— The White House has time to appeal the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that denied three small refinery exemptions approved by the EPA, and farmers say they will remember President Trump’s decision come election time.
“President Trump vowed to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Dave Walton, a soybean farmer in Iowa, in a press conference yesterday. “If this comes down to farmers versus oil companies, farmers will remember that in November.”
Last week, the court granted the administration an extension to file an appeal by March 24 and soon after, over 20 farm and biofuel groups, including the Wisconsin Biofuels Association, sent a letter asking Trump to reject an appeal of the court decision.
“This delay is prolonging uncertainty in the market,” said Erik Huschitt, CEO of Badger State Ethanol in Monroe. “This court ruling is a chance to clean the state, to start clean with EPA and the administration.”
He said that the court ruling confirmed what farm communities have been saying for years, that the EPA was “illegally abusing” small refinery exemptions given to oil companies.
“It’s clear that the president needs to change course on this decision,” said Mitch Miller, CEO of Carbon Green BioEnergy in Michigan. He added that if Trump directs the EPA to follow the law, the end result will be American-made fuel at a lower cost and a lower carbon footprint.
— Renewable energy advocacy groups in the state are applauding the appointment of Renew Wisconsin Executive Director Tyler Huebner to the Public Service Commission.
Huebner replaces former GOP lawmaker and DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch, who resigned last month, a year before his term was up. Yesterday’s appointment gives Gov. Tony Evers a majority on the three-member commission, which oversees electric, gas, water and telecom industries in the state. The other commissioners are Rebecca Cameron Valcq — Evers’ previous appointee — and Ellen Nowak, who was appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker.
Huebner has worked for Renew Wisconsin, a nonprofit that promotes renewable energy in the state, since 2013. Prior to that, he worked at the Wisconsin Division of Energy Services, according to his LinkedIn page.
In a statement, Clean Wisconsin President and CEO Mark Redsten commended Huebner’s “knowledge, experience, and expertise in the energy field.”
“He understands where our state’s energy future is headed,” Redsten said. “He undoubtedly brings a unique perspective that will keep economic and environmental impacts of commission decisions in mind.”
Ryan Billingham, communications director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, highlighted Huebner’s track record with supporting clean energy. He also noted the appointment comes a day after the Sierra Club, Renew Wisconsin and the League released their “clean energy toolkit,” a guide for energy policy efforts aimed at moving toward renewables.
“As more and more communities across Wisconsin are becoming concerned about climate change and prioritizing clean energy, it’s definitely important for the PSC to recognize clean energy opportunities,” Billingham told WisBusiness.com.
He also applauded Evers for showing “his commitment to addressing climate change” with the new appointment.
Meanwhile, Sierra Club Wisconsin Chapter Director Elizabeth Ward says the group looks forward to “working with Tyler and the rest of the Commission as Wisconsin continues to navigate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.”
See the announcement:
— Along with moving to online classes to avoid transmission of COVID-19, UW-Madison said it’s canceled nearly all campus events attracting over 50 people. Plus, most university-sponsored travel is canceled until at least April 10.
Meanwhile, three more cases in the state were announced yesterday. The positive tests in Waukesha and Fond du Lac counties bring the state’s total to six, and all three new ones were exposed while traveling, the Department of Health Services said.
In a statement, the university said it is asking all students living on campus to leave and not return for at least several weeks. Students who would have difficulty returning home, due to financial reasons or other coronavirus outbreaks, may remain on campus.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank told reporters yesterday at a press conference. “We aren’t suspending classes. We’re moving to an alternative delivery of classes, and we expect students to continue learning.”
The campus itself will remain open, and research labs will continue to operate, according to Blank. But students who stay in residence halls “should be prepared for a reduced campus experience with limited opportunities for interaction and reduced campus services.”
Blank said at the moment there are no confirmed cases of the virus among students, adding she didn’t know whether any faculty or staff are currently being tested.
The move comes after UW-Milwaukee announced a similar measure to begin teaching classes online for the remainder of the spring semester. UWM also announced a staff member became ill and is awaiting test results for COVID-19 after coming in contact with someone who traveled to an area with a Level 3 travel ban.
For college athletics, Blank said she expects the school will follow guidelines by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to host sporting events without fans present.
Ahead of April 10, the university will reevaluate the situation based on “what’s happening in the community and the nation” to determine whether normal classes should return or remain closed.
“I know of no example where we’ve taken this type of a step,” Blank said. “And I might say that up until about 10 years ago I don’t think it would’ve been possible.”
— A bill that would extend bar hours during the Democratic National Convention has unanimously passed out of a Senate committee and is eligible to be taken up for a floor vote.
Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade Chair Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, told WisPolitics.com after the hearing that “we’ll see where we’re at” on support for the bill among his GOP colleagues now that it’s out of committee.
“We wanted to get this hearing done and then we’ll bring it up again and see where we’re at,” Feyen said. “We think we’re in a pretty decent place, but we have to talk to some members yet.”
— A recent study from building industry groups in Wisconsin highlights falling home construction numbers in the state.
The report was created by the Wisconsin Realtors Association, the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Wisconsin Economic Development Association. It shows that home prices have increased 17.7 percent over the past three years, while household income has risen 6.9 percent over the same period.
The groups note that every time a home price increases by $1,000 in the state, more than 3,500 families are “priced out” of buying since they don’t qualify for a home mortgage.
Around 6.7 homes per 1,000 residents were built between 1994 and 2004 in Wisconsin, the release shows, but that fell more than 50 percent from 2012 to 2019, reaching 2.9 homes per 1,000 residents.
The release also touches on an ongoing issue with the state’s regulatory process for building plan review. The state Department of Safety and Professional Services has come under fire as the number of plans being reviewed has fallen and developers are waiting longer in the queue.
According to the release, the number of residential building permits decreased 8 percent between 2018 and 2019, going from just over 19,100 to around 17,600.
UW-Madison urban planning Prof. Kurt Paulsen notes the number of new building lots in the state has also fallen, from around 5,000 in 2018 to 4,500 in 2019.
“We used to create an average of 14,000 building lots each year in Wisconsin,” he said in the release. “But in recent years, we’ve averaged under 4,000 lots per year.”
See an earlier report from Paulsen: http://www.wra.org/PressRelease/FallingBehind/
# Weyco Group taking measured approach to diversifying supply chain away from China
# Wisconsin Senate committee backs DNC bar-closing bill
# UW campuses making changes to operations due to COVID-19 concerns
# Evers appoints renewable energy leader to PSC
– Milk Source to be honored as WDE’s Dairy Producers of the Year
– Waukesha, New Berlin reach deal over $286M water-diversion project
– Wisconsin has a top 5 hiring outlook heading into second quarter, ManpowerGroup survey says
– UW-Madison suspends in-person classes in response to coronavirus
– UWM moving classes online after coronavirus test
– UW-Madison Association of Women in Agriculture Day to be held April 18
– UW-Madison suspends face-to-face classes amid virus fears
– Evers announces legislation to address recent flooding
# FINANCIAL SERVICES
– Compeer Financial announces strong 2019 performance
# REAL ESTATE
– Milwaukee businessman, real estate developer Frank Giuffre dies at 76
– STAG Industrial buys Muskego industrial building for $7.3 million
– Bill to extend Wisconsin bar hours during DNC clears another hurdle
# SMALL BUSINESS
– Geneva Supply founders named SBA’s Wisconsin Small Businesspersons of the Year
– Evers taps clean-energy advocate Huebner for Public Service Commission
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: