Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Will Milwaukeeans Pay for Foxconn Power?

Yes, according to ATC spokesperson. Ald. Robert Bauman wants city to investigate issue.

By - Dec 27th, 2017 04:20 pm

High Voltage Power Lines. Photo by Corey Coyle [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

High Voltage Power Lines. Photo by Corey Coyle [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The $4.1 billion Foxconn deal is reactivating old battle lines.

At the center of Republican opposition to the Milwaukee Streetcar project was the notion that if utilities like We Energies had to pay to relocate their equipment in Milwaukee that would result in their suburban customers paying for the project. That belief led to a controversial case before the state’s Public Service Commission and ultimately a streetcar-specific change in state law. The city ended up having to pay all the relocation costs, a move that added over $15 million to the final price of the streetcar.

Now Alderman Robert Bauman is drawing attention to the potential that the same thing is happening in reverse with Foxconn in Racine County. Milwaukee customers are slated to be on the hook for paying for utility work to connect Foxconn’s 1,200-acre campus to the electric grid.

American Transmission Company, a private utility partially owned by We Energies parent WEC Energy Group, is proposing a $140 million project, including a substation and high voltage power lines to serve the proposed Foxconn campus. According to ATC that campus, which is planned to include up to 20 million square feet of buildings on the south side of Highway 11 in Racine County, would consume more than six times the energy used by the next largest factory in Wisconsin.

The cost for the ATC project would be paid by Wisconsin ratepayers. “The typical residential customer would pay pennies per year over the life of the project,” ATC spokeswoman Alissa Braatz told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In an email to other city officials Bauman states “Ironically, we are building three substations for the streetcar that we are paying for, not all rate payers (not to mention the $15M in utility relocation costs we are paying for as well). I also know that many real estate developers have had to pay exorbitant costs for electric utility modifications to serve their developments, not rate payers.”

Bauman is sponsoring a communication file that requests the Department of Public Works and City Attorney’s office to report on “public works projects occurring outside of the limits of the City that may involve absorption of utility construction or relocation costs by We Energies rate payers residing in the city of Milwaukee.”

ATC must receive authorization from the Public Service Commission to move forward with the project. The city could object to the proposal, similar to what MacIver Institute President Brett Healy did in 2011 regarding the streetcar.

In 2014, Bauman introduced a file that would grant the City Attorney and Department of Public Works the discretion to object to “municipal public works projects in the We Energies service area that will involve absorption of utility relocation costs by We Energies.” That file directly cites the PSC’s ruling on the streetcar project as the reason for the authorization.

That file is still being held in committee. Bauman intends to bring it forward with the communication file.

The next meeting of the Public Works Committee, which Bauman chairs, is scheduled for January 4th.

The utility measure isn’t the only iron Bauman has in the fire regarding Foxconn. Earlier this month the alderman launched an investigation into the feasibility of building a satellite city for Milwaukee residents that will work for Foxconn. The Foxconn campus, which could employ up to 13,000 people, is proposed for a site over 25 miles from downtown Milwaukee. Bauman has stated his preference is for a robust transit system to connect the campus to Milwaukee, but short of that the city might need to invest in affordable housing near the campus.

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10 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Will Milwaukeeans Pay for Foxconn Power?”

  1. ERIC J. says:

    We are already paying way too much to We Energies and the scam company ATC .

  2. GRNPAKWH says:

    The costs of this corporate give away just keep piling up. Milwaukee has a fully developed area which once held the AO Smith plant. There is rail access, power, water, and most of all a ready and willing work force within walking distance. This would be an ideal location for the Foxconn plant. However, since it would help alleviate the problems associated with poverty our governor could not continue his campaign against Milwaukee, so he insists on using an undeveloped rural farm field.

  3. mkwagner says:

    It’s funny how Karma works. Walker and his cronies fought against the Milwaukee streetcar and gave Milwaukee the legal decision it needs to fight Foxconn fleecing Milwaukee residents. Karma’s a bitch.

  4. TransitRider says:

    GRNPAKWH, the old A O Smith site also has excellent transit—by my count 7 MCTS bus routes (local and express) run right past the site and another 5 or 6 are within about half a mile.

  5. David says:

    Guys lets be real here. As much as I’d like to see the Century City site built up Foxconn is looking for thousands of acres to build on. I’m not exactly sure how big the old AO Smith site is but I think it’s around 50-100 acres. Foxconn would need the entire Menominee valley to build their factory.

  6. Little Boots says:

    Thank Walker for the FoxCON job! Suckers!

  7. Ted Chisholm says:

    Kudos to Bob Bauman for raising this issue. For years, we in the city have put up with the right-wing’s vitriolic, dog-whistle attacks on our community and on city leaders’ efforts to generate change. Think Talgo, the streetcar, etc. Now, we’re expected to pay for Scott Walker’s Foxconn boondoggle? Hypocrisy at its finest.

  8. David Ciepluch says:

    This has potential for a lawsuit against the PSCW for their decision, by Walker appointed Commissioners to deny Milwaukee relocation costs of We Energies distribution equipment on public land through easement.

    The PSCW still has to approve the $140 million cost of new construction for a substation and transmission lines to a new proposed plant, that would indeed by paid for by all customers over time in electric rates. This has always been the method of dealing with distribution and transmission projects.

    Milwaukee has every right to sue the PSC since they were not treated fairly and equitably as a customer. There is a rule imbedded in PSC rules that all customers have to be treated fairly under the law. In turn some group of customers could also sue the PSCW to deny, if the approve the Foxconn subsidy in consideration that Milwaukee was denied.

    An additional caveat, we have a very corrupted Wisconsin Supreme Court.

  9. Tyrell Track Master says:

    How about we make a deal? The city pays but Foxconn provides a rail line extension like KRM that goes tot he project from Milwaukee?

  10. will says:

    Walker already turned down a billion dollars of our federal taxes to build high speed rail through Wisconsin right by Foxconn and now Foxconn wants all these words and special lanes built by Wisconsin taxpayers. With Walker Wisconsin has to pay for things twice. This was all for Walker to run for President for 10 minutes and tell the country Wisconsin did not want it’s fare share of infrastructure dollars so that billion dollars he turned away to states who are building for the future. Walker is not from Wisconsin and when all this corruption comes to a.head, Walker will be on to another scam. Walker and the GOP are destroying the future of our once great state.

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