Legal Memorandum: Retirement of Long-Lived Assets in WI

Issue: Legal Obligations for the Retirement of Long-Lived Assets for Public Utility Operators in Wisconsin.

Area of Law: Administrative Law, Administrative Law & Regulation (Federal and State), Environmental Law
Keywords: Retirement or abandonment of long-lived assets; Public utility operators; Legal obligations
Jurisdiction: Wisconsin
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Wis. Stat. § 196.81(1), § 196.81(2); Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 2.11; Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 132.09; 49 C.F.R. Part 192; Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 135.727
Date: 11/01/2004

A review of Wisconsin sources found some relevant regulation on the abandonment of utility facilities.  Chapter 196 of the Wisconsin Statutes addresses public utility regulation in general.  Section 196.81 requires the approval of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission before abandonment or discontinuance of lines or extensions.  Wis. Stat. § 196.81(1) (2004).  Any approval of the abandonment of a right-of-way by an electric utility must be predicated on the removal of any pole at ground level and the removal of any other structure extending more than three feet above ground level.  Id. § 196.81(2).  If the right-of-way is located in a rural area and was acquired by condemnation, the right-of-way must be disposed of within three years of the abandonment in the absence of a showing of undue hardship.  Id.

This statutory authority, in turn, has lead to some administrative regulation on the same topic.

  • Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 2.11 (2004) requires a public hearing prior to the abandonment of facilities or discontinuance of service unless prior consent of all affected customers is obtained.  The regulation is phrased in the disjunctive ("abandon facilities or discontinue service"), which would tend to establish that the hearing is required even if the abandonment does not disrupt service.
  • Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 132.09 (2004) addresses the removal of facilities located on right-of-ways within railroad property.  This provision allows the utility to leave the facilities on the property unless removal is ordered by the Commission.

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