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  • ATC – Getting Things Done

    Posted by Dan from Madison on July 14th, 2009 (All posts by )

    Usually Carl and David are the ones with the interesting energy posts, most of which are about the doom and gloom that is going to befall us here in the US since we, in general, are not creating any new plants, nor upgrading our transmission system. I should start off by saying that I am no expert in this field, just a reporter on events.
    I have noted in the past that here in Wisconsin I believe that things are better than in most places. The reason I say that is because of companies like ATC.

    After five years, ATC has finally been granted permission for a new transmission line across Dane County, following the Beltline route.

    For those that don’t know, Dane county is the home to Madison, and the beltline is the major east-west highway that crosses it. I don’t know how ATC keeps getting things done, but they simply do. All across the state of Wisconsin they are able to get their transmission projects through. They must have the determination and courage of a pitbull. I don’t have the stones to go up against the boatloads of enviro types here in super liberal Madison, much less in more remote areas. I just couldn’t stand the heartburn. I am sure that the enviros took some hide out of ATC along the way with lawyer fees, but ATC must have thought that it was worth it. The line will be 32 miles long, and is a 345k variety.

    From the pamphlet:

    The line will be above ground, and as part of the approval, the PSC [Public Service Commission] required the use of shorter poles near the UW Arboretum, required a crossing to the north side of the Beltline near High Point Road, and alternate pole designs and additional landscaping near the Odana Hills Golf Course to minimize the line’s visual impact.

    That is probably the tip of the iceburg as far as the concessions ATC had to make, but the process has begun and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

    As you can see from their website, ATC has a lot of projects going on right now, completed and in the works.

    Transmission is an extremely part of our energy needs for the future, and I hope more companies like ATC can start to make headway against those who would try to choke the US off of cheap, plentiful energy.

    Cross posted at LITGM.
     

    12 Responses to “ATC – Getting Things Done”

    1. david foster Says:

      Somebody once referred to MCI, in the early days when its survival was all about litigation with AT&T, as “a law firm with antennae.” I guess ATC is “a law firm with transmission towers.”

    2. Mark Says:

      David is about right. They spend big bucks on PR and lawyering. The owners (Alliant, MGE, NSP, WE and every other WI producer) pay ATC to do the dirty work.

    3. Dan from Madison Says:

      I had no idea there were so many owners of ATC, I just thought it was the larger utilities here in Wisco:
      http://www.atcllc.com/A5.shtml

      The ownership listing even includes some municipalities, which is also interesting. Thanks for the comment Mark.

    4. Mad in Madtown Says:

      As the mother of a daughter who graduated from Booth last month, I feel as though I have some connection so that I might post a comment on this site.
      Our family has been one of the hundreds of property owners who has spent the last five years in a limbo because of ATC. A missing element of the discussion is that much of the opposition came from conservatives, not conservationists, because of property rights issues. The ATC will not pay for land, only an easement right which does not compensate in any adequate way for the extraordinary way a transmission line impacts its environment.
      Also, we found out that our property was about to be damaged by reading it in the paper and taking a ruler and the odometer out to trace the route. We then contacted neighbors and not one had been directly notified of the impact on their personal property by ATC. Weeks later they sent a letter that was vague in wording inviting us to a public meeting to see specifically where the route was intended. There was no prior contact with property owners whose land was to be so severely affected.
      ATC’s blatant disrespect for property rights was enlightening and that is a conservative issue.

    5. Dan from Madison Says:

      Mad in Madtown – the mailer states that there were 22 open houses with 3300 attendees. Not saying that I don’t feel for you, but this issue was in the papers and in media for a long time around here. I personally own property with power lines strewn through it so I can identify with how they impact the area. I would be interested in what the compensation was for the easement rights.

    6. Mad in Madtown Says:

      Power lines are far different than transmission lines. It is the comparison of a country dirt lane to an interstate highway.
      Imagine if for the last five years, you were not able to sell your home because of a caveat that a swath of land that was wider than a city street might be placed in the middle of your property. The poles are eight to ten feet in diameter with even broader bases. No foliage can be planted under a transmission line because of arcing. The power company has complete access at any time. They pay perhaps a hundred dollars a year for that right. If your house is on a one or two or three acre parcel, that is the lion’s share of the property. If you have a pacemaker, you must move.
      We are not talking one or two property owners affected for the last five years, there were hundreds of us. ATC treated us as though we were insignificant. If they had spent a tenth of the money that they spent on public relations, on dealing with us in any sort of way that was respectful, then I would not be so angry.

    7. Whitehall Says:

      We’re back in the situation where a lawyer is more critical to the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity than an engineer is.

      I’d point out, based on a recent personal experience, that a property with a transmission line over it can not be financed through FHA.

    8. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “Mad in Madtown”, What an apt name. Just shows that NYMBYism is a universal problem.

    9. david foster Says:

      If the $100/year number for the access easement is correct, I’d have to agree that it sounds too low.

      Anyone know how the access fee is determined?

    10. Omri Says:

      Bear in mind that adjusting the route of a transmission line to address local concerns is far less onerous than doing the same for a train track or just about any other piece of long distance infrastructure. Oil companies will lay down pipe lines that practically zigzag rather than be this heavy handed.

      This isn’t free market entrepreneurial derring do nor touchy feely environmentalist groundwork for greener power. ATC’s behavior is fratboy politics, pure and simple.

    11. Dan from Madison Says:

      Omri – fratboy politics? That is probably the first time I have ever heard that term used relating to politics/the environment in Madison and I have lived here 15 years. To understand the level of enviro weenie culture here you have to experience it. The city council members aren’t even donks, they are “progressives”.

      The fact that this got done at all is simply mind boggling to me.

    12. Mike Cunningham Says:

      Are the arguments against construction of this power line because the land-owners were or weren’t informed of the proposal, or were any of the arguments to do with the necessity of the power utility to supply electricity to the community?

      Seems to me that it is a call of the greater good! Your country, as is mine, is totally dependent upon reliable power, and transmission lines, pushing high-voltage current at 345,000 volts across country is part of the whole! Just check what happens when a nation does not plan for the future! You get a South Africa; hit almost every day by brown- and black-outs because the generating equipment is old, outdated and with no secondary lines and generators as back-up! That’s what happens when you don’t invest in plant, equipment and yes, in transmission lines!

      You should also rejoice that you don’t have County Engineers such as the man in Western Johannesburg who stated in answer to a query about why his Council was pushing a 132 Kv. line up a beautiful valley replied, “We have taken full cognisance of the beauty surrounding the route, which is why we are painting the pylons GREEN!”