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View Diary: The Koch Brothers' End Game in Wisconsin (247 comments)

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  •  Slow down a second please (27+ / 0-)

    First off, the proposal out spotlighted here is odious and reeks of pure corruption.

    But.

    I do not see how your claim that this would allow the Koch Bros. to control the "ultilties of Wisconsin".  I am no corporate genius, but I do not believe WE (Wisconsin Energy) is owned by the State of Wisconsin. WE is a utility company not a branch of governmnet.

    I believe this law would expose things like college campus heating plants to control by Koch.

    Bottom line though, Walker is 100% about using state government to reward private business interests.  In the 1940s this sort of crapola was called "fascism".

    •  It's in writing right there my friend. (15+ / 0-)
      I believe this law would expose things like college campus heating plants to control by Koch.

      You would be absolutely correct.

      He wants to sell Wisconsin Energy to the Koch Brothers, that is their pay off!

      Hit the red stop button now!

      Texas is Texas, you know. The second you think you got it figured out, it will switch on you. Just ask Rick Perry in 2012.

      by Patience John on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 11:32:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The passage I had in mind: (14+ / 0-)
        This is what it is about at the end of the day, and their puppet, Governor Walker, is ready to sell the Koch Brothers the utility system of Wisconsin for pennies on the dollar for his paymasters.

        (My bolding.)

        This leads the reader to conclude the Koch Bros are posied to buy a utilities monopoly for the whole state.  Not just the popwer plants owned by  the U od Wis system, for example.

        He wants to sell Wisconsin Energy to the Koch Brothers, that is their pay off!

        How, ecaxtly, is the Governor of Wisconsin going to sell WE, when the State of Wisconsin does not own WE?  How is the State going to sell private property?  Do you seriouslythink a GOP Governor is going to confiscate stock shares from investors, from his voter base?

        This claim does not pass my smell test.

        •  You asre confusing operating license (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          with ownership of actual assets.

          Texas is Texas, you know. The second you think you got it figured out, it will switch on you. Just ask Rick Perry in 2012.

          by Patience John on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 11:51:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Why would the "no bid" clause AND (13+ / 0-)

          "for any amount deemed sufficient" be inserted into a budget bill to begin with? Why not just call it the "give away taxpayer assets to wealthy fascists bill?"

          Why can't that bill say that public employee unions can have a "no bid" clause for "any amount deemed sufficient?"

          Furthermore, that bill removes oversight by the Public Service Commission of these fire sale utilities:

          no approval or

          certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to

          purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is

          considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification

          What this does is remove PIPELINE SAFETY as well as RATES that you pay for electric and gas and ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ANALYSIS.

          From WISCONSIN's PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION:

          Natural Gas Industry Overview

          The Gas and Energy Division is responsible for all major aspects of the PSC’s regulation of Wisconsin’s natural gas utilities. This includes:
          picture of a natural gas flame

              * Rates and regulations
              * Utility finance
              * Construction related to the natural gas distribution system
              * Environmental impact analysis
              * Pipeline safety
              * Service adequacy and reliability, for both short and long-term planning
              * Monitoring Federal regulatory policy

          Wisconsin’s natural gas utilities, or local distribution companies (LDCs), are regulated by the PSC, but are only one part of the natural gas industry. The industry also includes:

              * interstate pipelines
              * producers
              * marketers

          There is a LOT of nasty in this bill. A LOT.


          Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. --Thurgood Marshall

          by bronte17 on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 01:32:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, it doesn't (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            forester, BalanceSeeker, ByTor, Jim M, the tmax

            The language in the bill applies only to state-owned facilities, if sold. It applies only to their operating licenses, not their operating practices or rates (basically, the purchaser doesn't have to get the facility re-licensed).

            There are no significant electrical generation facilities or gas pipelines in WI that are state-owned, and this bill says nothing about those. So far, the only thing any one has identified as affected is steam-heat generation plants on university campuses, state mental institutions, and a state office building.

            It is not a good bill, and it is nasty, but please don't exaggerate what the bill does or what impact it might have.

            We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

            by badger on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 02:00:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Does that language exempt the fire sale (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JVolvo, the tmax, Patience John

              utilities from the PSC certification process? Does it say that? Did you read that?

              Does it say that the fire sale of these power plants EXEMPTS THEM from ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW? Because that is one component of the Public Service Commission's job.  

              And are you aware that the EPA is investigating 15 state-owned power plants for VIOLATIONS of the Clean Air Act?

              The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating 15 state-owned power plants, including several on University of Wisconsin System campuses, to determine if they are in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

              The federal agency sent the state Department of Administration a letter Thursday requesting information about the plants. They include power plants on UW campuses at Eau Claire, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Menonomie, Superior and Whitewater.

              --snip--

              At issue is whether millions of dollars worth of upgrades at some of the coal-burning plants increased the potential for the plants to emit more pollution. The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, grandfathered existing power plants but the law also required that those plants obtain new permits and install more pollution controls to meet standards if they underwent major modifications that increased emissions.

              The DOA indicated in February that it intends to eliminate coal use or perhaps shut down plants at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison and on UW campuses in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Oshkosh and River Falls.

              So... fine... my example was inclusive of the various functions of the Public Service Commission. BUT, this legislation is a horrible bill.

              And picking a humongous fight with labor... or women... to divert attention from egregious legislation that then sneaks through shouldn't be permitted to happen.


              Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. --Thurgood Marshall

              by bronte17 on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 04:13:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Umm (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JVolvo

                Last time I looked, the WI PSC doesn't get to override the EPA.

                From the bill (as quoted in the diary)

                no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

                Here is section 196.49 (3)(b) in its entirety:

                196.49(3)(b)
                (b) Except as provided in par. (d), the commission may require by rule or special order under par. (a) that no project may proceed until the commission has certified that public convenience and necessity require the project. The commission may refuse to certify a project if it appears that the completion of the project will do any of the following:

                196.49(3)(b)1.
                1. Substantially impair the efficiency of the service of the public utility.

                196.49(3)(b)2.
                2. Provide facilities unreasonably in excess of the probable future requirements.

                196.49(3)(b)3.
                3. When placed in operation, add to the cost of service without proportionately increasing the value or available quantity of service unless the public utility waives consideration by the commission, in the fixation of rates, of such consequent increase of cost of service.

                196.49(3)(c)
                (c) The commission may issue a certificate for the project or for any part of the project which complies with the requirements of this section, or the commission may attach to the issuance of its certificate such terms and conditions as will ensure that the project meets the requirements of this section. The issuance of a certificate under this section shall not be a condition precedent to the exercise of eminent domain under ch. 32.

                196.49(3)(d)
                (d) A telecommunications utility is not required to obtain commission certification before beginning a construction project.

                It's all about public interest, quality of service and rates. And certification. That in the bill is not a bad provision if the state really wanted to attract buyers for the facilities - all it does is transfer the facility certification that already exists to the new buyer. Just like if I sold my house, the certificate of occupancy I got from the county inspector when we built would apply to the new buyer.

                The fire-sale, no-bid provisions are abhorent and probable cronyism, and should be defeated or challenged in court.

                Please point out the section of that exemption that deals with the environment or overrules the EPA. The PSC in WI has little to nothing to do with regulating emissions - that's the purview of the Department of National Resources, which is likely to be hamstrung by Walker and the GOP as well. Just not in this provision in the budget bill.

                In fact though, the purchaser will have to deal with the Clean Air Act violations. Because Federal law takes precedence over state law.

                We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

                by badger on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 09:54:51 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  you know... sometimes construction permits (0+ / 0-)

                  are buried in along with licenses. And the PSC conducts a variety of functions within each state. Environmental review being one of those functions.

                  Permit applications have to be turned in and a review process conducted and public input and hearings conducted...

                  And what friggin' world do you live in where the Republicans play by the rules (and those rules that you think exist)? Guess you have no clue about the myriad of lawsuits that wind their way through the courts constantly as the Sierra Club and any other number of environmentalist try to keep just a sliver of legitimacy to our environmental laws.


                  Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. --Thurgood Marshall

                  by bronte17 on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 02:57:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  the steam-heat plant at UW (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JVolvo

              produces electricity as well (note that walker canned the project being discussed in the following paragraph):

              "The State of Wisconsin recently conducted a planning study for the main heating plants servicing the UW-Madison campus and other state office facilities. The campus Charter Street Heating Plant (CSHP) delivers heating and cooling to the campus and also generates about 9 megawatts (MW) of electricity via a back pressure steam turbine generator that reduces the amount of electricity purchased from Madison Gas & Electric. This project will re-fire the existing coal boilers at CSHP with natural gas and/or biomass and build a new 350,000#/hr boiler capable of burning 100% biomass. The project will include a new circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler, re-firing Units #1-4, steam turbine generator, and chiller, mechanical, electrical and control system replacement and upgrade. In addition, the fuel handling system will be re-configured to handle biomass fuels."

              To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

              by UntimelyRippd on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 08:54:01 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  9MW (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JVolvo

                is about 0.1% of what a single utility power plant generates.

                If, for example, MG&E acquired that facility, they could collect more money from UW for the electricity generated, plus get a tiny amount of generating capacity dirt cheap. Their rates would still be subject to PSC regulation (the language quoted in the diary is only about licensing, not rates).

                It's a way for Walker and the GOP to reward their donors, it's obviously corrupt legislation in an otherwise awful bill, but on the Koch brothers conspiracy scale, it's rather like not putting a quarter in a parking meter.

                But thanks for the info on the Charter Street plant - I used to walk by it almost every day and always wondered if it generated electricity or just steam for heat.

                The UW has another plant right on University Ave, about 1/2 way between Park St and Randall Ave (don't recall the cross street - Gilman?), but I think that was decommissioned long ago when the Charter St plant was built.

                We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

                by badger on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 09:37:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Note that the 9MW is the *surplus* (0+ / 0-)

                  electricity. It's a "heating and cooling" plant, with big-ass chillers. My guess is that it runs the chillers using self-generated electricity, but I don't know that -- chillers don't have to be electrically powered, as anyone with a propane refrigerator can attest.

                  To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                  by UntimelyRippd on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 08:49:46 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  What part of "state-owned" do you not get? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, dicta, Quicklund

        Your conclusion is based on a false premise.  As Quicklund points out, Wisconsin Energy is not state-owned.

        If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide.  

        The thing is, you see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear. Dig? - The Rock Man

        by BalanceSeeker on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 11:44:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sigh, players getting played. (0+ / 0-)

          Texas is Texas, you know. The second you think you got it figured out, it will switch on you. Just ask Rick Perry in 2012.

          by Patience John on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 11:47:40 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's not a convincing reply by any measure. (7+ / 0-)

            Your conclusion:

            He wants to sell Wisconsin Energy to the Koch Brothers...

            is demonstrably false.  Your response:

            Sigh, players getting played.

            is an indication that you are not willing to admit your error.

            There is plenty of concern with the language of the bill that you highlight without going into easily disprovable conspiracy theory.

            The thing is, you see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear. Dig? - The Rock Man

            by BalanceSeeker on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 11:54:17 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here is a list of 15 state-owned power plants: (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Louise, bhlogger, jfdunphy, Preston S

              http://host.madison.com/...

              Yeah dude, get stuck on the semantics of one comment instead of what I am talking about, classic rhetoric tactic that does not work in the infotech age.

              Sorry I got one power plant wrong out of thousands! You got me!

              Texas is Texas, you know. The second you think you got it figured out, it will switch on you. Just ask Rick Perry in 2012.

              by Patience John on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 12:02:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You do not seem to "get it". (4+ / 0-)

                We want to know if we are reading the proposal correctly or not.  Your respnses indicate to me you do not understand the basic question posed to you.

                Well, be that as it may.  I am now more confident that my impression is correct.  

                You would do yourself well to edit out of your diary theclaim that the Koch Bros. are poised to buy a utilities monopoly across the entire state.

                But hey, it is your diary.

              •  You don't have to be nasty (9+ / 0-)

                about correcting your mistake, or incorrectly calling the pointing out of it "semantics".  You said "Wisconsin Energy".  It isn't a "rhetoric tactic" to address that.  

                But in as much as you have clarified your point, I appreciate that.  Still, your statement:

                Governor Walker, is ready to sell the Koch Brothers the utility system of Wisconsin...

                is unsupported and hyperbolic.  The 15 state-owned plants you cite are plants at universities and other institutions, and can hardly be construed as "the utility system of Wisconsin".

                From your link:

                The federal agency sent the state Department of Administration a letter Thursday requesting information about the plants. They include power plants on UW campuses at Eau Claire, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Menonomie, Superior and Whitewater.

                Three Madison plants are included: Capitol Heat and Power, Mendota Mental Health Institute, and Hill Farms. Also included in the request for information are plants at the Northern Wisconsin Center, Waupun Correctional Facility and the Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

                I count the 15 plants in those paragraphs.  Campuses, health institutes, and a correction facility.

                Again, I agree that there is a serious issue here with the language of the bill, but it doesn't help your case to blow this out of proportion.  And it is not a rhetorical tactic to insist on accuracy.

                The thing is, you see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear. Dig? - The Rock Man

                by BalanceSeeker on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 12:20:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Oh it's a conspiracy all right (9+ / 0-)

              It is just important to make sure that which is claimed to be factual is actually based upon facts.

              It's a rotten deal but I do not see how a Governor sells a privately-held corporation.  Overblown claims turn watchdogs into boys who cry 'wolf'.

      •  College heating plants not big money operations (0+ / 0-)

        Far below the scale at which Koch operates. there may be a corfupt link, but it's to smalltimers. You been played, perhaps by a pre-existing Koch obsession.

        We're in the Rotunda, 'til we take Scott Walka Unda. They thought they could plunda, but they woke the Drums of Thunda. Now we're in the Rotunda, gonna bring their whole game Unda.

        by ben masel on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 08:57:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Under W it was called business as usual (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alyosha, bhlogger, Dave925, jfdunphy

      Slow thinkers - keep right

      by Dave the Wave on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 01:41:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Quickland, while you argue with the diarist... (5+ / 0-)

      ... somebody is already advertising for power plant managers in Wisconsin. This is from the Think Energy Group, who have ¨placed thousands of technical professionals per year in Engineering, Power Generation, IT, & Telecom positions worldwide.¨

      Plant Manager
      Power Plant/Operations/Maintenance
      Job Posted:     2/6/2011
      Apply Deadline:     3/5/2011
      Job #:     84239REM
      Job order status:     Client is actively seeking candidates
      Relocation available:     Available   
      Location:     State of , WI
      Pay Rate:     Contract: 62.5 to 72.12 $/hr
      Salary: 130.00 to 150.00 K$/yr
      Education Required:     BS
      Years Experience Required:     15+
      Industry:     Power Generation
      Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin.

      Hmmm, I wonder who that energy client might be?  H/T to commenter Debra Klebesadel at Rortybomb .

      •  We can assume that the present state (0+ / 0-)

        employees holding these positions aren't paid as much as the advertised ones:

        Salary: 130.00 to 150.00 K$/yr

         The "Energy client" is going to be making a substantial 'overhead' profit on that $130-150K salary, so how do the customers of these plants realize anything except higher utility costs (IE: the public)?

        Republicans: "Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your National Debt, and blame 'The One' "

        by Bluefin on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 01:48:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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