Walker’s PSC Pitches Shutout for Wisconsin Utilities Against Public and Environment
Madisonians received a Thanksgiving greeting by Governor Scott Walker today in the form of increased monthly electric rates and reduced incentives for conserving on electricity in their homes. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), with two of its three commissioners appointed by Governor Scott Walker, granted its approval to the private utility Madison Gas & Electric’s (MG&E) proposal to significantly increase the monthly fixed charges its customers must pay, and its request to reduce the monetary benefits customer’s will save by conserving more on their power use.
This is the third major utility monopoly in the state to be granted such an approval by the state’s chief energy regulatory agency. Please see November 18, 2014 post “Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Doing Public a Disservice” for details on PSC’s approvals of the other two utilities’ requests (one for We Energies Corporation and the other for the Green Bay area Wisconsin Public Service Corp..
Despite PSC being given the mission “to protect the environment, the public interest and the public health and welfare of Wisconsin citizens” in its decisions, the Governor Walker’s appointed PSC commissioners Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak voted to make it more of a financial hardship for low income families and individuals to pay their energy bills. Eric Callisto, a Governor Doyle appointee to the Commission, voted no to all three utility proposals, which will also have negative impacts on everybody in the form of faster global warming and climate change because they slow the payback on residents of the state who invest in solar panels thus conserving on fossil fuel burning.
The MG&E decision will more than double the monthly fixed rate for Madisonians, from $10.50 a month to $19, while decreasing the charge for kilowatt-hour of power used. The increase is similar to two other two state utilities the PSC has already approved, one for the Wisconsin Public Service Corp., the other for We Energies.
As reported in Thursday’s issue of the Wisconsin State Journal, Callisto chastised fellow commissioners Montgomery and Nowak for supporting the new rate structure, saying they have ignored the comments of 1,100 people (including testimony) who have submitted comments urging the PSC to reject the MG&E plan, including people from the cities of Madison, Middleton and Monona, and other in Dane County.
“Shame on us”, Callisto said. “We have plainly disregarded our opportunity to protect the public interest.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said “MG&E ‘s approved rate design is contrary to the city’s interests and will undermine energy conservation efforts, energy efficiency investments, and the newable energy investments in our community”, the State Journal reported.
Don Wichert, who helped organize RePower Madison, a citizens group opposed to the MG&E plan, said “our commission is now the worst commission in the country. It is clearly not the ‘public’ service commission”. the Wisconsin State Journal reported November 27th.