MCEA knows that you can’t build clean, renewable wind projects if you can’t move that electricity to where people can use it. That’s why we work with the renewable energy industry to build the transmission infrastructure needed to ensure that we can move clean electricity to market.
Currently, the most likely alternative to wind and solar power is usually gas power plants. In many ways, we’re faced with a choice between pipelines that move dirty fossil fuels like gas and oil and transmission lines that move clean energy like wind and solar. We choose clean energy, and we back infrastructure projects that make it possible.
The Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line connects Iowa’s rich wind resources with population centers in Wisconsin. It’s a win/win, since Iowa needs greater transmission capacity to continue to build wind projects, and Wisconsin has lagged behind the rest of the Midwest in providing access to clean energy for its residents. MCEA represents ourselves and our clients Clean Grid Alliance and Fresh Energy in the legal and regulatory proceedings to approve Cardinal-Hickory Creek in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Why do Minnesota clean energy groups care about Iowa and Wisconsin? Because we are all part of the same electrical grid system, called MISO (Midcontinent Independent Service Operator). The rapid expansion of wind projects in the Midwest has strained the ability of existing service lines to move the electricity they create. If we don’t modernize that transmission infrastructure, we will soon be unable to build more clean energy, and we need to make a transition to carbon-free electricity as soon as possible.
In June 2020, the Iowa Utilities Board approved the Iowa portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek line, giving the line all of the state approvals needed to begin construction. We continue to work on this case, as appeals of the approvals continue in state and federal courts.
Key Timeline Events
Permit challenged by opponents
Opponents of the line appeal the May 2023 decision of the Wisconsin District Court to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, seeking to have the permits for the transmission line revoked.
Permits for the line granted
After three long years of court battles, MCEA and our allies win the legal cases brought by opponents to the transmission line in December 2019. The Wisconsin District Court found the permits for the line were rightly granted.
Opponents succeed in one of their federal appeals challenging the line's permit to cross the Mississippi River.
An appeal by the transmission owners is currently pending at the 7th circuit. This decision halts construction on the river crossing portion of the line. Construction on other portions of the line continues.
Construction begins on Wisconsin portions of the line.
Construction begins on Iowa portions of the line.
Iowa Utilities Board denies motion to reconsider approval of CHC
Iowa Utilities Board unanimously approves Iowa portion of CHC line
Opponents of the CHC line file five separate lawsuits challenging the approval of CHC in federal and Wisconsin state court
MCEA intervenes in all four proceedings in Wisconsin state court, representing ourselves and clients Clean Grid Alliance and Fresh Energy.
Wisconsin Public Service Commission denies motion to reconsider approval of CHC
Wisconsin Public Service Commission unanimously approves Wisconsin portion of CHC line
An environmental coalition consisting of MCEA, Clean Grid Alliance, Fresh Energy, and Iowa Environmental Council are approved to intervene in Iowa Utilities Board case
MCEA, representing itself, Clean Grid Alliance and Fresh Energy, approved to intervene in the Wisconsin PSC case
Wisconsin PSC deems application for CHC line complete, begins proceedings on whether to approve the line
MISO publishes a list of 17 transmission projects needed to meet renewable goals
Cardinal-Hickory Creek is one of these 17 “no regrets” critical infrastructure projects, and in 2020 becomes the last one of these projects to gain approval.