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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CapX2020 power line project gets federal fast-track

From an article by Chris Hubbuch in the La Crosse Tribune:

The White House announced plans Wednesday to speed up federal approval of a controversial high voltage power line planned for the area.

The CapX2020 line, which will connect power stations in Hampton, Minn., Rochester and La Crosse, was one of seven projects tagged by the Obama administration as key for creating jobs while modernizing the nation’s electric system.

“To compete in the global economy, we need a modern electricity grid,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. “An upgraded electricity grid will give consumers choices while promoting energy savings, increasing energy efficiency and fostering the growth of renewable energy resources.”

The accelerated process will not affect state approval processes already under way, said Sahar Wali, spokeswoman for the Council on Environmental Quality. It will instead speed up federal processing by encouraging cooperation between agencies.

Tim Carlsgaard, spokesman for the consortium of utility companies including Xcel Energy and Dairyland Power Cooperative, said he hopes that means the federal process will be done by the time Minnesota and Wisconsin complete their reviews, likely in mid 2012.

CapX will need federal approval from as many as four federal agencies, including the Rural Utility Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers will also have a say in how and where the line crosses the Mississippi River near Alma, Wis.

Joe Morse is a spokesman for the Citizens Energy Task Force, which opposes the project. He thinks the federal government is overstepping its bounds and pressuring states to hasten approval despite local opposition. Several towns have passed resolutions opposing the line, and a La Crosse County committee this week asked for more study.

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