Guide to the Utility Project Review Process

Overview ​

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) regulates the construction of facilities by Wisconsin’s utilities and in the case of large electric facilities, those proposed by independent developers. PSC staff analyzes utility construction applications for need, and potential impacts of the plant and any associated facilities. Two aspects of a proposed project determine the type of review the PSC must conduct: 1) size and cost; and 2) potential environment impact. A project that falls under a low threshold for size and cost, receives an informal review from PSC staff. A project that goes above those thresholds requires a Certificate of Authority (CA) from the PSC before construction may commence. Proposed electric generation facilities of 100 or more megawatts (MW), and proposed high-voltage electric transmission lines of 345 kV or more, require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) prior to construction. The PSC review process varies depending upon the size and complexity of the project and the certificate sought by the applicant, but it generally takes about six months to a year to complete.

Each time the PSC opens a proceeding, it issues a notice of proceeding. The PSC emails this notice to existing parties, media outlets, and local officials in the area of concern. Also if the case involves a proposal to build utility facilities, the PSC sends the notice to any person who owns land in the potentially affected area. This notice includes instruction on how and when to file a request to intervene. Typically, the period to file a request for intervention is 14 days after issuance of the notice. See Guide to the Rate Case Process.

PSC Review

Depending on the potential environment impact of a project PSC staff will either prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). After conducting an EA, PSC Staff may determine that the impacts of project require the preparation of an EIS. If the project requires the preparation of an EIS, PSC staff will prepare a draft EIS. The draft EIS is an extensive document that analyzes the project’s cost, need, alternatives, fuel, technology, air and water discharges, solid and hazardous waste issues, land resources, and community impacts. Members of the public can request a copy of the draft EIS from the PSC, review the document at a local library or municipal office, or download it from the PSC website. The applicant and the public will have about 45 days to comment on the draft EIS. Within that 45-day period, the PSC might hold a public hearing on the draft EIS. The final EIS will be prepared considering the comments and concerns raised by the public. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will review the application for air, solid waste, water quality, and water discharge permits. The DNR and the PSC may propose changes in project design or site location to protect the environment or affected community.

Each time the PSC opens a proceeding, it issues a notice of proceeding. The PSC emails this notice to existing parties, media outlets, and local officials in the area of concern. Also if the case involves a proposal to build utility facilities, the PSC sends the notice to any person who owns land in the potentially affected area. This notice includes instruction on how and when to file a request to intervene. Typically, the period to file a request for intervention is 14 days after issuance of the notice See Guide to the Rate Case Process

Public Notification Letter and Scoping Meetings

After an application is filed, the PSC notifies the public that the review process is beginning. The PSC sends a public notification letter to all property owners on or near the potential sites, as well as local government officials, local libraries, the media, and other agencies and interested persons. This notification briefly describes the project; includes a map; identifies the level of environmental review the project will require; lists places where copies of the application are available for review; and gives contact information for comments and questions. The PSC will often hold a project scoping meeting after notifying the public about the project. A project scooping meeting is not a hearing. It is an informal event that gives the public a chance to learn about the proposed project, ask questions, and talk directly with the utility, DNR, or PSC staff. Meetings may be held one or more times during the review process and are held in the area of the proposed project.

Each time the PSC opens a proceeding, it issues a notice of proceeding. The PSC emails this notice to existing parties, media outlets, and local officials in the area of concern. Also if the case involves a proposal to build utility facilities, the PSC sends the notice to any person who owns land in the potentially affected area. This notice includes instruction on how and when to file a request to intervene. Typically, the period to file a request for intervention is 14 days after issuance of the notice. See Guide to the Rate Case Process