Tenney neighborhood association president goes solar

Monday, March 29, 2010

From an article in the newsletter of the Tenny Lapham Neighborhood Association:

Richard Linster and Patty Prime, 432 Sidney Street, have bounded into the future by converting their home into a minipower plant that uses the sun to produce clean renewal energy.

Richard wanted to be part of the alternative energy future. The first step was an appointment with Larry Walker, Madison’s “Solar Agent”. His services are provided free of charge through the MadiSUN Solar Energy Program. solar@ cityofmadison.com. Larry Walker evaluated their property to see if it was suitable for solar power collectors and determined that it was. Richard and Patty were on their way to “green”.

Maximum power production from solar collectors requires that the solar panels face the sun at an optimal orientation and that the view of the sun be unobstructed. The amount of power generated by the panels and an early payback time rely on this optimal orientation.

Having a site that works well, Richard and Patty chose to install a solar electric system known as a photovoltaic or PV system. This system produces electricity as opposed to other solar systems that produce heat, often for hot water. They installed 25 (PV) solar panels that will generate 5.8kW (kilowatts) of electricity.

Wisconsin group to look at how Germany does green

Friday, March 26, 2010

From a letter to the editor of the Capital Times by John Imes, executive director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative:

Ask me why I’m going to Germany.

Yes, it’s partly because I can celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Wisconsin/Hessen sister state relationship and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Yes, it’s partly because the delegation going with me includes the likes of Ambassadors Tom Loftus (Norway) and Rick Graber (Czech Republic), as well as Roberta Gassman, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, and other distinguished leaders from business, academia, and nonprofits.

But mainly it’s because Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich are rolling out a red carpet to showcase their bright green economic growth, which includes cutting-edge high-speed rail technology, advanced water systems, large-scale solar and biogas facilities, and new directions in environmental and economic cooperation.

I’m going on the March 21-29 trip because I want to help Wisconsin look beyond the traditional approaches and solutions to new strategies and policies that let us achieve the environment, quality of life and healthy business climate we deserve. I expect to capture, study, learn and bring back lessons on energy, transportation, manufacturing and higher education that are keys to the emerging green economy.

Where are we going? Here are a few stops:

•Cutting-edge high-speed rail stations, technology and systems: The largest employer in Germany and a major economic driver is the Deustche Bundesbahn (German National Railroad). Every 500 million euros invested in the network expansion creates approximately 12,500 jobs during the construction phase and roughly 2,500 to 3,400 jobs from related business and service providers. We will get behind-the-scenes tours of high-speed rail stations, construction, maintenance, control and virtual training centers.

• Clean-tech exchange program: We will study green building design and offshore wind generation that will provide up to 15 percent of German power by 2020.

• Reliable and environmentally friendly energy and water resources management: Wisconsin values balanced and diverse energy investments. So we’ll get to see examples of that with a large solar farm and a biogas facility that feeds refined biogas into the German natural gas grid. Another highlight will be a presentation on Bavaria’s water resources management, one of the most advanced water systems in the world.

• New directions in environmental governance: What sets Germany apart is its “can-do” attitude and demonstrated ability to bring all the players to the table. Germany’s National Association of Manufacturers and the Federal Environmental Ministry work together to address issues like climate change, set meaningful environmental goals, and provide flexibility and incentives for superior environmental performance. We know some of this because we borrowed similar ideas 10 years ago to help set up our bipartisan, groundbreaking Green Tier law, which was championed by Sen. Mark Miller and Sen. Neal Kedzie and signed by Gov. Jim Doyle.

County focuses on local transportation via RTA

Thursday, March 25, 2010

From an article by Ryan Rainey in The Badger Herald:

As Madison continues to grow and area officials consider more transit options, the Regional Transit Authority has the sole responsibility of determining the best form of public transit for the area.

The Madison-area RTA, which state authorities established last year after increased interest on the County Board, had its first meeting this month. The board will meet in the coming months and years to develop new transit plans for the Madison area.

RTA Board of Directors Vice Chair and Dane County Sup. Mark Opitz, District 26, said the RTA is a freestanding authority which does not make recommendations to regional governing bodies like the Dane County Board of Supervisors or the Madison Common Council.

Opitz said the RTA would be focusing mainly on improving services of the already existing Madison Metro bus service and assessing the volume of commuters between Middleton, the University of Wisconsin campus, Downtown Madison and Sun Prairie.

“We are trying to get our hands around all of the issues pertaining to transit,” Opitz said. “What we are doing in the next meeting is going through existing studies that have been completed pertaining to bus, commuter and any aspect of transit service”.

One hanging question the RTA will consider in the years to come will be whether to utilize light commuter rail or Bus Rapid Transit for use in the Middleton-Madison-Sun Prairie corridor, Opitz said.

BRT systems, which Opitz said have been successful in cities such as Kansas City, Mo., use dedicated lanes solely for bus use. The lanes can either be elevated to avoid stoplights or constructed at grade level, usually in the medians of major thoroughfares.

City and state officials have talked in the past of including a connection to a BRT or commuter rail link at the yet-to-be-determined site of a high-speed rail station. Opitz said the RTA’s priority is ensuring a strong bus system that additional transit resources support.

Case Builds for the Clean Energy Jobs Act Bills

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, Spring 2010, the newsletter of RENEW Wisconsin:

After holding five public hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) legislation, the committees’ co-chairs signaled their plan to hammer out a set of substitute proposals in meetings among themselves.

While waiting for the expected substitute amendment sometime in late March, proponents continue to build the public case for passage in this legislative session.

The refashioned bill will likely retain the core provisions in the original, specifically:
+ 25% renewable energy standard(RES) by 2025;
+ 10% in-state renewable energy set-aside, also by 2025; and
+ Energy efficiency goals to begin reduction of consumption in 2011.

The original legislation (AB 649/SB 450) also contained a requirement that the Public Service Commission (PSC) increase buyback rates for small renewable systems. This controversial section is likely to be reworked substantially in the substitute amendment.

Since the introduction of the bills in early January, many affected interests have bombarded the print and electronic media with news releases, advertisements, economic analyses, news conferences, commentaries, and photo opportunities in hopes of influencing the Legislature before the session ends.

Just to list a few examples from the proponents:
+ RENEW Wisconsin released a study in February showing that increased renewable energy buyback rates, by themselves, would have a minimal impact on base residential electricity rates;

Other newsletter articles:
Tour Spotlights Homegrown Renewables
Energizing Fort Atkinson Schools
Clearing Up Lakes with Clean Energy
Of Molehills and Renewable Energy

Dane County gets $2.2 million for "Green Energy Dane Plan"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved over $2.2 million in economic stimulus funds for county energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will save taxpayer dollars, create green jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The county submitted its "Green Energy Dane Plan" to DOE last fall and just received notification the plan has been approved.

"Dane County has been a leader in implementing energy efficiency, renewable energy and green government programs," said County Executive Falk. "These economic recovery funds allows us to go a step further and make a major investment in energy solutions that will strengthen our economy by saving taxpayer dollars, creating local jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

The federal dollars will fund a number of projects to make more than 50-year old county buildings much more energy efficient and less costly to operate. That includes installing solar panels on the roof of the City-County building to help provide hot water. Energy-saving lighting and modern heating and cooling systems will also be purchased and the building’s vintage 1956 hot water system will be replaced with energy-efficient tanks. Solar panels will also be installed at various county facilities and Dane County will sell that solar-generated electricity back to local utilities. . . .

Included in the "Green Energy Dane Plan" is nearly $350,000 to conduct a feasibility study to explore the economic, job creation, and renewable energy potential of building a food waste digester plant. Waste food that now goes into the garbage or down kitchen disposals could one day generate up to $4-million in locally-produced green energy. Dane County is reviewing proposals from firms interested in doing the feasibility study and developing an initial site design. A company will be selected later this spring to perform the study.

Marquette Neighborhood Assn. supports central station

Monday, March 22, 2010

From a letter from the Marquette Neighborhood Association sent to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and others:

The Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) is excited about high speed passenger rail service coming to Madison. We support increasing multi-modal transportation options in our city and the region. MNA urges that the city plan for a rail station as far into the East Rail corridor as is feasible.

The rebirth of passenger rail is also a unique opportunity for the city to plan for a transportation hub around the passenger rail station. The recently formed Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) adds another element of support for our automobile alternative transportation systems.

The city of Madison needs a transportation hub that is convenient for its residents and visitors. The rail station should also be located in an area that can support development. This is why the MNA board listened to a recent presentation on the Yahara Station proposal with great interest. The location at First Street would build connections to existing bus lines, bike paths and would be close to proposed commuter rail. It is also located on the edge of the Capital East development corridor. We were excited about the possibility of a station at that location.

There are other alternatives however, and we support a location in the East Rail corridor, closer to the city center. There is more space and development opportunity in the heart of the East Rail Corridor between Blair and Baldwin Streets. This area would also be to the South of East Washington Avenue for easier connections to proposed commuter rail. The first passenger trains will be travelling between Madison and Milwaukee. Regardless of where the station is located the train will need to be redirected to Milwaukee. This would be the case at the airport or First Street. There are existing rails in the corridor for outbound trains to head to Milwaukee or Minneapolis when that route becomes available in 10 or more years. We would like our neighborhood to be considered in the environmental assessment studies for the Madison station.

Madisonians look to Arlington Heights for ideas on train station

Friday, March 19, 2010

Village of Arlington Heights Director of Planning Charles Perkins (facing camera) briefed a Madison delegation in front of the Metra train station, designed to fit into the transporation oriented design of downtown Arlington Heights.

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

When Ed Blume saw Arlington Height’s downtown area, he realized that Madison had some work to do if it hoped a high-speed rail station could be an impetus for development.

“I guess I was thinking we’ll just plop the station down some where and let development happen around it,” says Blume, a representative with RENEW Wisconsin, which organized a field trip Wednesday to the Chicago suburb. “Well that’s probably not the best way to do urban planning.”

“You have to have a vision,” he says. “And if you want it to work really well, you’ve got to lay that vision out. And then you’ve got to look for developers who want to fulfill that vision.”

But Blume was inspired by what he saw in Arlington Heights, which has a downtown station on Metra’s Harvard commuter line. And he thinks Madison could learn a lot from the community. The city is looking for examples on how to develop its own train station as it prepares for a high-speed rail link from Chicago.

The Arlington Heights downtown area is a new urbanist development, with lots of shops, offices and retail surrounding the train station. It’s high-density neighborhoods constructed of red brick.

“If the development around a [Madison] train station could mirror what they have done, it would be a remarkable success,” he says. But not every community on the Chicago commuter line has made a train station work for them. “In other locations where the train stopped all you would see is a field of cars in this gigantic parking lot,” he says. Like Dutch Mill park and ride, only 10 times bigger.”

Time out for education on clean energy bill

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A letter to the editor of The Capital Times by Keith Spruce:

Dear Editor: Some opposition to the Clean Energy & Jobs Act (SB 450 & AB 649) rests on allegations of increases in the cost of energy under the act. This opposition could not find more contradiction when compared with the recent energy cost study report by Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission.

The Feb. 19 PSC study concludes that in all likelihood Wisconsin will be spending more on electricity in the long run if we don’t act to embrace renewable portfolio standards and take more aggressive action on energy efficiency. Somehow the cited a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute/Beacon Hill Institute study used as a basis to argue increased energy costs by some of the opposition could not be more off-key from our own state’s PSC analysis.

Every year, $16 billion leaves Wisconsin to pay for fuel. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is designed to improve our economy, save money and create jobs.

Maybe it’s a good to time to find common ground as we enter the post-peak-oil era and leave behind cheap fossil fuel that threatens us even more than a warm bottle of beer from global warming could.

Keith Spruce

PSC appoints wind siting council

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A news release from the Public Service Commission:

The Public Service Commission (PSC) today announced appointments to Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Council, an advisory body created by 2009 Wisconsin Act 40 (Act 40). Act 40 directs the PSC to develop administrative rules that specify the restrictions that may be imposed on the installation or use of wind energy systems. The new law also requires the PSC to appoint a Wind Siting Council that will advise the PSC as it develops uniform wind siting standards for Wisconsin.

“I am very pleased to have the Wind Siting Council up and running,” said PSC Chairman Eric Callisto. “Wind siting regulation is complex and sometimes controversial. I look forward to the Council’s input as we develop these rules for Wisconsin, and I thank the Council members for their service.”

Council members were selected to adhere to Act 40’s specific categorical requirements. The following people have been appointed to serve on Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Council:

Dan Ebert, WPPI Energy
David Gilles, Godfrey & Kahn
Tom Green, Wind Capital Group
Jennifer Heinzen, Lakeshore Technical College
Andy Hesselbach, We Energies
George Krause Jr., Choice Residential LLC
Lloyd Lueschow, Green County
Jevon McFadden, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health
Tom Meyer, Restaino & Associates
Bill Rakocy, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, LLC
Dwight Sattler, Landowner
Ryan Schryver, Clean Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
Larry Wunsch, Landowner
Doug Zweizig, Union Township

PrairieFire BioFuels Cooperative Fundraiser

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Help Keep Your Local Biofuels Co-op Open!

On March 21 at the Brink Lounge (701 East Washington Avenue), PrairieFire is holding a fund-raiser in support of its new direction.

Here's how the evening will go:
5:00pm: Doors open. Donations accepted. Grab a bite to eat and a drink.
6:00-9:00pm: be entertained by local musicians and peruse items in a silent auction

We hope you and your family can join us for music, food, beer and fun! This will be a kid-friendly event. See pfbf.org for more information on entertainment or call 242-1689.

Arlington Heights: A Model for Yahara Station? A field trip, March 17

Monday, March 15, 2010

Arlington Heights: A Model for Yahara Station?
A Field Trip, March 17

The Arlington Heights, Illinois, stop of the Metra’s Harvard commuter line may reveal insights into the proposed Yahara Station for the intercity train between Madison and Milwaukee.

A field trip (via bus and train) to Arlington Heights will let citizens, policy makers, developers, and opinion leaders explore the Meta stop’s impact on the community and its transportation system with Charles Perkins, Arlington Heights’ Director of Planning & Community Development. (Plans are still underway to meet with other business and community leaders.)

Some questions in the search for transportation and development planning insights include:

1. Did the train stop spur development around the station? If so, did the development occur solely through private initiatives or were tax credits, TIF, or other incentives needed?
2. What sort of development occurred near the station--retail, commercial, residential, or a little of all three?
3. How does the train stop interconnect with other modes of transportation? Does it fit into a regional transportation plan?
4. Has automobile travel and air pollution been reduced? Or has congestion increased due to the train stopping and people driving to the station?
5. Did the downtown train station increase jobs in the area?
6. Who paid for the station? What was the cost? Who maintains it, at what cost?
7. What's the public reaction to the station?

Trip details
Depart Madison by chartered bus from the Dutch Mill park-and-ride lot at 7:45 a.m. Arrive at Harvard, Illinois, to board Metra train to Arlington Heights at 9:35. Begin meetings with Arlington Heights representatives at 11:00 a.m. Lunch at 12:00 noon. Depart Arlington Heights at 2:15 p.m. Arrive back in Madison at 5:00 p.m. Note: The time to depart from Arlington Heights depends on the number of people available to talk about the station in Arlington Heights.

Some of the cost depends on the number of people who go on the trip. However, the bus will cost about $13/preson, lunch will be around $6, and the round trip train ticket costs about $15. Pay the day of the trip.

Simply RSVP to Ed Blume, eblume@renewwisconsin or sign up online.

More information
Ed Blume, RENEW Wisconsin, 608.819.0748, eblume@renewwisconsin.

From Canada to the Coulee Region: Where our gas comes from

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From an article by Richard Mial in the La Crosse Tribune:

On a map of northern Canada, Fort McMurray marks where the highway ends. But it’s the starting point for much of the fuel that runs vehicles in the Coulee Region.

The sands of north Alberta — not the Middle East — provide most of the petroleum that becomes gasoline sold in the La Crosse area.

A pipeline channels that Canadian crude to the Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount, Minn.

La Crosse-based Kwik Trip is among its primary customers. A fleet of 110 tanker trucks ferries gasoline and diesel fuel 24 hours a day from the refinery to the company’s 363 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The Tribune traced petroleum’s path from the forests of Canada to the pumps.

It’s a route that keeps the region from relying on crude oil from overseas. But it also has raised questions about the environmental costs, both to Canada and Wisconsin.

Oil sands
Alberta’s oil sands region yields about half of the petroleum converted into local gasoline. Production averages about 1.5 million barrels a day, and that’s expected to go up to 1.8 million by 2012, according to estimates by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The mixture of sand and thick, tar-like bitumen is mined from the earth with huge shovels, many of them Wisconsin-made.

Large amounts of water are used to separate the oil from the sand — about two to three gallons of water for every barrel of oil, said Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group. Natural gas-fired power plants provide the electricity needed for the energy-intensive process.

Large-scale oil sands mining in the Fort McMurray area dates back to the late 1960s through the Great Canadian Oil Sands, now known as Suncor Energy Inc., said Thompson, a former oil company executive who now lives in Calgary.

Another company, Syncrude, began mining the oil sands in the late 1970s, Thompson said in a telephone interview.

But oil sand production remained limited until the price of a barrel of oil rose enough to justify the expense of oil sand mining, and the quality of technology improved, Thompson said.

Now, about 208 square miles of northern Alberta have been cleared for mines, tailing ponds and “upgraders,” plants that provide some refining before the oil is sent by pipeline to the United States and elsewhere.

A story in National Geographic Magazine includes dramatic photos of tar sands mining.

Missing the bus

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Failure to get behind one plan threatens to again doom state legislation that local transit systems desperately need to continue serving their communities.

There is widespread support for the creation of regional transit authorities that would provide the dedicated funding necessary for transit systems in southeastern Wisconsin - especially the Milwaukee County Transit System. But there is a possibility that nothing will happen in the current legislative session. And if that proves to be the case, supporters in the Legislature should look no farther than their mirrors for someone to blame.

Instead of uniting behind one sound proposal - such as that offered by the governor and legislative leaders in January - legislators have offered different versions of RTA legislation that only serve to confuse the issue.

On Thursday, legislators are expected to hold a public hearing on the issue in Madison. Transit riders, business leaders, union leaders, local officials and others should make sure their voices are heard. They should stress the importance of transit in building jobs and the economy, and they should tell legislative leaders to unite behind one proposal and make sure it is approved this spring. Transit systems and the families and businesses that rely on them cannot afford to wait much longer for relief.

Ridership on the Milwaukee County Transit System was down 9% last year to a 35-year low, as Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler reported on Monday. The reasons are wide-ranging: the economy, the loss of a contract with Milwaukee Public Schools and certainly a continuing pattern of fare increases and/or route cuts that discourages riders.

And things won't get any better as long as governments that fund transit have to rely on an already overburdened property tax. To provide the funding that systems require and at the same time offer property taxpayers relief, legislators need to approve legislation that would authorize the creation of regional transit authorities.

That legislation should include a 0.5% sales tax increase for Milwaukee County, as the governor's bill proposes and other funding means in other counties.

Bus fare hike proves successful

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Metro Transit posted its highest ridership numbers in three decades last year -- despite a fare hike.

It's vindication for the mayor and bus system officials who took plenty of grief from critics predicting doom and gloom if the cost of a bus pass increased.

Metro Transit raised its cash fare 50 cents to $2 per ride last April. Other fares, such as monthly passes, increased proportionally.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and a thin majority of the City Council had to overrule a stubborn transit commission to adopt the needed hike.

The higher fare has so far done just what it was supposed to do.

It has given the city more revenue from riders to help cover soaring costs that were unduly burdening city property taxpayers. The bus fare increase also has helped Metro Transit give riders more of what they wanted: better service and more routes.

Metro Transit had predicted bus ridership for 2009 would increase about 1.4 percent, and that's just what happened. In fact, bus rides last year totaled 13,588,426, slightly higher than Metro Transit's target.

Note to critics: Roads, freeways subsidized, too

Monday, March 08, 2010

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

But costs and stops in fast rail should be discussed as part of the gubernatorial and legislative races this year. Fast rail can work for Wisconsin if done right.

Building a fast rail line to connect Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and, eventually, to Minnesota's Twin Cities could pay off for business travelers and economic development. It could be a boon for the states and communities along the line. It's a proposal that could have everyone winning when it is fully completed, and if it's done right.

Critics need to remember that Milwaukee to Madison is one link in building a fast rail network in the Midwest. To reach its full potential, that network needs to be fully completed. The Milwaukee-Madison connection has intrinsic value, but it will have more value as part of a route that eventually links Chicago to the Twin Cities and points in between. Building a fast rail network has become a national priority, and it will be done in stages, just as the freeway system was built in stages.

A fast rail network isn't the only answer to transportation challenges, but it can be an important part of a balanced transportation picture that includes, air travel, freeways, mass transit on buses and trains. That's especially important in Snowbelt states, where winter storms can shut down airports and roads but rail can often keep running.

Critics - many of whom support expanding rail - have raised two legitimate concerns: One is how the Milwaukee-Madison line will be funded once the line is up and running; the other involves an effective Madison connection. State officials need to address both issues, and voters need to ask candidates in this year's elections for governor and the state Legislature for serious answers.

In January, the federal government awarded the state $810 million in federal stimulus money to build a passenger rail line between the two cities as an extension of the Hiawatha. Service on the Milwaukee-Madison route would start with six round trips at 79 mph in 2013, increasing to 110 mph in 2015. Another $12 million in federal cash would be used to upgrade the Milwaukee-Chicago line.

With approval last month from the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, state officials expect to complete final engineering and start construction by the end of this year, said Chris Klein, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi.

It has been estimated that state support for operating the Milwaukee-Madison line will be $7.5 million in 2013, plus $8.1 million for the Milwaukee-Chicago leg, with the combined annual total growing from $15.6 million to $28 million by 2022.

The line already has resulted in the announcement of new jobs through the state's contract with Spanish train manufacturer Talgo, which will be making trains in Milwaukee. That development will in turn create other jobs, all of which will be a boost to the state's economy.

The line is also expected to spur growth at stops along the route. That growth could be a source of funding for operational expenses. That potential needs to be more fully explored. But it also should be remembered that roads, too, are taxpayer-funded - freeways through the gasoline tax and other driver fees and city streets through other sources. Perhaps officials can find a balance for funding freeways and rail; if drivers benefit from improved rail service that yields less congestion, maybe a portion of the transportation fund should be set aside for rail.

But those officials also need to fix the Madison problem. As currently planned, the train would stop at the Dane County Regional Airport, far from anywhere most people going to Madison want to go. Most people going to Madison generally want to go to the downtown area, and, specifically, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Capitol.

If the train takes them to the airport and they have to wait for a connecting bus, shuttle van or light rail car to take them into town, they're probably not going to take that train. Taking their own cars or buses that already stop at the university and near the Capitol would make more sense.

The issue has raised hackles among both proponents and opponents of rail. Proponents talk about the importance of providing what is called a single-seat ride, the ability to take the train and get off at or within reasonable walking distance of one's destination.

If travelers have to switch to a bus or taxicab, "they just won't do that," said Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman, a longtime passenger rail supporter who believes the Madison station should be built downtown. He's right - if travelers have to wait for any length of time.

That's why planners have to consider reasonable alternatives, such as the stop closer to downtown that has been proposed by urban planner Barry Gore. Alternatively, if the stop remains at the airport - which planners favor because it provides faster service to the Twin Cities - they have to find a quick connection from there to downtown, a connection that would not require passengers to wait long. If they could get off and in short order step onto a fast connection to downtown, they still might take the train.

At its first meeting, RTA supports a referendum on a sales tax

Friday, March 05, 2010

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

The Dane County Regional Transit Authority Board at its first meeting Thursday pledged not to raise a sales tax for local transit without voters first approving a referendum.

As for whether such a referendum would be held in November as some have anticipated, Dick Wagner, who was unanimously elected chairman at the meeting, declined to hazard a guess.

"Nothing is definite," he said.

The 45-minute meeting drew a packed house of about 75 people. About a dozen of them spoke, some asking the board to set a date for the referendum in the coming months, and others noting that it might take more time to develop a transit plan.

Oregon resident Hans Noeldner asked the board to set a "no-later-than" date for the vote.

"Then the public would have an expectation," Noeldner said. "A lot of us have waited for it and we want to see results."

PSC chair: No action on Clean Jobs = increase in electricity bills

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Excerpts of a letter from PSC Chair Eric Callisto to the special legislative committees on clean energy jobs:

February 19, 2010

Assembly Special Committee on Clean Energy Jobs
Wisconsin State Assembly
Madison, WI 53702

Dear Committee Members:

I am writing in response to a letter dated February 9,2010 from Representatives Huebsch, Montgomery, and Gunderson requesting a Commission analysis of the expected costs to utilities and ratepayers of meeting a 25% by 2025 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) as proposed in the Clean Energy Jobs Act. As I have testified to both the Assembly and Senate Select Committees, the electric utility sector policies in the proposed legislation - namely, the enhanced RPS and energy efficiency provisions - represent sound energy policy for Wisconsin. The Commission's analysis shows that if we continue with business as usual, if we decide to do nothing, we are taking on great financial risk in a changing world, and our ratepayers will be leaving substantial dollars on the table.

. . . [W]hat follows is a summary of preliminary PSC cost modeling of the RPS and energy efficiency components of the CEJA. PSC staff modeled the costs of the RPS and energy efficiency policies together, because the RPS requirements are expressed as a percentage of retail electricity sales. It would be unrealistic to estimate the costs of the RPS requirements in the proposed legislation while ignoring that the same legislation seeks to reduce the growth in demand for electricity. The two policies are inherently connected.

The modeling shows that in every case in which GHGs are monetized (i.e., there is a compliance cost associated with emitting GHGs), the cost of the CEJA is less than the cost of the status quo over the long run. That is, we will in all likelihood be spending more on electricity in the long run if we don't act now and enact enhanced renewable portfolio standards and take more aggressive action on energy efficiency. . . . (emphasis in original letter)

Watertown's ambitious vision for rail

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

From an article by Barry Adams in the Wisconsin State Journal:

WATERTOWN -- There is spirited debate over where to put a train station in Madison.

But about 40 miles east, Watertown officials know exactly where they want passengers to board and disembark and believe a three-acre site on the Rock River could be a catalyst for redevelopment.

If the city can secure enough funding, a soon-to-be-closed Pick 'n Save grocery store would be torn down to make room for a $33 million development that includes a new train station.

The project, along 750 feet of the Canadian Pacific rail line, would include a two-story parking structure, an annex with meeting space and shops, and bike and walking paths that would link the train station with the downtown, just to the north.

Private housing and retail development nearby could add millions of dollars in tax base, according to city officials.

"I believe we'll be able to get a train station, but I don't want it to be just a train station that doesn't do anything for the rest of the community, as far as development," said Mayor Ron Krueger.

"We are pulling out the stops and using our contacts at the state to let them know how important this site is."

This act is not just about jobs; it's about the future

Monday, March 01, 2010

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It's about whether the quality of our future is seriously diminished by climate change. Wisconsin must do its part. Tweak it, but approve the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The tone and tenor of the debate over the Clean Energy Jobs Act was determined the moment the legislation was named.

Supporters built into the name what they, not unreasonably, believed would be one of the bill's principal virtues: job creation. But, with recession-induced trauma still fresh in everyone's minds, it is simply too easy and expedient - facts be damned - to call virtually any new legislation a jobs killer, from health care reform to even a jobs bill.

We believe the jobs will be there, but it is important at this juncture to recognize that this bill is not really intended as an economic stimulus measure. In very real terms, it is an attempt at economic and environmental reinvention - done with the specter of climate change and all its effects looming.

Yes, climate change, with humanity as a major contributor, is real. But even if you don't believe that, there is little to no downside to a future in which a good portion of our energy comes from renewable sources - 25% by 2025 - and no downside to a future in which energy efficiencies mean we are doing the same or more with less energy.

The reinvention comes in two other goals: growing new technologies and fostering energy independence. Doing this will have far more enduring effects on those bottom lines in the future than any short-term benefit derived from doing nothing now to cushion today's corporate bottom lines.

On jobs, there are two dueling studies cited most often on whether the Clean Energy Jobs Act will actually create jobs.

One is by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California for the Center on Climate Strategies, the results of which are similar to findings by various state agencies. It forecasts a net increase of more than 16,200 new jobs in Wisconsin by 2025. It predicts a boost to the state's economy of $4.85 billion total "in net present value" from 2011 to 2025.

The other study was done by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. It contends that policies similar to those in the bill would kill 43,000 Wisconsin jobs. The problem: It did not model the actual policies in the bill.

The Michigan study is more believable.