MON AM News: State’s move from fossil fuels accelerated by retiring coal plants; JCRAR extends leeway to DWD’s UI work search requirements

— Statewide announcements to retire coal-fired power plants is adding to Wisconsin’s rapid move away from fossil fuels.

In 2019, for the first time in more than three decades, coal-fired power plants provided less than half of Wisconsin’s electricity net generation. Gov. Tony Evers set a goal last August for the state to produce carbon-free electricity by 2050. 

This year, a trio of Wisconsin’s largest utilities have announced plans to retire more coal plants in an effort to cut emissions and deliver savings for customers.

*Dairyland Power Cooperative announced in January it would retire its 345-megawatt coal-fired station in Genoa by the end of 2021. The La Crosse-based utility company attributed the closure to the facility’s age and inefficiency as well as a way to diversify the company’s strategy. 

*In May, Alliant Energy announced it was shuttering the last operating unit at its Edgewater coal plant in Sheboygan by the end of 2022. The decision left Columbia Energy Center in Pardeeville as the remaining coal-generating station that Alliant co-owns. 

*Alliant Senior Vice President Jim Gallegos told Wisconsin Public Radio in July that Columbia Energy’s co-owners, Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric, are discussing whether to retire the facility or change ownership. Gallegos said retirement was the most likely scenario.

*Days ago, WEC Energy Group, the parent of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, announced plans to shut down its Oak Creek power plant by the end of 2024. Another 300 megawatts are to be determined by the end of the year and retired by the end of 2025, according to spokesman Brendan Conway.

Conway told that WEC Energy Group also plans to retire its natural gas units at Weston and Marinette as early as 2023. 

The changes are a part of WEC Energy Group’s plans, released in July, to reach “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The company owns renewable energy facilities across the state including the Two Creeks Solar Park that went into service this week.

See more in headlines below.

— Wisconsin will have to end the Unemployment Insurance extended benefits program. 

The last payable week was Saturday.

According to the Department of Labor, Wisconsin’s 13-week insured unemployment rate for the week ending Oct. 10 was 4.87 percent, falling below the 5 percent threshold necessary to continue the program. Therefore, the period for Wisconsin ended Saturday and the state will remain in an “off” period for a minimum of 13 weeks.

DWD is currently programming its IT system in order to make the payments. It expects to have that done in December. Once complete, eligible claimants will be paid retroactively for the weeks in which they qualify for the benefit, which is the same amount as an individual’s regular UI benefit. 

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— The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules unanimously extended a coronavirus-related emergency rule granting leeway to DWD’s UI work search requirements.

Lawmakers in a 10-0 vote Friday OK’d the measure in combination with six other extension requests from executive branch departments. Also included: another DWD measure providing protections for migrant workers; and a Funeral Directors Examining Board rule allowing remote instruction.

But state Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, during the hearing said he’s only voting for the UI rule because of the “federal strings attached,” offering some $9.5 million to help DWD administer the program.

“I don’t see why we’re not encouraging people to go seek employment, and I really don’t agree with the underlying notion of this,” he said.

Committee co-chair Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, told Stroebel he had “some legitimate concerns” and that JCRAR would bring “some serious questions” about the program should DWD seek another 60-day extension.

Watch the hearing: 

— Three hundred and eighty-five cultural nonprofit organizations statewide received $15 million in state grants for pandemic-related impacts.

The dollars can be used for lost revenue, increased workers’ compensation costs, cleaning and sanitization, and purchases of services or equipment to facilitate telework by employees.

“These cultural organizations represent the vibrant fabric of communities across our state and support Wisconsin’s tourism industry and local economies,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “This grant program will help organizations cover essential costs related to keeping their employees and communities safe throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Administered by the Department of Administration, the COVID-19 Cultural Organizations Grant program provides money to nonprofit organizations whose primary missions are to produce, present or exhibit cultural disciplines, such as music, dance, theater, literature and the visual arts, or items of environmental or scientific interest. 

“Just like small businesses, cultural organizations have taken a major financial hit,” said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan. “We’re all in this together. We hope that these funds will make it possible for us to be able to enjoy the museums, theaters, and music from these organizations once it is safe to do so again.”

A full list of grant winners is available here: 

— DATCP and its ag ambassador encourage holiday shoppers to buy “Something Special from Wisconsin.” 

The oval-shaped logo has a bright red background and white and yellow lettering, allowing consumers to easily identify a product. The sticker also carries a meaningful message: at least 50 percent of the item’s ingredients, production or processing has come from Wisconsin.

“Purchasing local Wisconsin goods is an easy way to make your holidays uniquely Wisconsin,” said the 73rd Alice in Dairyland, Julia Nunes. “The ‘Something Special from Wisconsin’ logo lets you know that your money is staying here in the state to support our farmers, communities and local economies.”

With nearly 450 companies participating in the program, the logo can be found on everything from meats and cheeses, sweet syrups and candies, to soaps, candles, lotions and wreaths. This year, consumers can also select from eight different curated “Boxes of Fun” filled with high-quality Wisconsin products.

“This year, more than ever, it’s essential to support Wisconsin agriculture and related businesses through creative, enterprising programs such as ‘Something Special from Wisconsin’ and Boxes of Fun,” said Lois Federman, the program director. “Each dollar spent is not only an investment in our state’s economy, but in its future.”

Since 1983, the program has been trademarked through DATCP. Products that are part of the program are available year-round, but persons wishing to have boxes delivered by Thanksgiving need to place orders by Thursday. The deadline for having orders delivered by Christmas is Dec. 10.

Visit the website: 

For more on the Alice in Dairyland program, visit:

— The Tavern League tweeted the ruling barring enforcement of gathering limits was important despite it taking place the same day the order expired. 

The state Supreme Court’s May ruling overturning the Evers administration’s extended stay-at-home order barred DHS Secretary Andrea Palm from issuing a directive limiting public, indoor gatherings, a split appeals court ruled Friday.

While the 2-1 ruling means the limits on public gatherings can’t be enforced, it had a somewhat muted effect because the order had been set to expire Friday. 

Still, the Tavern League tweeted the ruling was important nonetheless “because it was likely that the Evers Administration would have moved to extend it. Now, should they do so, the Appeals Court will likely act quickly to stop them.”

The order came down as the state marked its largest single-day increase of 6,141 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a near-record single-day death toll of 62.

Gov. Tony Evers called the ruling “another blow to our state’s response to this pandemic.”

“We will continue challenging this decision, but the bottom line is that we can’t wait for the courts to figure this out–we need Wisconsinites to stay home and mask up, and it has to start today,” Evers said. “It’s the only way we will get this virus under control and ensure our economy can recover.”

As part of its decision, the 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled the order “is unquestionably invalid and unenforceable under” that May ruling. Then, the high court found 4-3 Palm didn’t have the authority to issue the extended stay-at-home order. It ruled she should’ve instead issued the order through the administrative rules process, which gives lawmakers oversight.

The 3rd District ruled the order limiting indoor, public gatherings in many settings to 25 percent of a room’s capacity was similar to the extended stay-at-home order. It “selectively imposes statewide capacity limits on certain businesses and organizations, but not others,” and Palm “made subjective judgments” on who was impacted. It thus qualified as a rule under the Supreme Court’s May ruling, making the directive unenforceable.

The Tavern League challenged the directive last month, but a circuit court judge denied a motion for temporary injunction barring its enforcement. Friday’s ruling reversed that decision and sent the case back to circuit court with directions to grant the temporary injunction.

In her dissent, Judge Lisa Stark argued the limits on public gatherings were “substantially narrower and does not contain the kind of subjective judgments at issue” in the May Supreme Court ruling that struck down the stay-at-home order. For example, she noted it excludes any place not open to the public, including private residences and spaces only accessible by employees. It also includes a series of exemptions.

“It does one thing and one thing only: limit public gatherings,” she wrote, arguing Palm had the authority to issue the directive.

Read the ruling:

— Wisconsin experienced 11,345 new COVID-19 cases and 56 deaths over the weekend.

The seven-day average for daily confirmed cases is now at a record 5,506, according to the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard.

The seven-day average of new confirmed cases per total people tested is at a record 34.4 percent. This figure hasn’t seen a break in its rise since early October. 

In terms of total tests collected, the average positive test percentage is at a record 17.4 percent. That figure has been steadily rising since late October.

Over 21 percent of Wisconsin’s 267,410 cumulative coronavirus cases are active. Meanwhile, 4.8 percent of confirmed cases have been hospitalized, largely in the 70-79 age group. However, the 80-89 age group is most likely to be hospitalized with 30 percent of its cases resulting in admission. 

— COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin are at a record 1,860, and intensive care patients number a record 397 as of yesterday afternoon, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s hospital dashboard.

The Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park census is at seven coronavirus patients as of yesterday afternoon. The West Allis field hospital, which opened Oct. 14, was designed to serve as an overflow facility for hospitals across the state.

— The state’s 56 new COVID-19 deaths brought the state’s death toll to 2,312 and the seven-day average to 38 deaths per day.

One month ago, the average was 11 deaths per day.

Waukesha and Milwaukee counties led the state’s increase with seven and six new COVID-19 deaths, respectively. Dodge and Grant counties followed with five new deaths each.

Chippewa and Racine counties each reported three new deaths over the weekend, while Columbia, Dane, Jefferson, Kenosha, Portage and Winnebago counties each added two deaths to their tolls.

Ashland, Brown, Clark, Door, Eau Claire, Langlade, Marquette, Oneida, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Rock, Rusk, Taylor, Vials and Waupaca counties all reported one new death.

Five counties account for almost half of the state’s death toll. The counties are Milwaukee (622), Waukesha (146), Racine (126), Brown (111) and Kenosha (96).

Only Pepin County hasn’t reported any COVID-19 deaths.

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# Wisconsin’s first large-scale solar plant enters service; Two Creeks plant to power 33,000 homes 

# Wisconsin Sees 4,280 New COVID-19 Cases As Hospitalizations Continue To Rise 

# Rewiring Harley-Davidson: Improving on the ‘timeless pursuit of adventure’ 



– Two Taylor County mink farms under quarantine after more than 5,000 animals died from COVID-19 

– Denmark to Cull 15 Million Mink Over COVID Fears 

– State Cheese Production Fell in September 

– UW-Extension Winter Programming to Remain Online 


– River Bank opens West Salem branch 


– Hundreds of health workers across Wisconsin are sidelined by COVID-19 infections, exposure

– ‘We are not powerless’: 12 die in a week, hospitals strained in EC County 

– WPS Health Solutions plans partial revamp of Monona headquarters 

– Wisconsin Sets New Single-Day COVID Record: 6,141 Cases 


– Wisconsin announces end of extended unemployment benefits 


– Harley-Davidson settles dispute with former exec Kumbier for $660,000 


– Illinois hand sanitizer manufacturer moving and expanding in Pleasant Prairie 

– Harley-Davidson’s Pan America prototype makes rounds at European dealers: Slideshow 


– Quad has cut 1,100 jobs, closed 4 plants this year 


– Vos wants committee to investigate allegations of elections fraud 

– Wisconsin Voters Approved 84 Percent Of School Referendums In Election 


– Home on Geneva Lake sold for nearly $6.1 million 


– State Health Officials Propose Groundwater Standards For 22 Substances 


– Kohl’s CEO Gass describes how chain retooled for holiday shopping during global pandemic 

– Financing approved for Festival Foods grocery store in West Allis 


– Cold comfort: With winter on its way, Madison restaurants scramble to stay alive 

– Covid-19 accelerated Eagle Park Brewing’s distribution plans: Beer Biz MKE 

– Despite hardships and trauma, La Crosse woman finds success as a salon owner 


– Mysterious floating lights in Milwaukee were a preview of a holiday light show by drones 


– Milwaukee-area cultural organizations receive state COVID-19 relief funding 

– Chippewa Valley nonprofit arts groups awarded COVID-19 cultural grants 


– U.S. Customs building gets the green light at Kenosha Regional Airport 


– WEC Energy Group plans to shut down Oak Creek coal plants by 2024 


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