Ousted Wisconsin Utility Regulator Warns Deadlock Could Stall Projects

An ousted Wisconsin utility regulator is warning that her absence could leave the Public Service Commission deadlocked and stall key infrastructure projects.

Former Public Service Commissioner Ellen Nowak has been locked out of her job by Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, which contends her appointment during a lame-duck session of the Legislature was nullified by a recent court ruling.

That leaves the PSC with just two acting members — appointed by governors of different parties — and a slate of major utility cases, including a natural gas connection to the Foxconn manufacturing campus that must be decided by the end of April.

In a court affidavit filed this week, Nowak warned that utility projects that have been through months of regulatory scrutiny could be delayed or go unresolved.

“This will not only threaten to stall development and job creation but also will interfere with the needs of the utilities and the interests of their customers in the provision of reliable service,” Nowak wrote.

Nowak notes that PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Valcq has agreed to recuse herself in a number of cases that she worked on as an attorney before joining the commission in January. That would leave commissioner Mike Huebsch as the lone voting member should any of those cases come up before the issue is resolved.

After Dane County Judge Richard Niess ruled last month that Republicans convened the special session illegally, Evers rescinded 82 appointments made in the final days of former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.

Evers re-appointed 67 of those appointees, who were serving in positions he considered low level, though he has not announced appointments for the other 15 positions.

An appeals court agreed to a GOP request to put Niess’ ruling on hold, raising further questions about whether those lame-duck appointments are reinstated.

Last week Nowak, appointed by Walker to a second term on the commission in December, was turned away when she showed up for work, a decision that PSC spokesman Matt Dannenberg said came from Evers’ Department of Administration.