Wisconsin Weekly: Solar turf war breaks out in Wisconsin

Solar company battles WI utility; Flight for Life bills top $10,000; Is gov’s veto pen too strong? UW loses records lawsuit; Fish die-offs slated to rise

Of note: This week we are proud to highlight our latest story, reported by Wisconsin Public Radio/Wisconsin Watch investigative fellow Sarah Whites-Koditschek. Sarah writes about the fight brewing between solar companies and public utilities in Wisconsin over who should be allowed to provide solar energy to customers. The battle is important as Wisconsin lags behind most of the country and its neighbors in the Upper Midwest in providing solar energy. The Badger State ranks 41st nationally — powering the equivalent of around 10,600 homes by the sun.

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Solar flare-up: Utility blocks Iowa firm from harnessing the sun in Milwaukee

Wisconsin Watch July 7, 2019

As solar energy has become more popular and cost-effective, this once fringe renewable source is now at the center of an energy turf war in Wisconsin. At issue is a project in which an Iowa-based renewables company wants to partner with the city of Milwaukee to power seven municipal buildings with solar. Eagle Point Solar would help to finance the city’s project, taking advantage of federal tax breaks that local governments do not qualify for. Eagle Point is suing the public utility, We Energies, for refusing to connect a series of solar arrays to each other.

Some patients can be surprised by Flight for Life bills that top $10,000 for air ambulance service

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 6, 2019

Flight For Life, which handles about 930 patients a year, is not part of any health plan network. That allows it to charge rates that are higher than what insurance companies pay, and creates unexpectedly high bills for patients. Now Flight For Life has expanded into the business of ground ambulance service, providing a service that it contends is higher quality than its competitors’. Here, too, patients with commercial insurance can be in for an unpleasant surprise. 

Critics question partial veto after Tony Evers used it to boost K-12 spending by $87 million

Wisconsin State Journal July 7, 2019

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers didn’t have to veto the entire state budget to prove yet again the sweeping powers afforded to Wisconsin governors to bend biennial spending bills to their liking. Evers instead found sometimes creative ways to wield his powerful veto pen 78 times, including in one case spending $87 million more on K-12 school district aid than the Legislature intended. In related news: Republican-controlled Legislature intended. Republicans propose constitutional amendment limiting governor’s veto power. 

UW loses in public records lawsuit, must pay back $40K in attorney fees or appeal

Wisconsin State Journal July 8, 2019

A Dane County circuit judge recently ruled that the University of Wisconsin-Madison broke the state’s public records and open meetings laws — violations that may cost the university more than $40,000. UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health failed to turn over records relating to how a committee awarded millions of dollars from an endowment for public health projects, according to the ruling. The committee also failed to properly inform the public why it went behind closed doors in a 2016 meeting.

Fish die-offs in Wisconsin expected to double by 2050, quadruple by 2100, report says 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 8, 2019

Imagine sauntering up to your favorite Wisconsin lake and recoiling from the stench of rotting fish and the sight of pale carcasses littering the shoreline. Those days are coming, according to two researchers who worked together at the UWi-Madison. In a report released in the journal Nature Climate Change, Samuel Fey and Andrew Rypel predict fish die-offs in Wisconsin lakes will double by 2050 and quadruple by 2100. 

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