PROCTOR (AP) -- Opponents of a plan to upgrade 12 miles of high-voltage power lines between Hermantown and Oliver planned to use a set of public hearings to demand a more extensive environmental review.
Minnesota Power has requested an exemption from state permit requirements for the project. The company will have to go through a longer application if the state rejects the request.
"We look forward to a decision," Minnesota Power spokesman John Heino said. "Since the Minnesota project involves only 12 miles on existing corridor, we believe it would be more efficient to work directly with local governments rather than the extensive state process used for larger projects."
Power line opponents say those 12 miles are the company's first exemption request involving this many miles of 345-kilovolt line. It is also the first exemption request since 1990 that has required public hearings, and they were scheduled to begin Monday evening in Proctor.
The line is part of the 250-mile-long, 345-kilovolt Arrowhead-Weston transmission line that Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. want to build between Hermantown and Wausau, Wis.
"We're stating that we feel that the power plant siting provisions for exemptions do not allow for 12 miles of line," said Linda Ceylor, member of Save Our Unique Lands, a Wisconsin-based citizens group that opposes the line. "We're asking them to put forth a full environmental impact statement."
Arrowhead-Weston supporters say the line is needed to make Wisconsin's electrical network more reliable and to help the state meet its growing demand for electricity.
Project opponents worry about the line's impact on the environment, health and property values. They say Wisconsin should meet its electrical needs through a combination of conservation, alternative power sources and natural gas-powered generators built closer to areas needing electricity.
To help get their views across, project opponents planned to hold a rally before Monday evening's hearing and called on supporters to flock to the hearing. They also planned a car caravan from Wisconsin to the rally and hearing.
"It's important for everyone to be there," Ceylor said.
After the hearings wrap up this week or sometime in September, Administrative Law Judge Kenneth Nickolai will use the resulting transcript to make a recommendation on whether to grant Minnesota Power's request.
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