This somewhat suspicious Plant Manager Job Listing appeared on ThinkEneryGroup’s site on Saturday. It calls for a Power Plant manager to run several plants in Wisconsin.
This is one of only two Plant Manager postings in the entire country that appear on the ThinkEnergy site. These jobs pay over $150,000/year and are not generally filled haphazardly.
According to a local Wisconsin union member familiar with the state’s power plants, the provision in Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill that will allow no-bid contracts (16.896) will only affect two plants, one that powers the University of Wisconsin and one that powers the State Capitol.
The university boiler was an issue during the Governor’s campaign because the Democat he faced was planning to convert the plant from coal to a combination of natural gas and biomass. Walker killed that deal, claiming that a straight gas boiler would be the cheapest option, ignoring some environmental concerns.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes that there are 34 state-owned plants, noting that the sale value of these assets is unclear:
It’s unclear what the market value of the plants would be. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyzed a similar proposal in 2005 and estimated the value of the 34 plants at $235.9 million, offset by $83.9 million in debt.
As the MJ-S story predates the Budget Repair Bill, it does not address which of these 34 plants could be affected by the new bill.
Interestingly, the Environmental Protection Agency is slated to issue a couple of regulations, potentially as soon as today, related to pollution from industrial boilers. It is referred to as “Boiler MACT”. Once the rule becomes law, the state will be on the hook for paying to either install pollution controls on these plants, or to convert them to natural gas in the next three years. One can assume Walker is trying to take the costs of compliance off the state books.
Still, this does not necessarily justify a no-bid contract, which implies that only one company is capable of doing the job that is being contracted and that a bidding process would result in that same company winning the job.
The M J-S story speculates as to the potential buyers of these plants, suggesting “Madison Gas & Electric Co. is a potential buyer, given it already has facilities in downtown Madison.”
All other discussions of the 16.896 provision have drawn hasty connection to Koch Industries based on the billionaire brothers being Walker’s fourth largest donor during his campaign for Governor.