Federal Judge Issues Temporary Halt to $649 Million Clean-Energy Transmission Line

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge William Conley, issued a temporary block on a crucial land swap necessary for developers to proceed with a significant clean-energy transmission line through a Mississippi River wildlife refuge.

The decision came after a hearing in Madison, Wisconsin, where Conley granted a preliminary injunction suspending U.S. government approvals for the land swap. This action follows a challenge to the nearly finalized $649 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage line by three environmental groups.

According to attorneys involved in the case and representatives of the project developers, the ruling effectively halts developers ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative from initiating clear-cutting activities to create a pathway for the line through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The injunction will remain in place until Conley thoroughly examines the environmental groups’ challenge.

Federal Judge Issues Temporary Halt to $649 Million Clean-Energy Transmission Line
Environmental groups challenge projects, alleging violations of conservation laws; developers argue land swap benefits refuge.

In response to the ruling, the developers expressed their disagreement, particularly with the decision to halt construction on the “last mile” of the 102-mile (164 km) project.

They maintained that permits for the project had been duly issued, emphasizing that they were consistent with the government’s authority under U.S. environmental review and protection laws.

Howard Learner, legal representative for the environmental groups, affirmed the court’s decision as the right one, citing the potentially irreversible harm the transmission line could inflict on the refuge.

The U.S. Interior Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, both parties involved in approving the land exchange, opted not to provide comment.

The exchange, sanctioned last month, entailed transferring approximately 20 acres (8 hectares) of refuge land in the line’s trajectory to the developers in exchange for 35 acres of land elsewhere to be incorporated into the refuge.

Federal Judge Issues Temporary Halt to $649 Million Clean-Energy Transmission Line
The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. government by conservation organizations seeking to halt controversial land exchange for the energy project.

The power line project is a collaborative effort between ITC, Dairyland, and a third company, American Transmission Co LLC. Collectively, they assert that upon completion, the line will link over 160 renewable energy initiatives to the Midwestern energy grid.

On March 6, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation initiated a lawsuit against the U.S. government, aiming to halt the land swap.

The plaintiffs contended that the federal approvals contravened the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, asserting that constructing the transmission line within the refuge would disrupt floodplains and fracture crucial wildlife habitat, thus deviating from the refuge’s conservation objectives.

In response, the project’s developers have emphasized that an extensive analysis spanning several years indicated that the proposed land swap would enhance the refuge’s quality and expand its whole area.

Michael Manua
Michael Manua
Michael, a seasoned market news expert with 29 years of experience, offers unparalleled insights into financial markets. At 61, he has a track record of providing accurate, impactful analyses, making him a trusted voice in financial journalism.
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