2016 PPSA Annual Hearing

December 23rd, 2016

20161220_1017471

Tuesday was the Annual Hearing for the Power Plant Siting Act.  I’ve been fighting off this sickness that Alan’s had for a week now, and not quite feeling right, more like life inside a pillow, everything’s rather dampened.  But I slogged out into the world, and raised a few of the recurring points, issues with the Power Plant Siting Act, particularly public participation issues common not just to the Power Plant Siting Act (Minn. Stat. Ch. 216E ), but also to wind siting dockets under Minn. St. Ch. 216F, and pipeline routing dockets under Minn. St. Ch. 216G.

Here’s how to submit comments, deadline January 20, 2017:

comments

Until this year, the Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing has included a review, rundown, listing, of all the projects approved by the Commission, including wind and pipelines, and this was anticipated at this hearing per the notice:

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The full Notice:

16-0433 Notice of the Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing

HOWEVER… that report, “Projects Reviewed” section D, “Electric Facilities Not Subject to Power Plant Siting Act, did not occur.  I’d guess in large part it was due to the many issues raised by those intervening and participating, or attempting to participate, in wind siting dockets who have appeared at PPSA Annual Hearings over the years.  And I’m sure they did not want input from those participating and intervening in pipeline dockets, we’ve seen how Enbridge cancelled their “public informational meetings” up north after having to face the public and their legitimate issues the day before in Bemidji.  Alan Mitchell, formerly EQB PPSA staff, and now working for Enbridge, was there, so this was on Enbridge’s radar, but of course, that Alan didn’t have any comments for the record (I do wish I remembered more about the pipeline rules rewrite that he worked on during his time at the EQB, I think somewhere around 2002-2004?).

The ALJ is to write a summary of the Comments, both at the meeting, and those filed afterwards, and then?  What happens?  Experience says “not much.”  PUC staff responded to the “What happens” question saying that things that don’t require statutory changes or rulemaking, that those are things they want to impliment, to change, to improve, and to the extend that we can, we implement.  So he said.  When the report comes from the ALJ, they review it, they’ll have the transcript from this meeting, and will go over it.

There was a pretty crowded room, better attendance than for the last couple of years, with two new members of the public speaking up.  John Munter, who has been very active in opposition to the Sandpiper and now the Line 3 “replacement” pipeline issues, spoke about the difficulties of participating in the dockets, the difficult to untangle web of “need” and “route” dockets, and of the many pipeline projects ongoing.  Tina Carey spoke of the issues she and her neighborhood encountered during construction of the massive “largest in Minnesota” solar project that went up across the street, and that the complaint process was insufficient and ineffective, and the neighborhood’s complaints were disregarded.  Cynthia Warzecha, of the DNR, gave a solid synopsis of DNR activities in PPSA dockets, and I’ll note that the DNR and DOT have really gotten into the groove of reviewing projects and providing material and substantive comments for consideration, in the EIS and in the route or siting docket (and also in environmental review in Certificate of Need dockets).  Kristen Eide-Tollefson spoke as an individual with a 20 year history as a participant in routing and siting dockets, and noted for the record this legislative prelude to the transfer of environmental review from the EQB to the Dept. of Commerce:

2005 Session — Chapter 97, Article 3, lays out the purpose for transfer from EQB to PUC and DOC, of responsibilities for Siting, Routing and Environmental Review.
Environmental Review. Sec. 17. To ensure greater public participation in energy infrastructure approval proceedings and to better integrate and align state energy and environmental policy goals with economic decisions involving large energy infrastructure, all responsibilities, as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 15.039, subdivision 1, held by the Environmental Quality Board relating to power plant siting and routing under Minnesota Statutes, sections 116C.51 to 116C.69; wind energy conversion systems under Minnesota Statutes, sections 116C.691 to 116C.697; pipelines under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116I; and rules associated with those sections are transferred to the Public Utilities Commission under Minnesota Statutes, section 15.039, except that the responsibilities of the Environmental Quality Board under Minnesota Statutes, section 116C.83, subdivision 6, and Minnesota Rules, parts 4400.1700, 4400.2750, and 4410.7010 to 4410.7070, are transferred to the commissioner of the Department of Commerce. The power plant siting staff of the Environmental Quality Board are transferred to the Department of Commerce. The department’s budget shall be adjusted to reflect the transfer.
(emphasis added by moi).  I went on about my laundry list of issues, see e.g., Comment-February 1, 2013 for 2012 PPSA Annual Hearing.  I specifically noted that we’ve been doing this over and over and over, that some changes would require legislative action, but that for those legislative changes that have occurred, and WE’VE NOT YET COMPLETED A RULEMAKING SINCE THE 2005 CHANGES, yes, I’m YELLING, and noted that we’re trying to address some of these issues in a rulemaking begun officially in 2012 and which has not yet come before the commission, and there’s a Minn. R. Ch. 7854 wind rulemaking and Minn. R. Ch. 7030 MPCA noise rulemaking that need to get moving… as if… it’s bogged down and that’s not acceptable.   Alan Muller spoke of his experience and observations of many dockets, and had a specific request — that the ALJ’s report ought to contain the report of the previous year and address what was done with that report, changes instituted, etc., and that this year’s report recommend changes and actions to the Commission.
FYI, here are past summaries and reports:

2000 Summary of Proceedings

2000 Report EQB

2001 Summary of Proceedings

2001 Report EQB

2002 Summary of Proceedings

2002 Report to EQB

2003 Summary of Proceedings

2003 Report to EQB

2004 Summary of Proceedings

2004 Report to EQB

2005 Report to PUC

2006 Report to PUC – Docket 06-1733

2007 Report to PUC – Docket 07-1579

2008 Report to PUC – Docket 08-1426

2009 Report to PUC – Docket 09-1351

2010 Report to PUC – Docket 10-222

2011 Report to PUC – Docket 11-324

2012 Report to PUC – Docket 12-360

2013 Report to PUC – Docket 13-965

2014 Summary Comments– Docket 14-887

2015 Summary Report – Docket 15-785

The most important point to get across?  These siting and routing projects are all connected, and the problems with public participation, and Public Utilities Commission and Dept. of Commerce, and Office of Administrative Hearings efforts to limit it, and yes, it is that direct, are universal across these projects, not found only in PPSA 216E dockets.  We’ve been trying so hard to deal with these issues by “working within the system,” but the system is broken, has been for so long, and the rulemaking (note this 2011 Overland Petition for Rulemaking – February 2011) begun in 2012 (See Rules – Notice for Comnent on Power Plants Transmission) (search PUC dockets for 12-1246) has been stalled out now for way too long.  We’re essentially into 2017.  It’s pretty tough to have any confidence in “the system” with this malingering.
mullertestifies

orangehaired-troll

Trump’s energy agenda, vague as it is, has been essentially to promote “clean coal,” nuclear and to deny climate change and dismantle federal climate change and “renewable” energy programs, of course with no move to eliminate subsidies for coal and nuclear.  The “transition team” sent a big laundry list of questions to the Department of Energy, and it’s pretty broad.  It’s also something that would be both telling and intimidating to receive.  Looking at this, there’s no doubt where they’re headed.

Here’s the document — read it and see what you think… and note how many of these questions are “Can you provide…” which are easily answered with just a “Yes” or “No” and that’s the end of it!

DOE – Trump Transition’s Questions

But wait… there’s another version (similar, but different order, etc.):

DOE – Trump Transition Question #2

I think Trump needs somebody to write his questions for him, somebody new that is.  He obviously didn’t come up with this, but his staff person who did, well, if they worked for me, “YOU’RE FIRED!”

mickeymouse

Here we go again, the Annual Hearing for the Power Plant Siting Act.

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The full Notice:

16-0433 Notice of the Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing

Now’s the time to dig back into the cobwebs of memory of all the dockets over the last year, and the last 20+ years, and let them know how the Power Plant Siting Act is working, and more importantly, how it’s not working.

Comments are open until January 20, 2017.  To file in eDockets (highly recommended), go here, and log in.  If you don’t have an account, register (it’s simple, and fast) and then file in docket 16-18.

Note something different, this year they’re going to go over pipeline projects:

iiid2Recently, I’ve been involved in a project working toward increased meaningful and effective public participation in a pipeline docket, and what’s going through my head as I attend meetings, conference calls, and read very long intense emails, is that this is exactly what we’ve been talking about at these Power Plant Siting Act hearings for TWENTY YEARS!  This is exactly what we’ve been working to deal with in the Certificate of Need Minn. Ch. 7849 rulemaking for THREE YEARS!  These are exactly the same issues I’ve been raising in docket after docket, gaining a remand in one, some “adjustments” in others, and even to the appellate court a couple of times — MCEA had more success in this (see the EIS decision here).  And so little changes.

2000 Summary of Proceedings

2000 Report EQB

2001 Summary of Proceedings

2001 Report EQB

2002 Summary of Proceedings

2002 Report to EQB

2003 Summary of Proceedings

2003 Report to EQB

2004 Summary of Proceedings

2004 Report to EQB

2005 Report to PUC

2006 Report to PUC – Docket 06-1733

2007 Report to PUC – Docket 07-1579

2008 Report to PUC – Docket 08-1426

2009 Report to PUC – Docket 09-1351

2010 Report to PUC – Docket 10-222

2011 Report to PUC – Docket 11-324

2012 Report to PUC – Docket 12-360

2013 Report to PUC – Docket 13-965

2014 Summary Comments– Docket 14-887

2015 Summary Report – Docket 15-785

OK, folks, time to saddle up for another cattle drive!  Let’s get to it!

And on December 20… sigh…

epa

There was a Wisconsin focused EPA “listening session” last Tuesday in Eau Claire, and I received an email today urging comments be sent to the EPA.  Didn’t notice that this was happening, GRRRRRRRRR.  But in the request for comments, there’s little info on what to focus on, other than “water.”  Hmmmm… I’m letting my imagination run wild, as in, “well… that’s a deep subject!”

Here’s a video of the session via Steve Hanson’s blog:

EPA Water Listening Session in Eau Claire

The EPA, and particularly Region 5, needs a lot of pressure now, after Region 5’s Susan Hedman’s “Flint failure” and her subsequent resignation.  As we know, Drumpf wants to dismantle the EPA, which has long been on the Republican agenda.  So we need not only pressure, but support and funding for EPA to be able to do its job, and active resistance to Myron Ebell, Drumpf’s EPA appointment.

Add to that the EPA’s delegation of much of its regulatory activities to the states (delegation primer here), in Minnesota air quality regulation is delegated to the Pollution Control Agency, and we see the state has a role as well.  In Minnesota, there were funding cuts, so extreme that there’s a backlog of expires air permits, and those air permits are unlikely to be reissued under current regulations, so the emissions go on and on, allowed if the operator/owner files for a permit renewal.  This is the case with Xcel’s Red Wing garbage burner, where the permit expired in 2009.  It’s one example of hundreds here in Minnesota, where the MPCA has authority via EPA delegation.

This Wisconsin “listening session” comes at a time when Wisconsin’s DNR has been stripped of funding, employees, and authority by Walker’s administration.  What’s left?  The state agency is hobbled — that’s one of the primary issues!

Regarding Wisconsin, I think the thing to do is to demand that EPA take back regulatory authority because Wisconsin is unwilling and unable to do the job!

Here are examples:

EPA Page – NPDES Petition for Program Withdrawal in Minnesota

EPA Page – NPDES Petition for Program Withdrawal in Wisconsin

Here’s contact info for the EPA, from the EPA site:

Use this link to comment form to send the a comment or question, or send email to r5hotline@epa.gov.
If you’d like a reply, please tell the EPA how to reach you.

Mailing Address:

US EPA Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604

Do let them know what you think!

gasification_schematic

After this election, there are so many things to be concerned about, so many reasons to be utterly horrified… a Muslim database, Trump’s fraud trial to begin November 28th, promise of mass deportations, sharp increase in hate crimes, assaults and threats on the street and in the schools (and online, oh my!).  Trump’s “100 Days” plan was out in October, and has many points, full of words to decode, including a ‘clean coal’ reference, showing he’s clueless, just clueless:

Trump’s Contract with the American voter — the First 100 Days

In the 2nd and 3rd debate, Trump used those two words that have deep meaning to me, “clean coal,” because of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project here in Minnesota, and because of the NRG proposed IGCC plant in Delaware, both of which were defeated after a long protracted fight.  There is no such thing as ‘clean coal.”

mesabaone

Coal gasification is one thing that my coal-plant designing Mechanical Engineer father and I had some bonding moments over, going over EPRI coal gasification reports from the 80s and the Mesaba application…  And I had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside my father’s boss’s son, who is also an engineer, formerly with NSP/Xcel, who knew what a bad idea coal gasification is.  Oh yeah, we who fought these projects have learned a lot about coal gasification, “carbon capture and storage,” and will not go there again (see Legalectric and CAMP – Citizens Against the Mesaba Project sites for more info).  We know it doesn’t work.  And experience with the few projects that did go forward, what a mess, cost overruns beyond the wildest SWAG estimate, inability to get the plant running…  Trump, don’t even think about it:

IGCC – Pipedreams of Green and Clean

IGCC, coal gasification, is nothing new.  And despite its long history, it’s a history of failure, failure to live up to promises, failure to operate as a workable technology, and failure to produce electricity at a marketable cost, failure to produce electricity at all!  On top of that, it’s often touted as being available with “CO2 capture and storage” which it is not.  That’s a flat out lie.  Check this old Legalectric post:

More on Carbon Capture Pipedream

A key to this promotion is massive subsidies from state and federal sources, and selection of locations desperate for economic jump-start, so desperate that they’ll bite on a project this absurd, places like Minnesota’s Iron Range, or southern Indiana, or Mississippi.  The financing scam was put together at Harvard, and this blueprint has been used for all of these IGCC projects:

Harvard I – 3 Party Covenant

That, coupled with massive payments to “environmental” organizations to promote coal gasification, and they were off to the races.

Joyce Foundation PROMOTES coal gasification

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation & IGCC – WHY???

VP-elect Mike Pence should know all about coal gasification, he’s from Indiana.  Indiana is coal generation central, and has had a couple of IGCC projects planned, construction started, and built.  Indiana’s Wabash Valley plant is a perfect example, a small IGCC plant that was built, and after it was “completed,” took 22 on-site engineers to keep it running, now and then, at a greatly reduced capacity.

Wabash River Final Technical Report (it was “routinely” in violation of its water permit for selenium, cyanide and arsenic)

When they tried to sell the Wabash Valley plant recently, of course no one wanted it:

Wabash Valley coal gasification plant closing!

And another Indiana plant, with huge cost overruns that never started operating:

Rockport coal gasification plant dies – Indianapolis Star

Coal News: $2.8B coal gasification plant in Indiana canceled

And then there’s Edwardsport IGCC plant, also in Indiana, what a disaster:

Edwardsport plant not at promised capacity

Settlement won’t be the last word on controversial Indiana coal plant

Duke Energy Edwardsport Plant Settlement Expanded

The original settlement in September was a response to the plant’s rising operating costs while failing to meet performance expectations.

In the new agreement, Duke Energy agrees not to charge customers for $87.5 million of the operating costs of the Edwardsport plant, $2.5 million more than the original agreement.

And note that problems with Edwardsport tie in to similar problems with the Kemper IGCC plant in Mississippi:

Indiana ‘cease fire’ could provide a model for Mississippi regulators

Yes, in Mississippi, the Kemper IGCC plant is proving to be a problem, and yes, folks, note the Obama promotion of IGCC — after all, Obama is from Illinois, a coal state, and had lots of support from coal lobbyists.  Check this detailed NY Times article:

Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model “Clean Coal’ project: Mississippi project, a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan, has been plagued by problems that managers tried to conceal, and by cost overruns and questions of who will pay.

The sense of hope is fading fast, however. The Kemper coal plant is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational.

The plant and its owner, Southern Company, are the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company. Members of Congress have described the project as more boondoggle than boon. The mismanagement is particularly egregious, they say, given the urgent need to rein in the largest source of dangerous emissions around the world: coal plants.

Trump, just don’t.