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November 22, 2004
Northlanders should wake up, and quit listening to the slick American Transmission Co. power line ads, and see what is actually happening here in the Northland. Neither Minnesota Power nor American Transmission Co. are offering "fair compensation for the land" nor are they "working with the landowners" as stated in the ads.
When landowners have objected to placement of the 140-to-180-foot poles to Minnesota Power and Midway township officials, suggestions that the poles be moved, or that the lines go underground, have fallen on deaf ears. Information has shown that the "acquisition agent," ProSource Technologies Inc. of Minneapolis, receives more for its role in acquiring the land than do the Midway Township landowners or the Town of Midway. We hear on the ads that Wisconsin counties and townships are to receive millions. What about here in Minnesota?
The amount offered to landowners in Midway Township approximates $600 per acre for the actual land the easement occupies. Actual land values in the Hermantown/Midway area run between $5,000-$7,500 an acre. Experts state that adjoining land within a quarter to a half mile could be devalued by 37 percent to 50 percent. Recently, Minnesota Power filed temporary restraining orders in court against three Midway residents who would not agree to the lowball offers. Minnesota Power chose to use this tactic instead of using eminent domain. They were trying to keep people off their own land! Later, Minnesota Power dropped the suits. The courts have a system allowing both sides to be heard, and to negotiate fair compensation.
Many people wonder if American Transmission Co., an unregulated and
for-profit company, not a utility, can actually acquire or use land acquired
through eminent domain. All of this in order to send excess power from the
Northland to the Chicago area. Who does this benefit?
on Thu, Nov. 18, 2004
Analysis: Utilities gave Doyle big money
MADISON, Wis. - Three utilities gave Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign more
than $50,000 as state regulators approved the companies' contentious
projects, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis
Mike McCabe, executive director of the government watchdog agency,
insinuated that Doyle leaned on members of the state Public Service
Commission to ensure they approved new coal plants in Oak Creek and
cost increases for a northern Wisconsin transmission line.
Those projects have been flashpoints for environmentalists. Opponents
of the plants are worried about potential pollution, and two
conservation groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the state
Department of Natural Resources of ignoring the transmission line's
effect on Wisconsin's forests and wildlands.
The governor appoints the PSC's three members.
"The utilities never had an interest in Jim Doyle's political
fortunes for all the years he was in office before he was in a
position to control the PSC. Donations suddenly pour in and the
favors are doled out," McCabe said. Doyle was Wisconsin's attorney
general before he was elected governor in 2002.
Doyle spokeswoman Melanie Fonder said the allegation is baloney.
"The PSC is an independent agency," she said. "It's like when he
appoints a judge. He doesn't tell them how to rule."
Doyle, a Democrat, has appointed two members of the PSC since he
became governor - chairwoman Burnie Bridge in 2003 and member Mark
Meyer in 2004. All the previous members were appointees of former
Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, PSC spokeswoman Linda Barth said.
"The public service commission is an independent agency," Barth
said. "Commissioners are prohibited by law from discussing cases,
even with the governor."
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign examined its internal database of
campaign contributions from political action committees and
individuals who give more than $100; those contributors must record
their occupation and employer, McCabe said.
According to the analysis:
_Doyle contributions from individuals and political action committees
in the utility industry have increased 17 times larger since 2002.
Between 1995 and 2002, Doyle got $7911 from utilities. From 2002,
when he became governor, to June 2004, the industry gave him $133,323.
_Wisconsin Energy Corporation executives contributed $23,050 to
Doyle's campaign in the six months in 2003 after the PSC approved the
company's plan for two coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek.
Doyle took $9,100 in executives contributions in December after the
PSC's Nov. 10 decision.
"Our executives as well as our other employees make their own
decision about who to contribute to in the political process,"
company spokeswoman Margaret Stanfield said. "I cannot speculate why
people make their individual choices as they participate in the
political process. That's up to the individual."
_Between 2002 and June 2004, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
employees gave Doyle $19,840. The company's political action
committee gave him $500. American Transmission Company employees gave
The two companies are working to build a transmission line from
Duluth, Minn., to Wausau. The PSC was considering, and ultimately
approved, a cost increase for the line in 2003.
WPS spokesman Jim Morrison said his company's employees gave the
governor money to "build a relationship" with him and they had no
expectation of getting the line's costs approved in return.
"The governor doesn't make that decision," Morrison said.
ATC spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim said the implication that the
governor greased the skids for the cost increase was "ridiculous."
"I hope they're not trying to suggest the governor via the Public
Service Commission can be bought for $12,000," she said.
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