What Is Really Behind The Wisconsin No bid Power Plant Sell Off?
There has been much confusion related to Walker’s sneaky sell off of state power plants since it was discovered. The plants in question are state owned small power plants that supply heat, electricity or cooling to state facilities such as universities, state buildings and prisons.
What has not been common knowledge is why Walker would want to sell off these state assets, even though speculation has been high that this was a give away to Koch Industries.
Walker’s predecessor Jim Doyle had approved the conversion of state owned power plants from coal to a combination of natural gas and biomass. There were existing problems with these plants. Their coal emissions were an issue that the Sierra Club and the EPA had both been addressing. Doyle and a U of W program were set to convert these plants. It was seen as a halmark for the move to green energy and would have paved the way for more states to do the same and as proof to the private sector that these green changes are viable long term options. Excess power would also be sold off into the commercial power grid.
Jim Doyle broke ground on the Charter Street biomass plant in Madison on October 25th of 2010. Walker as governor elect killed the statewide projects in November of 2010, before he even officially took office. In January, Walker made former Senator Jeff Plale (also a college buddy of Walker’s) Administrator of the Division of State Facilities in charge of the state power plant assets. Plale who was technically a democrat lost his primary challenge in the last election. He has a track record of being very pro-business and anti-green energy. Plale a supposed Democratic Senator received donations from Richard Devos of Amway fame and known far right political instigator that runs in the same circles with the Koch brothers. His 2008 donations also show quite a few known GOP donors and businesses. He also received donations from a number of private sector Wisconsin energy businesses.
He had a role in preventing the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Plale has a reputation of being on the side of business when it comes to environmental issues. So yet another Walker appointee that has a personal agenda counter to the agencies purposes and was in direct opposition to Doyle’s biomass project. There was much speculation and condemnation about Plale’s appointment being cronyism and payback by Walker.
Plale makes a very weak case for the sell off of these state plants claiming “I don’t think you are going to have a whole lot of people lining up to take them off our hands”. Then a vague dodge on the EPA issues and the potential situation surrounding the privatization of these plants. So they want to privatize these plants but no real explanation how they could then be accountable to the public for the price of the power or any environmental issues. In this scenario there seems to be nothing preventing someone from buying the plants to turn around and simply shut them down. This is a known business practice for a company to buy something to turn around and close it because it presents an inconvenient problem for that company such as a competitor or new technology. Another scenario is to continue to run the plants as is, incur EPA fines and then pass those fines on to the people of WI in extremely high fees for energy from what used to be their own power plants. This again is a common big business tactic to just add the cost of fines and lawsuits into the cost of doing business.
Walker claims his killing the plant is about saving money. He claims that he will save $100 million dollars by not converting these plants to biomass. Most experts pointed out that the additional up front expense pays off over the long run in cost savings over time. The power plant issue seems to be under the same tactic Walker has already used to attack green energy efforts across the state. He at the same time killed the high speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee, killed wind power and ended the state recycling program. Ending the state power plant conversion fits into that.
So why sell them off? Who in Wisconsin has large coal interests? Koch Industries. Who has a long and known track record for being totally against any alternative energy projects? All of the Koch Industries front groups. Who has a track record of being one of the worst environmental polluters that shirks the EPA? Koch Industries. Who owns private sector power plants? Koch Industries. Who is the most suspected benefactor of Walker’s no bid sell off of state power plants? Koch Industries. Who was a major contributor to Walker’s campaign? Koch Industries.
These state plants are also under 2 AFSCME contracts. So killing off 2 union contracts was probably just icing on their evil cake.