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Evers’ green deal pipe dream collides with reality

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ climate change alarmist policies and his environmental extremist allies squared off against reason Thursday morning.

They lost.

The Public Service Commission approved the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) peaking facilities in Walworth and Jefferson counties. In so doing the PSC publicly spanked the Sierra Club for its delusional carbon reduction demands drawn from Evers’ unrealistic and costly “carbon neutral” plan.

Wisconsin Electric Power Company-Gas Operations (WE-GO) and Wisconsin Gas LLC (WG) want to install and operate the LNG facilities for storage and emergency power supply. Peak operations provide power to the grid to supplement the power supply during peak-load periods. The utilities say the projects, with a combined price tag of $370 million, will “improve system reliability, deliverability, and resilience in support of rising demand for natural gas among new and existing customers in Wisconsin.”

With natural gas prices expected to soar this winter and last year’s painful lessons of production decline, the peak facilities will help Wisconsin meet rising demands, commissioners said.

“The applicants’ base case economic model assumptions are reasonable, given the current and expected natural gas pipeline capacity constraints in southeast Wisconsin, risks to reliability due to insufficient redundancy, and anticipated demand growth in the applicants’ service territory,” a PSC staff report notes.

The Sierra Club thinks otherwise. And, the environmental group complains, the proposals do not meet the wishes of Evers and other climate change alarmist politicians who want to believe in their heart of hearts that natural gas consumption will quickly decline because of their zero carbon dreams.

“Applicants’ purported need assumes load growth irreconcilable with Governor Evers’s and President Biden’s carbon commitments …” the Sierra Club notes in its opposition.

In 2019, as part of his leftist agenda, Evers rolled out a plan he says will make Wisconsin carbon neutral by 2050. The Democrat’s executive order also created a state office dedicated to clean energy and sustainability. Evers said the initiative would help businesses and communities “make smart energy decisions” and promote job training for massive expansion of solar and wind power.

Like the extreme climate change agenda pushed by Biden and congressional Democrats, Evers’ carbon neutral plan has hit energy consumption reality head on. Natural gas demand is rising and expected to do so moving forward. The Sierra Club asserts natural gas use should decline by 17 percent in the short-term.

Even a Public Service Commission with a majority of Evers appointees understands the hopes and dreams of the zero carbon crowd don’t square with the facts on the ground. And the facts say, natural gas users don’t want to see their heating bills explode on a pipe dream.

“It would be irresponsible for me to risk the upcoming heating season on things that have yet to materialize,” PSC chairwoman Rebecca Cameron Valq said in voting for the peak facilities. The findings are clear, the Evers appointee said. There is a need for more capacity to ensure reliability on the coldest days of winter.

Refusing the project would go against the PSC’s mission and state law, commissioners said.

The leftist Sierra Club also claims capacity will fall in southeast Wisconsin because Foxconn has scaled back its original electronics manufacturing plan. Its usage numbers are now “obsolete,” the organization insists. Not so, the PSC found. The Sierra Club also claimed the utilities “double-counted” new load additions. No they didn’t, a staff review found.

“Applicants also failed to demonstrate that existing pipeline capacity is unavailable at reasonable terms and that load-side alternatives are not feasible or cost-effective,” the Sierra Club testified.

The commission shot that assertion down, too.

Commissioner Ellen Nowak, the only non-Evers appointee on the three-member PSC, said the Sierra Club has presented “a lot of false choices” based on non-enforceable initiatives like the Paris Accord and the Evers administration’s climate change agenda.

“I think we need to have all types of available energy generation at our hands. We have to optimize each of the energy resources. The amount of each resource will be changing but I do not believe we should ever be eliminating any type of resource,” Nowak said. And, the commissioner added, natural gas provides the most affordability and reliability for the state’s economy and the health and safety of residents.

“This is another recognition that natural gas is here to stay,” she said.

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