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Wisconsin Certificate of Authority (8-WI-e)

In Wisconsin, a public utility (developer) may need to obtain a Certificate of Authority (“CA”) from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (“WPSC”) to render new electric retail service in a municipality, to interconnect a transmission system with another electric utility, or to construct an electric utility facility. 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.49(1)-196.49(2); P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 112.03-112.05. The WPSC regulates Certificate of Authorities pursuant to. Wisconsin – 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.01 et seq., Regulation of Public Utilities, and Wisconsin Regulations – P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code §§ 112.01 et seq., Construction of Electric Public Utilities and Extensions of Electric Service.


The WPSC coordinates with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WDNR”) to review the environmental impacts of a 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 CA and Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“CPCN”).” Cooperative Agreement, at p.2.


Certificate of Authority Process

8-WI-e.1 – Is the Proposed Project Exempt?

A public utility is exempt from the requirement to obtain a Certificate of Authority, if the estimated gross cost of the proposed project is not more than one of the cost thresholds outlined below:

  • ”For an electric public utility whose electric operating revenues in the prior year where less than $5,000,000, the cost threshold is $250,000;
  • For an electric public utility whose operating revenues in the prior year were $5,000,000 or more and less than $250,000,000, the cost threshold is 4 percent of those operating revenues; and
  • For an electric public utility whose electric operating revenues in the prior year where $250,000,000 or more, the cost threshold is $10,000,000.

196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(5g).

8-WI-e.2 to 8-WI-e.7 – Is the Exempt Project a Transmission Line that Exceeds 10 miles?

If the proposed project is to “…construct or rebuild a transmission line whose length exceeds 10 miles and whose cost is less than the applicable amount above…the public utility must first file a report with the WPSC and receive approval.” P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.05(1m)(a). Note: the report and WPSC approval is not required for projects entirely within existing electric utility transmission right-of-way. P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.05(1m)(b).

The utility (developer) must file the report required, at least ninety (90) days before the utility intends to begin construction or rebuilding. The report must include, at minimum, the following:

  • “A description of the project;
  • The projects location and proposed routes;
  • The estimated cost of the project; and
  • A discussion of the need for the project.”

P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.05(1m)(b).

After reviewing the report, “…the WPSC may approve the project by acknowledging, in writing, receipt of the report and accepting it for filing.” The WPSC may also direct, in writing, that the project must not proceed until the project receives a Certificate of Authority from the WSPC. If the WPSC does not take action within ninety (90) days of receiving the utility’s (developer) written report the project is automatically approved. P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.05(1m)(c)(1)-(3).

8-WI-e.8 – Notice of Intent to Seek Authorization

Prior to filing an Application for Certificate of Authority, the applicant (developer) must notify the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WDNR”) and the WPSC of its intent to seek WPSC approval. P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.06(1)(a).


8-WI-e.9 – Hold Pre-Application Meeting

Prior to filing an Application for Certificate of Authority, the applicant (developer) must “consult with WPSC staff, in cooperation with staff from the WDNR, on the scope of the proposed project, the alternatives that must be considered in the application, and additional information that the WPSC will require as part of the WPSC authorization application.” P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.06(1)(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 meeting, 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.

In addition, during the pre-application meeting the applicant (developer) should check with the WPSC docket coordinator and the WDNR to determine how the application should be filed and how many paper copies are necessary. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at vi.


8-WI-e.10 to 8-WI-e.11 – Submit Application Materials

The applicant (developer) must submit electronic versions of the Certificate of Authority Application and all applications materials to both the WPSC and the 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 Authority;
  • 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;


P.S.C. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.06 (1m)(a)-(j); WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at p. 1-20; 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55.


Note: 111 Wis. Admin. Code § 111.55 prescribes the contents of an Application for approval to construct, install, or place in operation a high-voltage transmission including related substation construction. 112 Wis. Admin. Code § 112.06(1m).


8-WI-e.12 – Publish Public Notice of Application and Public Hearing (If Applicable)

If the WPSC determines that a public hearing is required WPSC must publish notice of the public hearing. WPSC must publish notice in a newspaper general applicability in the area or to the person(s) affected. WPSC must publish notice of the application and public hearing in accordance to the requirements found in Wisconsin – 985 Wis. Stat. §§ 985.01 et seq., Publication of Legal Notices.

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

If upon consideration of the Application, together with any supplemental information and objections, the WPSC finds that the public convenience and necessity require the project as proposed and the project complies with 196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(3)(b).


8-WI-e.14 to 8-WI-e.15 – Does WPSC Approve the Certificate of Authority Application?

If a public hearing is held on the Application, the WPSC must take final action on the Application within 180 days after the WPSC issues a notice of hearing on the Application. 196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(5r)(a). “The WPSC may extend the time period for an additional 180 days for good cause. If the WPSC fails to take final action within the initial 180-day period, or the extended 180-day time period, the WPSC is considered to have issued a Certificate of Authority with respect to the Application.” 196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(5r)(a).


If a hearing is not required on the Application, the WPSC must take final action on the Application within 90 days after the WPSC issues notice opening a docket on the Application. The WPSC may extend the time period for an additional 90 days for good cause. If the WPSC fails to take final action within the initial 90-day period, or the extended 90-day time period, the WPSC is considered to have issued a Certificate of Authority with respect to the Application.” 196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(5r)(b).

The “…WPSC may require by rule or special order that no project may proceed until the WPSC has certified that public convenience and necessity require the project. The WPSC may refuse to certify a project if it appears that he completion of the project will do any of the following:

  • Substantially impair the efficiency of the service of the public utility;
  • Provide facilities unreasonably in excess of the probable future requirements;
  • 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 WPSC, in the fixation of rates, of such consequent increase of cost of service.”

196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(3)(b).


The WPSC may issue a Certificate of Authority for the project or for any part of the project which complies with the requirements of Wisconsin – 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.01 et seq., Regulation of Public Utilities, or the WPSC may attach to the issuance of the Certificate of Authority terms and conditions to ensure that the project meets the requirements of Wisconsin – 196 Wis. Stat. §§ 196.01 et seq., Regulation of Public Utilities. 196 Wis. Stat. § 196.49(3)(c).

Note: The WPSC CA 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 (“WEPA”) 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


8-WI-e.16 to 8-WI-e.17 – Petition for Rehearing (If Applicable)

Any person aggrieved by a state agency decision may within twenty (20) days after service of such order or decision file with the Division of Hearings and Appeals (“Division”) a written petition for rehearing pursuant to 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.49. An agency or the Division may only grant rehearing for those reasons set out in 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.49(3). In addition, any person aggrieved by a state agency decision that adversely affects the substantial interest of said person is entitled to judicial review by filing a petition in accordance with 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.52-53. The interested person must submit the petition for review within thirty (30) days after service of the order disposing of rehearing an application. 227 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.52-53.




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