20160721_172836[1]

Well, that was interesting… and it took all evening!

First a sidebar, but an important one.  The Agenda CBS Public Meeting-Minneapolis caught my attention, seeing PUC Commissioner John Tuma named front and center. The PUC’s page  on Commissioner ex parte, conflict, and basic decorum has disappeared — I called the PUC about Commissioner Tuma’s appearance (fair warning, prior to event), and noted that the page had disappeared.  Here are the rules (the page was what stressed the importance of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety:

7845.0400 CONFLICT OF INTEREST; IMPROPRIETY.

Subpart 1. General behavior.

A commissioner or employee shall respect and comply with the law and shall behave in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the commission’s decision making process.

Subp. 2. Actions prohibited.

Commissioners and employees shall avoid any action that might result in or create a conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety, including:

A. using public office for private gain;

B. giving preferential treatment to an interested person or entity;

C. impeding the efficiency or economy of commission decision making;

D. losing independence or impartiality of action;

E. making a commission decision outside official channels; and

F. affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the commission.

7845.0700 PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES.

Subp. 4. Outside employment.

A commissioner or employee shall not negotiate for or accept outside employment or other involvement in a business or activity that will impair the person’s independence of judgment in the exercise of official duties.

I registered this in a Comment section, provided copies of the rules, and expected something similar to Commissioner Koppendrayer’s response in a similar situation years ago (see below). Commissioner Tuma is new, and being there was not the worst of possible activities, other past and present Commissioners have done much worse, but it’s not OK.  His presence on the panel, on the stage, lends the impression of support of the DOE’s efforts, and nuclear waste, nuclear decommissioning funds, nuclear uprates and rehab, all are issues that have been and will be in front of the Commission in highly contested cases.  It lends the appearance of losing independence, impartiality, and impairment of judgment in future exercise of official duties.

I’ve seen this a few times.  One positive experience was at the Sawmill Inn when Commissioner Koppendrayer was named on a coal gasification love-fest panel when Excelsior’s Mesaba Project was before the PUC, and I’d called the Commission ahead of time and spoken to the then Asst. A.G. who said, not to worry, they knew ex parte and conflict of interest and rules of decorum.  Yet at that meeting, which Koppendrayer DID attend despite advance warning, I jumped up and objected from the back of the room, noting the PUC’s focus on avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, and Koppendrayer said something like “Overland’s got a point, and I should leave” and he did!  He earned quite a few “respect” points that day.   IEDC gets carried away  February 15, 2007.

On the other hand, I’m also remembering Commissioner Phyllis Reha’s coal gasification junket to Belgium via Great Plains Institute, a well-funded toady for coal gasification (and GPI was on panel last night, another cause for concern, how much were they paid!).  How blatant can you get?  MCGP Request for Recusal (Commission saw no problem!).

Reha-Europe2007GroupPhoto_1

… and there’s her stumping for CapX 2020 transmission: PUC Commissioner Reha: Enhancing the Nation’s Electricity Delivery System.  That was the basis of another Motion, but of course, Commissioner Reha and the Commission saw no problem with her actions!  NoCapX Motion to Recuse Commissioner Reha & Exhibit A – Reha Power Point Presentation.

And then there’s Great Plains Institute’s involvement.  After their intense and well funded toadying for coal gasification ($437,000 over 21 months), and transmission, and then Xcel Energy’s e21, Dog help us!  Anything GPISD in involved with has got my attention, and not in a good way!

Last night’s agenda was packed, and we got a lot done.  A guy name Scott Thomas (the NSP engineer perhaps?) was at my table and jumped up and objected when we had a bit of opposition theater, I jumped up to counter, DOH, every hear of freedom of speech.  I mean really, it took all of 5 minutes, let people speak up!

Here’s my comment, in large part based on “consent” a la SNUY’s approach for sexual consent, substituting “nuclear” for sexual — if we’re going to get screwed, this is the best possible of consent definitions:

DOE – Overland Comment 7-21-2016

Here’s the DOE’s Consent-Based Siting page.  Notice was in the Federal Register, who reads that? Invitation for Public Comment in the Federal Register.  Comments are being taken through July 31 or email to them at consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov.

Here’s how they’re framing it, with questions to be answered:

  • How can the Department ensure that the process for selecting a site is fair?
  • What models and experience should the Department use in designing the process?
  • Who should be involved in the process for selecting a site, and what is their role?
  • What information and resources do you think would facilitate your participation?
  • What else should be considered?

We broke into small groups and actually had a pretty good discussion.  Peggy Rehder, Red Wing City Council, was also at “Table 2” and of course we’re disagreeing.  She’s frustrated at having spent 6 years on this and getting nowhere, but in terms of nuclear waste, 6 years is but a second or two…  I’ve got 22 years in, and some there had many more.  A key point was that the DOE must restore trust if it wants to get anywhere, and how would that happen?  Stopping production of more nuclear waste is a key step.  Dream on… this process is a move to enable continued generation of nuclear waste, continued operation of nuclear plants, now being relicensed, uprated, nuclear waste expanded.

Prairie Island’s President Shelly Buck was on the panel, and that was good — PIIC is in such a mess, the plant and nuclear waste right next door, and they’ve been screwed over so many ways, so many times.  Will they be regarded as a “stakeholder” this time around?  They’ve intervened in so many nuclear matters, doing everything they can to protect the Community…

Parts of it were webcast.  There will be a video of the evening’s festivities sometime, LINK HERE (when it’s posted, scroll down to “Minneapolis”) and there was a photographer snapping shots every few seconds (hmmmm, well, I guess that will be added to all our files!).

Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition (that SEED Coalition grew from Energy Foundation funding, same as MN’s defunct “SEED Coalition” which morphed into “RE-AMP” about 2005), was present, and vocal (YES!), regarding their concerns about nuclear waste siting in Texas and New Mexico, particularly about a recent application to NRC for a nuclear waste storage facility in western Texas, near the New Mexico border. See www.NoNuclearWasteAqui.org for more info.

Alan Muller, environmental consultant in Minnesota, and Exec. Dir. of Green Delaware, spoke of his having TWO Prairie Island reactors on the other side of town here in Red Wing, and the THREE Salem and Hope Creek reactors, visible from the office window in Port Penn, Delaware.

AlanGreenDel

Here’s the Arizona meeting, CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE.  Well worth the listen, the panel is much better qualified than the one in Minnesota (with the exception of Prairie Island’s Shelly Buck, and Canada’s Kathryn Shaver from their Adaptive Phases Management Engagement and Site Selection, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, listen up to them when Mpls. video is released).

Take some time and consider the DOE’s informational booklet.  Put your thoughts together and send in comments: consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov.

I think it’s worth trotting out the EQB Citizens Advisory Task Force report on nuclear waste, from the Florence Township Nuclear Waste Daze:

Florence Twp Site – Citizens Advisory Task Force – Nuclear Dry Cask Storage

And also thing about the many casks on Prairie Island — those TN-40s and TN-29 have aluminum seals that need to be replaced EVERY 20 YEARS, and to my knowledge they’ve not been replaced, and there are casks that have been loaded and sitting there for more than 20 years.  What’s up with that?  What’s the plan?  Back when they were permitting that, there was no plan.  So…

Consider this 3 Stooges approach to cask unloading — don’t know of any other attempt to unload casks, maybe that’s one of the lessons learned here:

INEL TN-24P stuck

Here’s an INEL report on a TN24 leak:

10813-TN-24P leak

And an NRC report on unloading:

NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 97-51:  PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED WITH LOADING 
AND UNLOADING SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE AND TRANSPORTATION                             CASKS

Here’s an EPRI report on (these technical reports are important!) Creep and Crud, which occurs with storage:

100217 – Creep & Crud

Here’s a report generated after the “ignition event” at Pt. Beach, where spent fuel was loaded in a cask, then set out of the pool, and let sit overnight, then they attempted to well it, well, welding cask full of bubbles of hydrogen from the interaction of zinc and the acidic solution the assemblies are sitting in, left overnight, BOOM!

NRC_ Bulletin 96-04_ Chemical, Galvanic, or Other Reactions in Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation Casks

Where are all the reports about the weld flaws on the VSC-24 casks?  They’re in Pt. Beach, Palisades, and Arkansas One.

Estimated Risk Contribution for Dry Spent Fuel Storage Cask

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis of Welded Stainless Steel Canisters for Dry Cask Storage Systems – EPRI

And here’s a report relevant to us here in Minnesota, given all our granite and our “2nd place” position in the federal site selection resulting in “choice” of Yucca Mountain:

Granite report SAND2011 6203

 

There are a few more hearings for Xcel Energy’s rate case coming up:

RemainingHearings

Who cares about this rate case?  Center for American Experiment does, but it’s a pretty myopic view, claiming that “Renewable Mandate Drives New Increase in Utility Bills.”  Wish they’d read the testimony.  Anyway, you all should care because this is a transmission driven rate case (see 2A2_MYRP_Chuck Burdick Testimony p. 28-30; 2C2_Xmsn_Benson)     Greasing the skids was a consensus agreement reached by Xcel Energy  on many issues, including Xcel’s proposal for a “Multi-Year Rate” plan prior to legislation being introduced to give Xcel what it wanted:

Exhibit 1B – e21_Initiative_Phase_I_Report_2014 – Xcel Filing PUC Docket 14-1055

Note this snippet, where they’re whining that their grid is only 55% utilized:

(N) Identify and develop opportunities to reduce customer costs by improving overall grid efficiency.  In Minnesota, the total electric system utilization is approximately 55 percent (average demand divided by peak demand), thus providing an opportunity to reduce system costs by better utilizing existing system assets (e.g., generation, wires, etc.). (e21_Initiative_Phase_I_Report, p. 11).

Well, DOH, we know that CapX 2020 wasn’t needed, we know the purpose was evident in the map starting at the Dakota coal fields, and putting it on our land wasn’t enough (for those who think it’s “for wind” no, it’s not, what a crock, you should have heard the testimony, seen the exhibits, the record demonstrates it isn’t, www.nocapx2020.info), now they want a whole new scheme for us to pay for their infrastructure to sell coal eastward?

CapXFor some reason, this docket disappeared… wonder who all on this consensus e21_Initiative_Phase_I_Report made that happen!?!

e21ParticipantsOr maybe the e21 Project Team?

e21ProjectTeamDoes anyone else care that Matt Schuerger, most recent Dayton appointee to the Public Utilities Commission, was instrumental in working the e21 scam?  Shouldn’t he have to recuse himself from any consideration of Xcel Energy’s e21 Initiative rate case?

And look at Bill Grant’s role in e21.  He’s now Deputy Commissioner at Commerce in charge of energy issues, and was for 20+ years head of Midwest Izaak Walton League (working over then employee Beth Solholt and IWLA employee, now PUC Commissioner, Nancy Lange).  Given Nancy Lange’s role in e21, she should also recuse herself.

And then there’s Mikey Bull’s role, as he recounts, and look who all is involved:

The e21 Initiative started as little more than a glimmer in my eye a couple of years ago, when I was a Manager of Policy and Strategy for Xcel Energy.  I’d just come back from a meeting at the Edison Electric Institute about the impact of various dynamics – low load growth, increasing infrastructure investments, deeper penetrations of distributed resources – on the current utility business model. In general, rates were going to rise under the current model far faster as a result of those forces, and utility revenues become more uncertain.

Those dynamics were later chronicled in the Disruptive Challenges report issued by the Edison Electric Institute in January 2013. I realized that it was important for Xcel to try and get out ahead of the curve.

So I reached out from Xcel to Rolf Nordstrom at the Great Plains Institute and Nancy Lange then at CEE (now a Minnesota PUC commissioner), to start putting the e21 project together. Rolf and I worked to put a strong core project team together – CEE, Great Plains, Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, George Washington University Law School and consultant Matt Schuerger. We then compiled a terrific group of stakeholders who together represent much of what constitutes the public interest – low income customer advocates, small and large business representatives, utilities, environmental organization, cities and other public entities, and regulators. Beginning last February, this group of 25-30 stakeholders met monthly for day-long sessions that were wonderfully facilitated by Rolf and Jennifer Christenson, his colleague at GPI, toiling together deep in the weeds of utility regulation.
It was an honor to work with all of them, as we coalesced around the set of consensus recommendations detailed in the report.

Here’s the full recap:

e21_MikeBull_Center for Energy and Environment

wallstreetbull2

The legislation, SF1735, well, check the links below, and you can see how that went down.  I was there, seeing is believing.  First it was introduced, but despite the full room of SILENT “usual suspects” who had acquiesced to e21, and only a couple of us objecting to the bill, Sen. John Marty pulled it from consideration, initially on the Senate Energy and Environment Committee same days as legislative extension of the Getty and Black Oak wind contracts (the project couldn’t do it before the PUC so they go to the legislature), stuck in a placeholder “e21 Lite” and then put it in later as part of the Energy Ominous Bill, SF 1431:

These issues were raised, e21 marches onward, and here we are, in a rate case.

 

 

Graphic3

Dairyland Power Cooperative’s transmission through Onalaska and La Crosse is something to see…

Dairyland Power Cooperative and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service has released the “Q-1D South” Environmental Assessment, open for Comment until July 1, 2016:

Q1-South_Environmental Assessment (BIG FILE)

And from Dairyland’s site:

Briggs Road to La Crosse Tap (Q-1D South) – Environmental Assessment

Comments are due July 1, 2016 — send to:

USDA’s Dennis Rankin:  dennis.rankin@wdc.usda.gov

(I’d also cc DPC’s Chuck Thompson:  cat@dairynet.com)

By U.S. Mail:

Dennis Rankin

Environmental Protection Specialist

USDA Rural Utilities Service

1400 Independence Avenue S.W.

Mailstop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250-1571

What’s to comment on?  I see two issues that should be sufficient to stop this project in its tracks — the debt load of Dairyland Power Cooperative and the physical setting of the project which too near and right over people’s homes.

Debt load — Dairyland Power Cooperative’s debt is excessive and should prohibit taking on more debt:

Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Annual Meeting was last week.  One purpose of an organization’s Annual Meeting is to discuss its financial status and approve plans going forward.

Dairyland depends on federal USDA/RUS loans to pay for its transmission expansion, such as the Q-1 transmission upgrades, including Marshland-Briggs Road and now the stretch from Briggs Road to North La Crosse south of I-90. Another USDA/RUS loan paid for Dairyland’s share of the CapX La Crosse line now blighting the bluffs. Dairyland will also be part owner of the MISO Hickory Creek to Cardinal line from Iowa to Madison. That’s a lot of transmission and loans.

Dairyland recognized this financial risk and lopsided debt/equity position, and in 2012 sought help from FERC_(DPC_Request4DeclaratoryOrder), requesting a hypothetical capital structure of 35 percent equity and 65 percent debt when its actual capital structure was 16.5 percent equity and 83.5 percent debt, and FERC did grant this relief in an Order for DPC for CapX 2020 (see FERC Docket, go HERE and plug in docket EL13-19-000).  That Order, and the 83.5/16.5% debt/equity ratio was prior to the present Q-1 D South project and the MISO MVP Hickory Creek to Cardinal transmission line.  Dairyland requested a “hypothetical” (bogus) debt/equity ratio to preserve its credit rating and enable low cost loans. The true debt level makes DPC a higher risk.

Are Dairyland members aware of the 83.5%/16.5 % debt/equity ratio and reliance on loans for major transmission projects? What’s the debt level where new projects are included? This new transmission enables increased power marketing and sales, a private purpose. Is this highly leveraged position for new transmission in the best interests of Cooperative members?

Physical setting of the project — it’s just too close!

The map way above is what the transmission system in the area looks like theoretically, according to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, but here’s what Dairyland’s Q-1 South line looks like on the ground:

Ulman_St[1]

Really… Here’s what it looks like from a satellite with the lines drawn in, on the far south:

End of the Line

Here’s what it looks like further north — look at all those homes:

Sheet Map 3

And here’s what the Wisconsin PSC Code says about clearances in PSCW 114.234:

(2) Transmission lines over dwelling units. [Follows NESC 234C1b, p. 119] (Addition) Add the following paragraph c:
c. Transmission lines over dwelling units.
No utility may construct conductors of supply lines designed to operate at voltages in excess of 35 kV over any portion of a dwelling unit. This provision also applies to line conductors in their wind-displaced position as defined in Rule 234A2.
Note: It is the intent under s. SPS 316.225(6) that the public not construct any portion of a dwelling unit under such lines.
Note: The term “dwelling unit” has the meaning given in ch. SPS 316, which adopts by reference the definitions in NEC-2008.
Note: See s. SPS 316.225(6) Clearance Over Buildings and Other Structures, which refers to ch. PSC 114 regarding clearance of conductors over 600 volts and the prohibition of dwellings under or near overhead lines.
So look what Dairyland says about these clearance problems, first on page 3-3 of the Q1-South_Environmental Assessment in its discussion of alternatives, specifically joining with Xcel Energy, which has a similar line right through the community over homes and through yards on the other side of the highway:
p23
Though there’s no case law about this, Dairyland states, “This provision likely applies to Xcel as a public utility but not DPC as a cooperative.”  That’s pretty presumptive, with no basis for the presumption, DPC!  And they wiggle around again, claiming the code doesn’t apply to them 10 pages later:
[33_1p33_2
Do you buy that argument???  First, they don’t even cite the correct PSCW section, using “PSCW 114.234(a)(4)” rather than PSCW 114.234(a)(2).  Note they state that “public utilities may seek waivers of any rule expanding upon NESC requirements…”  But if they’re saying the code doesn’t apply to them, why would this apply to them and they can seek a waiver?  Under their argument that the PSC Code doesn’t apply to them because they’re a cooperative, then if that applied, then this would not apply to them either.  Or is it the opposite, that the Code does apply to them, they cannot rebuild the line under  and have to apply for a waiver to the PSC?  Which is it, Dairyland?  Oh, but wait, I thought part of why you’re doing it the way you are, applying to local governments, in this short segmented version of your Q-1 line, was that you don’t want to have to go to the PSC, that you’re trying to get around it…
Segments
Segmenting, particularly segmenting to avoid environmental review, is not OK, Dairyland…
Remember, comments are due July 1, 2016 — send to:

USDA’s Dennis Rankin:  dennis.rankin@wdc.usda.gov

(I’d also cc DPC’s Chuck Thompson:  cat@dairynet.com)

By U.S. Mail:

Dennis Rankin

Environmental Protection Specialist

USDA Rural Utilities Service

1400 Independence Avenue S.W.

Mailstop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250-1571

gavel

WOW… can you believe??  It’s not just me, it’s not just denial of Intervention of No CapX 2020.  See 20162-118122-01_Denial2_Overland-NoCapX Intervention.

Intervention as a party in this Rate Case is only open to those who sold out to Xcel Energy and it’s “business plan” agenda of e21.

This is the most recent Order in the Xcel Energy Rate Case:

Order Denying Intervention – SunShare & ILSR

Here are their Intervention Petitions:

ILSR_Intervention_20164-120145-01

SunShare_Intervention_20164-120144-01

To see the full Rate Case docket, go to the PUC’s Search Documents page, and search for Docket 15-826.

And the Order… Dig this, parroting Xcel’s objections:

Order1

And this, even worse, as if the interests of the “Clean Energy Organizations” who bought into, stumped for, and sat quietly during the legislative hearings about Xcel Energy‘s e21 Initiative are the same as the interests of SunShare and Institute for Local Self-Reliance – ILSR:

Order2

This is SO offensive.  There is no consideration that the perspectives are different, only statements that the issues, the concerns, are the same.

The late, great Myer Shark, rate case Intervenor extraordinaire, would spin in his grave at the limitations of participation in this rate case.

Myer Shark, Lawyer Who Fought Utility, Is Dead at 94

In the Matter of the Complaint by Myer Shark, et al …

USSupreme-Court

Here’s an interesting case (oh, how I hate that word “interesting”).  It’s about whether a state can offer “incentives” over and above FERC wholesale electric rates that would incentivize construction of new in-state generation.  US SCt says NO!  The states can only regulate retail rates.

Hughes v Talen Energy Marketing_14-614 April 19, 2016

This is a case regarding Maryland “incentives” and PJM, but it’s applicable to our good friends at MISO too.

So do tell, what does this mean for FERC set rates of recovery and cost allocation for all this transmission to enable the wholesale market?  What happens when FERC rates stick their nose under the tent in state rate proceedings, i.e., Schedule 26A covering return and cost allocation for these big transmission projects we know and love?  From what I can see of Schedule 26A, they’re allocating a “retail share” and, well, what business does FERC, via MISO (in this area), have with retail rates?

Transmission Rate Information

Schedule 26A – Indicative Rate Charges MISO (last updated 3/31/2016)

Look at all the ways we’re charged for transmission:

Transmission Pricing – MISO