IN BRIEF: Enviros sue Corps over $500 mln Wisconsin-to-Iowa power line

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Pylons of high-tension electricity power lines are seen during sunset outside Nantes, France, March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

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(Reuters) - Environmental groups sued the Army Corps of Engineers in Madison, Wisconsin federal court on Wednesday over its permitting of a proposed 102-mile Wisconsin-to-Iowa power line, alleging that the agency unlawfully authorized the project after botching its environmental review.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and others argue that the Corps' February 2020 approval of the $500 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek Project with nationwide and regional permits violates the National Environmental Policy Act because the agency failed to take a "hard look" at how alternatives to the transmission line could have lessened environmental harm such as bird strikes.

Corps spokeswoman Gene Pawlik said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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The above-ground, high-voltage electrical line is a joint project of the American Transmission Company LLC (ATC), ITC Midwest LLC and the Dairyland Power Cooperative. Construction began last week on the line's Iowa segment, said ATC's spokeswoman Alissa Braatz. The project is scheduled to come into service in 2023.

Braatz said the companies are reviewing the lawsuit.

The Corps granted a Nationwide Permit 12 for the Iowa side of the line and a Utility Regional General Permit for its Wisconsin side, said plaintiffs' lawyer Scott Strand of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The plaintiffs say the Corps could have considered less environmentally damaging alternatives including using batteries to store solar power.

They also argue that the Corps failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service in violation of the Endangered Species Act to assess if the project would imperil listed species.

The case is National Wildlife Refuge Association et al v. Sattinger, Steven et al, U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin, No. 3:21-cv-00306.

For National Wildlife Refuge Association et al: Scott Strand of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

(NOTE: A previous version of this story used an incorrect acromym to identify the American Transmission Company LLC. The article also updates the story to reflect that the ATC spokeswoman's comment applies to the companies jointly developing the project.)

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