to benefit our community," Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin said.

The city's grant application focused on planning efforts to fully leverage the introduction of intercity rail service, link it to other transportation systems, and maximize its local and regional economic impact. The city will work with developers to include several elements in the development surrounding the rail station, including a new hotel to bolster the Monona Terrace convention center, a new underground parking facility, a bike station, intermodal connections to Metro and intercity busses and a public market.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment and this will help us get it right," Susan Schmitz, President of Downtown Madison Inc. said.

Would we have said no to the interstate?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From a column by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Imagine that back in 1953, Wisconsin decided not to take part in President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system because it wasn’t any costlier for Wisconsin drivers to travel from Madison to Milwaukee on old Highway 30 than it would be to spend tens of millions of dollars to build I-94 between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

So what if the federal government was going to pick up 90 percent of the cost of construction, the anti-interstate people would argue. Think of all the costs we’d have to bear to maintain the four-lane superhighway, not to mention having to upgrade bridges and intersections somewhere down the line. Some soothsayer might even predict that, hey, in 60 years or so we’d probably have to replace the big downtown intersection in Milwaukee at a cost of $900 million or the one near the zoo to the tune of a billion dollars.

Let some other clueless state have the money, they’d say. We don’t have enough money now for state and county roads as it is and the interstate costs would eat into what scarce resources we have.

Ridiculous? No, not really, because that’s exactly what politicians like Scott Walker and the chorus of “let’s stop the train” zealots are saying about high-speed rail, which in the short run would link Madison and Milwaukee, and in the long run would link to Minneapolis, Chicago and the nation beyond.

Eurostar offers a glimpse at why Wisconsin needs intercity rail

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From a commentary by Michael Flaherty on

PARIS – The train starts to pick up speed, almost imperceptibly, and within 20 minutes the Eurostar high-speed train has left Paris behind, quietly slicing through the French countryside at 185 miles per hour on its way to London.

Just over two hours later, the five-football-field-long train – one of 20 trains that day – deposits 500 passengers at the St. Pancras International station in central London.

The high-speed Eurostar announced last year it has now transported more than 100 million passengers. That’s 100 million business people, tourists, educators, students, 100 million generators of economic activity among nations that fought each other almost constantly for centuries.

When a Wisconsinite rides the Eurostar, it’s difficult not to reflect on Europe’s success and the debate we’re having over rail in Wisconsin. Or, more succinctly, the debate we’re not having – but ought to.

Wisconsin’s proposed rail system will be nothing like the Eurostar, of course. It will be relatively slow. The trains will be emptier and less efficient, at least at first. They won’t bring nations together or link destinations as world-famous as Paris and London.

But a trip on the Eurostar is a slap on the forehead. It’s a vivid example of what an investment in high-speed rail can do to accelerate growth and economic activity. It’s a window into the future for those willing to invest in a regional economy such as the “I-Q Corridor,” the intellectually rich route connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities.

For Wisconsin “conservatives” opposed to rail (note the quotes), the Eurostar is a stark reminder that this debate isn’t about a train or the growth of government. It’s about economic growth, economic efficiency and the development of urban and rural areas alike.

International peak oil expert Nicole Foss in Madison Wednesday & Thursday

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As some of you already know, Nicole Foss – the woman who did the “Century of Challenges” presentation in Madison last month – will be back in the Madison Tuesday afternoon thru Friday morning this week. So we have another great opportunity to meet with her! This came up at the last moment; I’ve taken on organizing her schedule; we want to make it work for as many of you as possible.

We are hosting a pot-luck gathering with Nicole in the Village of Oregon on Thursday evening – and y’all are most welcome! Bring food if you can; skip it if you don’t have time – the important thing is conversation, not mastication.
Time: 6:30 PM, Thursday October 21
Place: Village Hall Community Room, 117 Spring Street, Oregon, WI

I would appreciate any ideas and HELP you could offer. Especially with media contacts: WPR (please, let’s open that door!), WORT, Isthmus, Cap Times, State Journal, etc. Just give them a call – the more people they hear from, the better. If you get a “yes”, let me know so we can schedule a time: 608-444-6190

Here is the schedule right now. If you want to organize a small gathering for any of the “open” times, let me know: 608-444-6190
Tue afternoon – arrive, maybe time for coffee or something
Tuesday @ 7:00 PM – “Fuels Paradise” presentation
Wednesday AM – open
Wednesday @ noon thru ~2:00 – Madison Peak Oil Group special meeting (222 South Hamilton Street)
Wednesday afternoon – open
Wednesday evening – small gathering – tentative
Thursday AM – open
Thursday @ ~1:00 PM – video shoot
Thursday afternoon ~3:00 thru ~6:00 PM – open
Thursday @ 6:30 – pot-luck in V Oregon
Fri AM – open

Will keep you posted.

Hans Noeldner, Facilitator
Madison Peak Oil Group

Say ‘yes’ to sales tax for RTA

Monday, October 18, 2010

From an editorial in The Capital Times:

Forty-two Dane County municipalities will vote Nov. 2 on a referendum that asks whether they would support a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

The question is misleading, which explains why it isn’t on the ballot in municipalities with 60 percent of the county’s population, but we nevertheless urge people to vote “yes” to support the start of public rail transportation for the county.

It’s unfortunate that this referendum represents a cynical attempt by unyielding opponents of public rail transportation who believe forcing it onto the ballot this November will result in a resounding “no” vote. The rail opponents want to send a strong message to officials who have been examining transportation alternatives for an ever-growing and increasingly congested Dane County.

The newly formed Regional Transit Authority is in the process of putting together a proposal that will not only include an embryonic commuter rail route between Middleton and Sun Prairie, but expand modern bus services to folks who live within the RTA boundaries and who have to travel to other communities for everything from jobs to schools.

The half-cent sales tax would fund all of those alternatives, not just commuter rail. The overall objective is to address the county’s transportation needs by offering economical public transportation, especially in the face of increasing gasoline prices and the adverse impact of emissions on the environment.

Moving in the Right Direction: Bringing High Speed Rail

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wisconsin's green economy offers 15,100 jobs

Monday, October 11, 2010

From a report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, The Green Tier Porgram at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin School of Business:

By 2007, 68,203 businesses in the United States had generated more than 770,000 jobs in the green economy (Pew Charitable Trust, 2009). Every state has a piece of America’s green economy. The leading states include Oregon, Maine,California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Wisconsin is not currently among the leading states:

SOURCE: PEW Charitable Trusts, 2009, based on the National Establishment Time Series 2007 Database; analysis by Pew Center on the Statesand Collaborative Economics

Green job growth in Wisconsin through the 2001 recession (where WI lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs that were never recovered) was anemic. Wisconsin has lost an additional 70,000 manufacturing jobs (through July, 2010) because of the recession of 2008 (Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 2010).

While Wisconsin ranks either first or second in the nation in manufacturing jobs per capita, there is still a great deal of idle capacity in Wisconsin.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a top ten state in energy efficiency jobs. Energy efficiency is one of the five types of green jobs identified in the Pew report. Wisconisn ranked sixth in energy efficiency with 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing among the top 10 states in multiple sectors.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing amongthe top 10 states in multiple sectors.

The report concludes:

The United States, and Wisconsin, will be focused on job creation over the next five to ten years. Creating green jobs has to be a part of the future if we hope to maintain our roleas a manufacturing state. Green jobs will gravitate towards states that are the most attractive, or to states that actively increase their attractiveness relative to competing states. The states that actively recruit green businesses will prosper in the longer run.

Wisconsin has a long history of manufacturing strength, and we are increasingly attracting manufacturing companies that are creating green jobs. But we can do more. We have only to look at our neighboring states of Iowa or Minnesota to see the benefit of establsihing Wisconsin as a hotbed of green expertise.

New green businesses can create jobs, generate revenues, and help Wisconsin re-emerge as a bell-weather state in the heartland of America.

MGE doesn't recommend radiant barrier insulation for cold climates

Friday, October 08, 2010

From Madison Gas and Electric's Energy Wise:

Every fall, MGE hears from customers who received a free dinner invitation in the mail to "learn how to drastically reduce your electric and gas bills, with Space Age Technology developed and used by NASA." The product being promoted is radiant barrier insulation, a shiny foil material. The performance and long-term cost-effectiveness of the product depends on what part of the country the home is located in and the amount of existing insulation currently in the home.

MGE doesn't recommend radiant barriers for houses in our cold climate. Why not? The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Florida Solar Energy Center both say that radiant barriers are generally not recommended for houses in a cold climate. In fact, the DOE's "Cool Roof Calculator" says that in Madison, you'd always save more money by adding attic insulation than by installing a radiant barrier in the attic.

Not only that, but customer's tell us that these "free dinner" companies often charge thousands of dollars to install radiant barriers.

MGE encourages you to ask questions anytime you receive these types of solicitations. In addition, you can call MGE's Home Energy Line at 252-7117.

Jimmy Carter redeemed: White House to tap sun for heating water and some electricity

Thursday, October 07, 2010

From an Associated Press article by Dina Cappiello in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Solar power is coming to President Barack Obama's house.

The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans Tuesday in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders aimed at identifying how the federal government can improve its environmental performance.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

Obama, who has championed renewable energy, has been under increasing pressure by the solar industry and environmental activists to lead by example by installing solar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

The decision perhaps has more import now after legislation to reduce global warming pollution died in the Senate, despite the White House's support. Obama has vowed to try again on a smaller scale.

Last month, global warming activists with carried one of Carter's solar panels - which were removed in 1986 - from Unity College in Maine to Washington to urge Obama to put solar panels on his roof. It was part of a global campaign to persuade world leaders to install solar on their homes. After a meeting with White House officials, they left Washington without a commitment.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the group, said Tuesday the administration did the right thing.

Businesses can celebrate Energy Awareness Month with practical tips to save energy & money

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

Boost the bottom line while strategically managing energy use

Madison, Wis. (October 6, 2010)—In honor of Energy Awareness Month this October, businesses around the country are taking steps to reduce energy use by making cost-effective building improvements and getting staff involved to find smart solutions.

With cold weather on its way now is a great time for organizations to make sure they are well positioned to keep energy costs in check and save money this season, and year round. In fact, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, has already helped Wisconsin businesses save more than $212 million in annual energy costs since 2001.

If organizations are unsure how to get started, Focus offers these free and low-cost best practices to help businesses get ahead this season.

1. Start an energy management team. One cost-effective way to keep tabs on energy costs is to establish an energy team within the organization. Visit for a free toolkit to help create a team and start implementing high-ROI, low-risk projects.
2. Install (and use!) a programmable thermostat. Businesses can save 1 percent on heating costs for each degree they lower the thermostat. Instead of adjusting the thermostat manually, make sure to install a system that will automatically manage the building’s temperature. Already have a system in place? Program it to achieve maximum savings, and don’t forget to adjust it with the shift from Daylight Saving Time, if necessary.
3. Weatherization can yield big savings. Weather-strip and caulk cracks in walls, jams, and floors. Check for worn-out weather-stripping and replace it.
4. Measure the facility for proper attic insulation. Consider upgrading with spray-foam or batt insulation. Additional insulation can be blown into walls, and there are options for insulating flat roofs, crawl spaces, and floors.
5. Maintain heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment regularly. Facilities can reduce the energy use of heating and cooling systems by up to 6 percent simply by having them serviced regularly and changing air filters monthly. Don’t forget to keep the space around the system clean and clear to prevent debris from being pulled into the burners and filters.
6. Purchase energy-efficient equipment and lighting. When it comes time to replace equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR® label—an assurance of quality and energy efficiency. For lighting, install compact fluorescent bulbs for task lighting and high-performance T8 or pulse-start metal-halide systems for larger or high-bay applications. Lighting-control systems such as occupancy sensors and daylight sensors can help save even more.
7. Talk to the experts at Focus on Energy. We’re a one-stop resource for free technical expertise and financial incentives. Call us today at 800.762.7077 or visit

Solar power proves steady investment for Janesville man

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

From an article by Frank Schultz in the Janesville Press Gazette:

JANESVILLE — So you want to invest.

Stock? Too wobbly.

Interest at the banks? Scant.

A rural Janesville man has found an investment that appears to work in any economy: the sun.

The sun, which is not expected to burn out for billions of years, spills massive amounts of energy onto the Earth every day. It also puts cash into Chuck Niles’ pocket.

Niles, a retired General Motors worker, said he’s been thinking about solar power for 25 years. He got serious about it three years ago when he learned that improvements in solar technology have reduced the cost per watt considerably.

Then he heard about government programs that provide huge discounts in startup costs.

Here’s how Niles does the math:

The 90 panels on the roof of Niles’ pole barn and nearby shed on Murray Road south of Janesville cost $130,410, installation included.

A federal program known as Section 1603 of the Recovery Act paid him $39,600. The state Focus on Energy program paid him $32,603.

Niles uses about $35 worth of electricity a month in the barn. The rest goes to Alliant Energy, which pays him monthly. The checks vary with sunshine, but Niles estimates conservatively that the checks will average around $440 a month.

In the meantime, Niles is also getting a federal income-tax break from the depreciation on his investment.

When all the costs and benefits are accounted for, Niles figures his payback period is just five years. He figures his return on investment is about 12 percent.

MG&E to expand electric vehicles charing stations to 24 in and around Dane County

Monday, October 04, 2010

From a news release posted on Business Wire:

MADISON, Wis.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Coulomb Technologies and Madison Gas and Electric today announced plans to install 18 additional ChargePoint® Networked Charging Stations for electric vehicles in and around Dane County. The new stations will bring the total number of ChargePoint stations to 24 within the community. The new Level II (240V/30A) charging station allocation and installation is made possible through a Department of Energy grant to MGE and will be available to the community for the duration of the three year public demonstration project.

Locations for the charging stations are still being determined but are expected to be located in 10 highly trafficked areas within the community. All charging locations will be free and available to the public. Coulomb Technologies’ Midwest distributor Chicago-based Carbon Day Automotive is partnering with MGE to distribute the stations as part of the project.

“Madison is planning for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles today,” said Laura Williams, MGE Market Development Manager.

“In order to learn about time of use, length of charging sessions, the amount of electricity used and how EV charging coincides with home electricity use, we are looking for volunteers to help us collect this data. The data collected will assist us in how we can better serve our customers and plan for EV in our community.”

Consumers interested in the program can sign up at the MGE site for more information.

Willy St. Coop offsets natural gas with third-party-owned solar hot water system

Friday, October 01, 2010

From the Web site of Resource Solar:

The Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative located at 1221 Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin is now offsetting its natural gas use (and eliminating approximately 5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere) via a solar hot water system installed by Resource Solar and financed under a solar thermal power purchase agreement (Thermal-PPA).

Billing commenced [June 10, 2010] and will continue monthly (at a fixed rate) for 6 years. The Co-op will buy the system at the end of the 6-year period for less than a third of what a new system would cost, yet have 80% of system life left.

To read an article in the Willy Street Newsletter about the system, please click on the following: Reader, Feb 2010

Sunshine Daydream: Solar Tour is Saturday

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

You might not think of Wisconsin as the "Sun Belt."

But solar installations are now found on about 500 Wisconsin private homes, with far larger commercial operations going up on apartment buildings, big box stores and factory roofs.

To that end, Wisconsin is once again part of the National Solar Tour on Saturday, Oct. 2.

The event gives visitors a chance to tour innovative green homes and buildings to see how solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies can reduce monthly utility bills and help tackle climate change.

More than 160,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the U.S. Dozens of homes and businesses in the Madison area are participating.

Touring this year’s renewable energy crop

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
September 27, 2010

One of the abiding pleasures of my job at RENEW Wisconsin is going out into the field to visit renewable energy installations. Many of the systems sprouting across the state owe their existence to state and federal policies that make these systems economically viable to their owners.

In turn, some of those policies owe their existence to RENEW, an advocacy organization that has elevated the Wisconsin renewable energy marketplace from a dreamy aspiration to a thriving marketplace employing hundreds of people and generating millions of dollars a year in local revenues.

Whenever I’m asked to describe our mission, I often say that we act as a catalyst for advancing a sustainable energy future in Wisconsin. Our vision of that future places small, entrepreneurial companies at the center of the transition toward clean, locally available energy resources that do not deplete over time.

RENEW endeavors to steer Wisconsin along this path through policy mechanisms that help renewable energy businesses establish themselves in an economy that for many decades has operated almost exclusively on fossil energy. Because of that dependence on concentrated energy sources like coal, natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons, which are still priced very cheaply, the shift to renewable energy has been an uphill battle. The incumbent energy sources are well-entrenched and will not hesitate to expend significant political capital to block policy initiatives aimed at putting renewable energy on a more equal playing field. Continued . . .

Commuter rail referendum: Politics or a chance to be heard?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

On Nov. 2, voters in at least 42 Dane County municipalities will weigh in on whether they support a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

But the results of the advisory referendum aren’t likely to make any difference.

While some residents see the vote as a chance for the public to be heard on local commuter rail, others dismiss it as disingenuous politics,

"The powers that be don’t understand how the public feel about it outside the city of Madison in terms of wanting to have a vote on the issue," said Sup. Bill Clausius, of Sun Prairie, who unsuccessfully asked the County Board to hold a countywide referendum.

Clausius said he plans to vote "no" on the proposal, which he said will inform the Regional Transit Authority Board to reconsider including commuter rail in their transit plans.

But RTA Board Chairman Dick Wagner emphasized that the vote in November is not the official vote promised by the RTA and that the results won’t instruct the process going forward.

"I’m not really sure what I would tell (voters to do) because it’s so confusing," Wagner said. "It’s best if they wait for a real transit plan."

After a year, Madison Greyhound bus station is still in limbo

Friday, September 24, 2010

From an article by Joe Tarr on the Isthmus Daily Page:

Roger Campbell has seen a lot of bus stations. The truck driver delivers rigs to places all over the United States, then hops a bus (or train) back home to North Carolina.

On his first trip to Madison, he had this to say about the city's nonexistent Greyhound station: "This is crap, to be honest with you." Campbell said this while waiting inside a shelter at the city's North Transfer Point, which Greyhound has been using since the Badger Bus Depot on West Washington Avenue closed in August 2009. "I thought they had a bus station here."

Campbell had a long wait. It was not yet 10 a.m. on a Friday, and his bus wasn't scheduled to arrive until 7:45 that evening.

The city may also have a long wait — for a new station. More than a year after Greyhound started using the transfer point on Huxley Street, behind Oscar Mayer, it has no firm plans for locating a new station.

"At this time, there's no new news," says company spokesman Tim Stokes. "I'm sure we'll look at all possible avenues. But our main focus at this time is to find a convenient centralized location for the people of Madison."

Madison Metro general manager Chuck Kamp says Metro has suggested places Greyhound might use but has not heard anything back.

Obama's rail plan riding on key governor races

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From an article by Matt Leingang in the Wisconsin State Journal:

President Barack Obama's plan for high-speed passenger rail has a lot riding on the outcome of some key gubernatorial races in November.

Republican candidates in Ohio and Wisconsin have promised to cancel rail projects that are getting millions from the federal stimulus package, mocking the plans as boondoggles or complaining the trains would leave the states with too much of a financial burden for future operations.

Florida Republican nominee Rick Scott is also making threats. Scott is opposed to any rail plan that would have to be subsidized indefinitely, spokeswoman Bettina Inclan said. She didn't comment on whether Scott would return $1.3 billion in stimulus money for high-speed trains connecting Tampa and Orlando.

Rail advocates who say the U.S. needs greater transportation options for the 21st century see GOP opposition as nothing but raw partisan politics, a way to destroy projects that, if successful, would stand as legacies to Obama's stimulus plan.

"I guess it makes sense for them politically, and it plays into the fantasy that highways pay for themselves," said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes passenger rail.

Obama in January awarded $8 billion in stimulus money for 13 passenger rail projects. The largest would connect San Francisco with Los Angeles, using trains traveling up to 220 mph.

International peak oil speaker, September 22

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Building Local Resilience in an Era of Economic Turmoil & Resource Depletion

Wednesday, September 22nd, 7:00 PM
Room 180 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St., Madison

Peak Oil and the implosion of high-leverage finance schemes around the world are converging into a “perfect storm” that may threaten prosperity and social cohesion. The consequences are frightening: “hallucinated wealth” is vanishing, real unemployment is rising, and social unrest is growing amid global tensions over energy resources, water and land. Families and communities should prepare for the challenging times ahead.

A Presentation By

Nicole M. Foss
(a.k.a. “Stoneleigh”)
Energy Industry Consultant and Financial Analyst at

Free and open to the public. Donations welcome.

Sponsored by: Energy Hub, UW Madison WISPIRG/Big Red Go Green,
Madison Peak Oil Group, and Transition Madison Area

Info: or contact Hans Noeldner, 608-444-6190,

Madison’s first hybrid cab company hits the streets

Monday, September 20, 2010

From a news release issued by Madison Green Cab:

Green Cab of Madison Inc. is the newest and least expensive cab service offered in Madison. On Friday, September 17th, we rolled out with ten 2010 Toyota Priuses. All of our cabs are equipped with Saris bicycle racks, to encourage alternative transportation options. We are very excited and ready to take you wherever you need to go.

Our share ride service offers riders a less expensive option and allows riders the opportunity to choose a greener alternative to driving. Our dispatch software, which was developed internally, utilizing Apple iPads, is state of the art ensuring riders and drivers reliable fare calculations, directions, and prompt service. Green Cab is operating 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Green Cab offers pre-scheduled rides, regularly recurring rides and on-demand. We also offer an airport service. Green Cab will get you to the airport on time.

At Green Cab, we offer parcel delivery at the same low rates. Our website offers businesses the opportunity to set up an account. All you have to do is go to the Business Account section on our website and set one up!

MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

Friday, September 17, 2010

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization, today called on Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to scrap its pending request to substantially increase the cost of participation in its voluntary renewable energy subscription program.

RENEW contends that MGE does not need a higher renewable rate because the cost of energy supplying its award-winning Green Power Tomorrow program have not changed over the last 18 months and will not for the foreseeable future. The utility is seeking permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase the renewable energy rate from 1.25 cents to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a 60% increase.

If approved, the voluntary premium that MGE customers will pay for sponsoring more wind and solar electricity production will be significantly higher than what other Wisconsin utilities charge. In contrast, Milwaukee-Based We Energies charges a 1.38 cents/kWh premium to participate in its Energy for Tomorrow program. That rate, which received a slight upward adjustment in 2009, will remain in effect through 2011.

“Nothing about this price hike makes any sense,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Program costs haven’t changed. Wind and solar energy is no more costly this year than it was in 2009, and next year it will be more of the same. Therefore, Green Power Tomorrow’s premium should remain where it is today.”