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Wisconsin Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (8-WI-d)

In Wisconsin, a developer may need a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“CPCN”) to construct a large electric generating facility or a high-voltage transmission lines from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (“WPSC”). 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3)(a)(1). WPSC regulates the construction of electric generating facilities and high-voltage transmission through the CPCN process pursuant to 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491 et seq. and 111 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 111.51 et seq.


The WPSC coordinates with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WDNR”) to review the environmental impacts of proposed energy construction projects, including electric generating facilities and high-voltage transmission line projects pursuant to the Wisconsin Cooperative Agreement Between Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission, at p.1 (“Cooperative Agreement”). The Cooperative Agreement also specifies procedures to coordinate WPSC and WDNR compliance with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (“WEPA”). Cooperative Agreement, at p.1. The Cooperative Agreement “…pertains to all energy construction projects that are subject to WPSC authority. In particular, the agreement relates to the applications for Certificate of Authority (“CA”) and CPCN.” Cooperative Agreement, at p.2.


Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity Process

8-WI-d.1 to 8-WI-d.2– Is the Proposed Project Exempt?

A developer does not need to obtain a CPCN from the WPSC in the following circumstances:

  • The proposed project is to “…construct electric generating equipment and associated facilities if the developer satisfies each of the following:
  1. the person is not a public utility or a cooperative association for the purpose of generating, distributing or furnishing electric energy at retail or wholesale to its members only;
  2. the person shows to the satisfaction of the WPSC that the developer reasonably anticipates, at the time that construction of the equipment or facilities commences, that on each day that the equipment and facilities are in operation that the person will consume no less than 70 percent of the aggregate kilowatt hours output from the equipment and facilities in manufacturing processes at the site where the equipment and facilities are located…” 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(4)(b)(1)-(2);
  • The proposed project is to “…construct a high-voltage transmission line designed for operation at a nominal voltage of less than 345 kilovolts if the centerline of the new high-voltage transmission line is located within 60 feet on either side of the centerline of an existing electric transmission line operating at a nominal voltage of 69 kilovolts or more and the applicant demonstrates all of the following:
  1. that the project will not have undue adverse environmental impacts; and
  2. that the new high-voltage transmission line requires the acquisition in total of one-half mile or less of rights-of-way from landowners from which rights-of-way were not required to be acquired for the existing electric transmission line. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(4)(c)(1m)(1)-(2);
  • The developer of the proposed project is a cooperative association, and the project is for “…producing or furnishing heat, light, power, or water to its members to construct a high-voltage transmission line designed for operation at a nominal voltage of less than 345 kilovolts if all related construction activity takes place entirely within the area of an existing electric transmission line right-of-way.” 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(4)(c)(1s).


8-WI-d.3 to 8-WI-d.4 – Does the Project Qualify for an Expedited Review?

A developer “…who proposes to construct a high-voltage transmission line, defined above, may qualify for an expedited CPCN review if the construction is limited to adding conductors to existing transmission poles or towers and if all related construction activity takes place entirely within the area of an existing electric transmission line right-of-way.” 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3b)(a).

8-WI-d.5 – Notice of Intent to Apply for CPCN

Prior to filing an Application for a CPCN (“Application”), the developer must notify the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WDNR”) and the WPSC of the developer’s intent to apply for a CPCN. 111 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 111.51(2)(a).

8-WI-d.6 – Hold Pre-Application Meeting(s)

Prior to filing an Application, the developer must consult with the WPSC staff, in cooperation with staff from WDNR, on the scope of the proposed project, the alternatives that must be considered in the Application, and additional information that the WPSC may require as part of the Application. 111 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 111.51(2)(b). At the pre-application meeting, the applicant, WPSC, and the WDNR may discuss all of the following:

  • The project scope including need and system level considerations;
  • Which of the steps in this coordinated review process are applicable relative to the complexity of the project;
  • The system alternatives, geographical scope of the project, and potential routes;
  • Tentative project timeline;
  • Stakeholder identification;
  • Potential routing and siting constraints, issues, and concerns;
  • Preliminary assessment of applicable WDNR regulations, anticipated permits and potential for compliance;
  • Anticipated WPSC and WDNR Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) review process and needs (for more information regarding WEPA review see: State Environmental Review:
    9-WI-a
  • Initial identification of the agency review teams and establishment of primary points of contact for WPSC, WDNR and the applicant; and
  • Information applicant will be required to provide and timing of filing information.

WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at i.


During the pre-application meetings, the applicant (developer) should also solicit additional information from other interested parties through public outreach. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at i.

The pre-application meetings may also serve as the “preliminary assessment” required pursuant to N.R. 100 Wis. Admin. Code § 103.08(1) and the advanced notice to the WPSC required by P.S.C. 4 Wis. Admin. Code § 4.70(1).

During the pre-application meetings process, the applicant, relevant state agencies, landowners, and stakeholder groups work together to analyze and refine route alternatives. Based on input from various stakeholders, the applicant (developer) will initiate data collection efforts and will arrange agency site visits. The agencies will provide initial guidance on detailed studies such as archaeological/historical data collection, threatened and endangered species evaluations, wetland delineations, wetland functional value assessments, and other project-specific data collection efforts. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects.

8-WI-d.7 – Submit Application Materials

The applicant (developer) must file 10 copies or however many agreed upon of the Application to the WPSC docket coordinator at least six (6) months prior to construction of the facility. 111 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 111.51(3); 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3)(a)(1); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at vi. The applicant (developer) must also send relevant Application materials to WDNR. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at vi. The Application must include, at minimum, the following:

  • A project overview including:
    • the identify of the owners and investors of the proposed project pursuant to 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(6).
    • describe the location of the proposed project and its end points;
    • a list of all cities, villages, and townships and their respective counties that the proposed project would potentially impact;
  • Indicate that the Application is for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity;
  • State whether the project qualifies for a CPCN exemption under 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(4)(c)(1m);
  • State whether the applicant (developer) is seeking an expedited review for the project under 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3b)(a);
  • Provide a general description of the project, including:
    • the location of the route(s) and associated facilities;
    • the footprints of associated facilities;
    • generalized topography, geology, land cover, and land use;
    • any unique natural or cultural resources;
    • transmission configuration;
    • the proposed right-of-way;
  • Copies of all official correspondence with other state, federal, and local government agencies
  • A list of all state and federal permits/approvals required for the proposed project with their status;
  • A description of the construction schedule;
  • Project maps in accordance with the requirements in WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at p. 3-4;
  • Mailing lists;
  • A description of the project need and engineering information;
  • A description of transmission network, and local transmission level alternatives;
  • Regional Transmission Organization information;
  • A description of the project costs, including cost tables;
  • Route information describing the factors considered in the applicant’s (developer) evaluation of potential routes and locations for the transmission line and it’s associated facilities; and
  • A description of the potential construction, environmental, and community impacts.

WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at p. 1-20; 111 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 111.55-111.56.

8-WI-d.8 – Publish Notice of Application

The WPSC must send an electronic copy of the Application to the clerk of each municipality and town and the main public library of library of each county in which the proposed facility is to be located within ten (10) days of receipt of the Application. 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(4)(b)(1); 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3)(a)(1); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at viii. The notice must also include a statement on the initial page of the electronic document explaining that this is an initial Application, that it is likely to be changed, and that updates may be obtained form the applicant (developer) that filed the Application or the Wisconsin Public Service Commission Docket Website. However, WPSC may instead require the applicant (developer) to send copies of the Application directly to the local governments identified above. 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(4)(b)(1),(3); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at viii.

8-WI-d.9 to 8-WI-d.11 – Review Application for Completeness

After receipt, the WPSC and WDNR must review the Application for administrative and technical completeness. 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(4)(a); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at v. Within in thirty (30) days of receipt of the Application, the WPSC must notify the applicant (developer) if the Application is complete or incomplete. If WPSC finds that the Application is incomplete, the WPSC will submit a letter to the applicant outlining the Application’s deficiencies. The applicant may then submit revised or supplemented Application material to the WPSC and WDNR for a new thirty (30) day Application completeness review. “There is no statutory time limit for an applicant to submit the revised or supplemental material in order to remedy identified deficiencies.” 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(4)(a); 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(a)(3)(b); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at v.

Note: If the WPSC determines the Application is complete, the WPSC may require as many as 25 complete paper Applications. The developer should verify the number of paper Applications required with the WPSC docket coordinator. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at vii.


‘’’Expedited Review’’’

If the Application qualifies for an expedited review, the WPSC must notify the applicant (developer) as soon practicable that the WPSC has received a complete Application. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3b)(b).


8-WI-d.12 – Publish Notice of Complete Application

As soon as practicable, but no later than thirty (30) days after the WPSC has determined that the CPCN Application is complete, the WPSC must send an electronic copy of the complete Application to the clerk of each municipality, town, and main public library in each county in which the proposed facility to be located. However, the WPSC may instead require the applicant (developer) to send copies of the Application directly to the local governments identified above. 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55(4)(b)(2)-(3); 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3)(a)(2); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at viii.

8-WI-d.13 – Publish Notice of Public Hearing (If Applicable)

If a public hearing regarding the Application is required, the WPSC must publish notice of the public hearing within thirty (30) days prior to the hearing, which must include a statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(b). The notice must follow the requirements set out in 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.44 et seq. and Wisconsin – 985 Wis. Stat. §§ 985.01 et seq., Publication of Legal Notices. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(b).


8-WI-d.13 – Hold Public Hearing (If Applicable)

The WPSC must hold a public hearing on the Application that is determined or considered complete in the area affected pursuant to 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.44 et seq. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(b).

8-WI-d.14 to 8-WI-d.15 – Does WPSC Approve the CPCN Application?

The WPSC must make a determination on the Application within 180 days after the Application is considered complete. If the WPSC fails to take final action within 180 days, the CPCN is automatically approved, unless the chairperson of the WPSC extends the time period for no more than another 180 days for good cause. If the WPSC fails to take final action within the extended period, the WPSC is considered to have issued a CPCN with respect to the Application. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(g).


The WPSC must approve an Application for CPCN only if the WPSC determines the following:

  • “The proposed facility satisfies the reasonable needs of the public for an adequate supply of electric energy;
  • The design and location or route is in the public interest considering alternative locations or routes, individual hardships, engineering, economic, safety, reliability and environmental factors…;
  • For a high-voltage transmission line…that is to be located in the lower Wisconsin state riverway…the line must not impair, to the extent practicable, the scenic beauty or the natural value of the river. The WPSC may not require that a high-voltage line… be placed underground…;
  • For a high-voltage transmission line that is designed for operation at a nominal voltage of 345 kilovolts or more, the high-voltage transmission line provides usage, service or increased regional reliability benefits to the wholesale and retail customers or members in this state and the benefits of the high-voltage transmission line are reasonable in relation to the cost of the high-voltage transmission line;
  • The proposed facility will not have undue adverse impact on other environmental values such as, but not limited to, ecological balance, public health and welfare, historic sites, geological formations, the aesthetics of land and water and recreational use;
  • The proposed facility will not unreasonably interfere with the orderly land use and development plans for the area involved;
  • The proposed facility will not have a material adverse impact on competition in the relevant wholesale electric service market.

196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(d).

Note: The WPSC CPCN review and the WDNR permit review, is generally completed concurrently to ensure the route(s) under consideration are approved by both agencies. The WPSC and WDNR will determine their respective obligations related to the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act and jointly carry out the necessary process to ensure a timely review that fully complies with WEPA. The WPSC and WDNR will cooperate on WEPA compliance on project proposals determined to require WEPA compliances measures under Wisconsin Regulations – N.R. 100 Wis. Admin. Code §§ N.R. 100 et seq., Environmental Protection and the advanced notice to the WPSC required by Wisconsin Regulations – P.S.C. 4 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 4.01 et seq. The WPSC and WDNR staff may conduct any additional site-specific reviews they deem necessary and/or request additional information from the applicant (developer). The WPSC and WDNR must prepare environmental impact statements (EIS) on major actions affecting the quality of the human environment under WEPA. For more information on the WEPA review process, see:

State Environmental Review:
9-WI-a

“In siting new electric transmission facilities, including high-voltage transmission lines, it is the policy of the state that, to the greatest extent feasible that it is consistent with economic and engineering considerations, reliability of the electric system, and protection of the environment, the following corridors should be utilized in the following order of priority:

  • Existing utility corridors;
  • Highway and railroad corridors;
  • Recreational trails, to the extent that the facilities may be constructed below ground and that the facilities do not significantly impact environmentally sensitive areas; and then
  • New corridors.”

1 Wis. Stat. § 1.12.

In addition, the WPSC must not approve an Application for high-voltage transmission lines that are designed for operation at a nominal voltage of 345 kilovolts or more unless the approval includes the condition that the application (developer) pay the fees determined by the WPSC. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(gm).

If the Application does meet the criteria above, the WPSC must reject the Application or approve the Application with necessary modifications as are necessary for an affirmative finding under 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(d). 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(e).

‘’’Expedited Review’’’

The WPSC is considered to have issued a CPCN for construction specified in the Application unless the WPSC notifies the applicant (developer), no later than thirty (30) business days after the date on which the WPSC notifies an applicant (developer) that the Application is complete, that the WPSC has determined that the public interest requires the applicant to obtain a CPCN. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(3b)(c).


8-WI-d.16 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)

Any person whose substantial rights may be adversely affected or any county, municipality or town having jurisdiction over land affected by a CPCN decision may petition for judicial review, under Wisconsin – 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.01 et seq., Administrative Procedure and Review, of any decision of the WPSC regarding the CPCN. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.491(j).




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