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Power line opponents take fight to federal court

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Opponents of a power line in southwestern Wisconsin are taking their fight against the $492 million project to federal court.

The plaintiffs say state regulators have conflicts of interest that should have kept them from approving the power line.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The groups say the Public Service Commission chairwoman and a commissioner have outside interests that should disqualified them from voting on the 100-mile high voltage line, known as Cardinal-Hickory Creek.

The plaintiffs say PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Valcq’s previous employment as an attorney for the state’s largest utility, WEC Energy Group, and Commissioner Mike Huebsch’s advisory role at the Midwest electric grid operator create a perceived conflict of interest, the State Journal reported.

Valcq called the allegations “opportunistic at best and at worst contemptible.”

The proposed line, which will run between Dubuque, Iowa, and Middleton, is the product of a joint venture of American Transmission Co., ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

The PSC spokesman Matt Sweeney said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation but he noted the commission had used a written order to deny the groups’ initial request to have the commissioners recuse themselves. The order found the groups had failed to present any concrete evidence that either commissioners had any outside information about the project.

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