IXONIA — An administrative law judge has admonished We Energies in recent court documents for what he called “at a minimum, a deficiency in candor” as the utility has been moving through the state Public Service Commission application process — the company’s next step toward locating a liquid natural gas storage facility in Ixonia.
Administrative Law Judge Michael E. Newmark ordered Sept. 3 that We Energies submit additional information to the PSC after repeatedly dismissing the potential of a new advanced metering system to reduce the demand for natural gas, while at the same time moving ahead to implement such a gas-saving system.
“The future demand for natural gas in southeastern Wisconsin — and thus the need for the proposed LNG plants in Ixonia and Walworth County — is at the heart of the utility’s argument that it has to build the massive twin facilities to meet that demand,” Jefferson County Supervisor Amy Rinard of Ixonia, a staunch opponent of the project, said this week. “Attorneys for the Sierra Club of Wisconsin also have called out We Energies for allegedly projecting an unrealistically high future demand for natural gas based on the imagined use of natural gas at the Foxconn development in Racine County at the huge size it originally was proposed, not the current drastically scaled-down plan.”
The proposed We Energies facility in Ixonia would include a 15-story, 150-foot-diameter tank to store 12 million gallons of liquified natural gas. The plant also would have equipment to process vaporized natural gas into a liquid and back again, a section of pipeline connecting to a main natural gas pipeline plus an electric substation.
The purpose of the proposed facility is to store natural gas until it is needed, at which time it would be put back into the pipeline. It would be built on a 24-acre site, now farmland, near the intersection of North and Triangle roads.
Newmark, who is overseeing the PSC application proceedings, concluded that, by failing to mention throughout the year-long proceeding in the LNG application that the utility was planning to implement the advanced metering system to reduce gas usage, it had made the record incomplete, raised doubts about the credibility of its own witnesses and created “at a minimum, the perception of a deficiency in candor.”
Newmark ordered We Energies to explain why it had failed to acknowledge the existence of its proposed new metering project and failed to present an analysis of its impact on the proposed LNG facilities. Newmark also ordered the utility to submit an analysis of how the proposed metering project would affect the need for, and the cost and benefits of, the proposed LNG facilities.
We Energies spokesman Brendan Conway said the administrative law judge’s ruling is in error.
“It appears the administrative law judge has mistakenly assumed that providing automated meters to less than 20% of our customers might lower demand for natural gas during peak conditions,” Conway said. “This is not the case and does not in any way change the need for the natural gas storage these LNG plants will provide.”
He said the need for affordable and reliable energy has never been more clear.
“As we saw in Texas this winter, being without heat on the coldest of days can be a matter of life or death,” Conway said. “These LNG facilities will allow us to keep customers warm with a safe, environmentally friendly and local supply of natural gas. And our plan is expected to save customers more than $200 million over time.”
He said We Energies will provide a formal response to Newmark’s assertions later this month.
Rinard said it likely was “easy” for We Energies to “manipulate and deceive” a majority of the Ixonia Town Board and Jefferson County officials, and this emboldened the company to “dupe state regulators, too.”
Rinard said We Energies was “caught lying and withholding information in the PSC review of the LNG application” and she thinks this will change the entire dynamic of the process it needs to go through to build the LNG facility.
“It is very, very unusual, almost unheard of, for a utility to be called out like this by a state administrative law judge in a public order,” Rinard said. “The PSC will be, and should be, much more questioning — even skeptical — of information filed now by We Energies in this LNG application.
“And, I think, the impacts of alternatives to building these massive, dangerous and insanely expensive facilities — falsely dismissed up to now by WE Energies — will be given much more serious attention by the PSC,” she added.
Rinard said people opposed to the LNG facility will continue to closely follow the LNG facilities progress in the coming days as We Energies formulates its rebuttal to the administrative law judge.
“Those of us who have been closely following everything We Energies says — and doesn’t say — about the proposed LNG project in Ixonia know this multi-billion-dollar energy monopoly will say and do anything to get this facility approved,” Rinard said. “In the waning days of the fossil fuel industry, We Energies seems obsessed with wringing out every last dollar for their shareholders, while making natural gas customers pay the enormous bill. The PSC just called a foul in this game. Let’s hope it turns into a loss for We Energies and a win for natural gas customers and residents of Ixonia.”