WED AM News: WEC Energy Group to acquire 80% stake in Texas solar project; Senate hearing highlights PFAS dilemmas for lawmakers

— WEC Energy Group has announced an agreement to acquire 80 percent ownership in a large solar project in Texas. 

The Milwaukee-based utility company yesterday said it would be spending about $250 million on the Samson I Solar Energy Center, located about 140 miles northeast of Dallas. 

The facility began commercial operation in May 2022 and is currently covered by a long-term power purchase agreement with AT&T, according to a release. 

“The Samson Solar project is an exciting addition to our Infrastructure business and highlights our continued investment in affordable, reliable and clean energy,” WEC Energy Group Executive Chairman Gale Klappa said in a statement. “This project will help one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies meet their clean energy needs for years to come.” 

The Samson I project is the first part of the five-phase Samson solar portfolio being built on 18,000 acres in northeastern Texas. It’s the largest solar project currently under construction in the country and represents $1.6 billion in capital investment, according to a project website from developer Invenergy. 

Once complete, the overall project is expected to total 1,310 megawatts, enough to power 300,000 homes, the site shows. 

See the WEC Energy Group release:

See more project details here: 

— Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Chair Sen. Rob Cowles says one of the “big dilemmas” for lawmakers related to PFAS is whether the Legislature needs to provide more funding to bolster remediation efforts – and at what cost.

“Do we have to enhance the revolving loan fund to take care of dilemmas across the state, do we have to fund the testing and some of these ongoing expenses, and how do we come up with a dollar amount?” the Green Bay Republican said at yesterday’s informational hearing. 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “forever chemicals,” are found in industrial and everyday products, including firefighting foam and non-stick cookware. They do not break down easily in the environment and are linked to several diseases and cancers in humans. Dem Gov. Tony Evers has proposed $100 million to address PFAS contamination in the state. 

Toni Herkert, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ government affairs director, told the committee some of the state’s projected $7.1 billion surplus could be used as seed money for a loan program. 

“If you seed a revolving loan program, that eventually starts paying for itself in the long run,” Herkert said. 

Sen. Robert Wirch during the hearing said he hoped Republicans would prioritize PFAS for the next state budget.

“There was an earlier reference about what the governor is going to put in his budget, and the last few times the majority party has thrown out the governor’s budget,” the Somers Dem said. “So, I hope certainly if they’re going to do that again, they will prioritize these issues.”

Meanwhile, Vice Chair Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, argued it is hypocritical for the DNR to allow biosolids, or organic matter recycled from sewers, containing PFAS levels less than 150,000 parts per trillion to be spread on fields while limiting PFAS contamination beyond 20 ppt in drinking water.

“To go into the civil court now and say that someone did something that was hazardous — the DNR is defeating the state’s own argument,” Wimberger said. “Because they’re saying that a certain level, you know, 150,000 parts per trillion, apparently isn’t dangerous.”

The Department of Natural Resources last month restarted the rulemaking process to determine numerical limits for PFAS in groundwater after the Natural Resources Board deadlocked on approving them at a February meeting. Board member Terry Hilgenberg, an appointee of former GOP Gov. Scott Walker, abstained from voting at the time. The DNR has estimated it will take two and a half years to develop the rule. 

— The Department of Revenue says the additional auditors created in the 2015-17 state budget generated $396.7 million in the last fiscal year, more than four times the goal of $82 million.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 proposed the addition of 102 positions to increase auditing activity and improve tax collections. The move was expected to increase state revenues by $31.5 million in 2015-16 and $82 million in 2016-17, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Of the positions, 16 were designated to audit businesses that file Wisconsin sales and use tax returns and are headquarters outside the state. At the time, the administration indicated those businesses may have significantly underreported tax revenues and had never been audited.

Thirty-one positions were dedicated to corporate income tax and franchise tax combined returns, while 39 were to target small C corporations, tax-option corporations and partnerships.

The budget required annual reports on the auditors through 2019-20. In the agency’s announcement, Revenue Secretary Peter Barca touted the auditors’ work on out-of-state companies generating revenue in Wisconsin.

See the release:

— Madison Magazine is hosting the Best of Madison Business Awards later this month, recognizing honorees in mentorship, construction, logistics and other areas. 

The event will be held Feb. 24 at the Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Panelists will include representatives of the nonprofit Mentoring Positives, Findorff, Fleetworthy Solutions and other companies. 

See event details here: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— WARF is seeking partners to commercialize a sustainable method for producing a widely used pain medication. 

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– Study recommends converting some of Wisconsin’s corn-based ethanol land into solar farms

– Alice in Dairyland applications due Feb. 3

– Wisconsin hog inventory numbers fell slightly in 2022


– Evers announces $134M in quarterly aid payments for local roads


– Nominations open for Farm to School Council

– How UWM hopes to turn around recent struggle with recruiting Milwaukee

– More Appleton teachers have been retiring in the middle of the school year since the pandemic

– Green Bay School Board considers $1.8M alarm system. Here’s what we know.


– Wisconsin GOP signals possible movement on PFAS pollution

– ‘There will be policy responses’: GOP pledges action on ‘forever chemicals’


– Cheba Hut sets Bay View opening date


– Blood centers wait to see if expanded eligibility guidance moves forward


– Team behind Character venture capital fund launches new pre-seed program


– Bill to allow red-light cameras in Milwaukee revived

– Wisconsin veterans sue ATF over new rule for stabilizing braces


– Signs of growth for region’s manufacturing sector, but pessimism remains


– How Wisconsin TV news is tackling climate change in weather reports


– Herzfeld Foundation donates $5 million to Milwaukee Repertory Theater


– Milwaukee council moves toward 6-month moratorium on new vape shops

– Bed Bath & Beyond warns of bankruptcy, will close Wisconsin store in latest round


– As the shift to clean energy ramps up, Wisconsin’s top utility regulator says energy efficiency is key


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