ON-Lion Letter
In September, Brett Healy and his fellow utility ratepayers, represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), scored a significant victory in proceedings before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC). 

The City of Milwaukee had argued that the construction of its 2.1-mile downtown streetcar project is a proper exercise of its police power to promote the public safety and welfare, and that it thus has the legal right to force the utilities that will be affected by the project -- and their ratepayers -- to absorb all of the costs for the relocation or reconstruction of their facilities.  Those costs have been estimated at more than $50 million.  The city, which expects to essentially pay for the $65 million project with federal funds, has no room in its project budget to pay even one dollar of utility relocation costs.

PSC declined to rule that the construction of the streetcar project is a proper exercise of the city's police power, setting that issue for a later hearing.  More importantly, however, it held that even if the streetcar project is a proper exercise of the city's power, the city cannot impose all of the relocation costs on the utilities that will be affected.  Only those costs that the Commission finds to be "reasonable" can be shifted to the utilities.

The PSC's chairman noted that the Commission’s duty is to protect Wisconsin's utility ratepayers and expressed serious reservations that it would be appropriate for the city to pass on millions of dollars in costs to Southeastern Wisconsin utility ratepayers who will receive no benefit from the city's project.

PSC rejected the city's contention that it had no jurisdiction to decide the cost issue and said that it would hold a hearing to determine what costs it would permit the city to pass on to the utilities and their ratepayers.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports WILL.
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