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Wisconsin court sides with former PSC member in line dispute

Crows knocked out power to 100,000 in 3 states
Posted at 8:50 AM, Jul 07, 2022

MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court's conservative majority on Thursday sided with a former member of the state Public Service Commission who did not want to testify in court about his personal relationships with utility companies building a new power line that he voted to approve.

Opponents argued the evidence showed that former PSC Commissioner Mike Huebsch had at least an appearance of bias when he voted to approved the $492 million project in 2019 and because of that the permit should be invalidated. Huebsch is a former Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly and past member of former Gov. Scott Walker's Cabinet.

The Supreme Court, in its 4-3 ruling on Thursday, did not address the approval of the power line. Instead, the court said the lower courts were wrong to rule that Huebsch should have to testify.

Huebsch had argued that commission members enjoy a presumption of impartiality and it is possible to set aside personal relationships when deciding cases. Huebsch also argued that the communications were purely personal ones between friends.

Those communications, some of which were done using an encrypted messaging app, included Huebsch's attempts to land a job with Dairyland Power Cooperative, one of the utilities behind the 102-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line that is being built from Middleton, Wisconsin, to Dubuque, Iowa. Huebsch, who started a private consulting company, did not get the job.

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