Today was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s meeting on Monticello Relicensing to gather comments on scope of the Environmental Impact Statement. So I went from meltdown of nuclear family (ugh, divorces are no fun) to meltdown of political and environmental policy that results in nuclear relicensing, all in 90 minutes and 75 miles! The Xcel company line has changed over the last 10 years though it has the same result, more nuclear power, and those who fiercely opposed nuclear power are now for the most part silenced, there’s virtually no turn out for a decision with a 10,000 year impact.

Xcel’s Jim Alders, manager of all the Xcel projects from hell, had this to say in a recent Pulse article:


?Nuclear power plants are part of our baseload facilities; they operate around the clock,? he said. ?We?re going to have to add hundreds and hundreds of megawatts of new power plants, just to keep up with the demand for electricity. That?s where there should be a vigorous debate about how much of that should be in renewables. You don?t increase the potential for renewable resources by doing away with nuclear power plants. What you do instead is make the cost of electricity more expensive.?

Xcel’s IRP echos Alder’s statements and adds lots and lots of coal to the mix. This is the energy future we face. Renewables? Don’t bet on it, and with this level of participation, or non-participation in nuclear relicensing of Monticello and Prairie Island, and dry cask storage on Monticello that won’t be going anywhere soon, there’s little room for renewables of any stripe. OH, and then there’s all that new coal… Check Xcel’s Baseload Need Assessment.

When I checked in, there was a sheet of notebook paper with a bunch of names, about 2/3 full, and I went to sign in, turns out that was a list of Xcel and Nuclear Management Company, LLC (NMC – NSP, and owners of WI and IA nuclear generation) spun off nuclear operations to NMC back in 2000) people who were there. So there was the usual handful, a few from the press, a couple state agency wonks, and 80% Xcel toadies. Only a handful spoke.

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Kristen Eide Tollefson
, of Frontenac, and who runs the Bookhouse in Dinkytown, was there of course, and offered comments and questions about the SAMA. She’d submitted these comments on the Monticello EIS Scoping for the Certificate of Need for Dry Cask Storage. Today’s meeting had a similar purpose, but it’s a federal inquiry, more strict rules. Julie Risser, who wrote that great editorial in the Northfield News was there, the state observer for the League of Women Voters. George spoke, of course, and was shut down midstream, and Lea Foushee who had a powerful and heartfelt statement reminding us that the City of Minneapolis gets its water from the Mississippi.

Here’s the NRC site for the Monticello docket.
Here’s instructions for the NRC participatory novice.

And the EQB has a good linkable list of entries on its Monticello Certificate of Need Environmental Review docket. Here’s my EQB EIS scoping comment — the idea is to not limit the EQB inquiry to those issues the state may regulate, that’s VERY limited, because the state needs to gather information to be able to intervene at the NRC and represent Minnesota’s environmental interests, so I urged them to use this opportunity to build the record now. sigh…

My goal? If they insist on building Mesaba, shut down Monticello and Prairie Island and build coal gasification there. It’s all connected.

I was late, of course, to the I-35 Committee #1 meeting, held in the Forest Town Hall.

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When I walked in, there was a discussion going of “whether they should analyze the no-build option.” Ummm… what’s the issue, the EQB guidelines for an Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) are clear, a “no-build” analysis must be done. MUST! They even use capital letters!

Remember how appalled I was that no one, NO ONE, on the Planning Commission had read the EQB’s summary of the requirements? The one that’s on the EQB home page? Free? Easy access? Color me stupid, but I expect decision makers to make the effort to understand what it is they’re approving… silly me!
Well, it gets worse. Here they are taking up at least half an hour of valuable meeting time talking about “whether” they should do the “no-build.” Here’s what the EQB says about that:

Important Note: Every AUAR document MUST review one or more development scenarios based on and consistent with the RGU?s Comprehensive Plan in effect when the AUAR is officially ordered. (This is equivalent to reviewing the ?no-build? alternative in an EIS.) If an RGU expects to amend its existing Comprehensive Plan, it has the options of deferring the start of the AUAR until after adopting the amended plan or reviewing developments based on both the existing and amended comprehensive plans; however, it cannot review only a development based on an expected amendment to the existing plan.

OK, let’s take a look. The AUAR must review one or more scenarios with the plan IN EFFECT at the time the AUAR was ordered. Let’s see, what plan was IN EFFECT at the time the A?UAR was ordered. DUH, the new plan is NOT in effect until DECEMBER 31, 2005. Remember? So if it’s not in effect, the equivalent of the “no-build” must be done. Now was that so hard?

It’s difficult for Rice County’s Committee #1 because those leading the meeting did not want the analysis of the “no-build” to occur. There is no innocent explanation.

When I heard the group talking about it, I’d gotten out my copy of the AUAR guidelines, and underlined that paragraph, and brought it up to the conslutant, plus enough copies for the entire group, yet the conslutant tried to dismiss me, as did Gordon Kelly. Let me see if I understand this, there is an agency guideline, issued by the same agency that writes the AUAR rules, and they are holding a “discussion” regarding that very issue, and they are not interested in it. OK, then we’ll have to assume that their obliviousness to the guideline is intentional. As the oblivious discussion moved on, it became apparent that they were actually going to vote on it, and that the result would be not to do a “no-build,” I jumped up and said “The EQB requires a no-build,” holding the EQB AUAR guideline in the air. Then the conslutant “wanted” to see it. Right… the conslutant then read it to the group and explained that since the county had voted on the change, the group is not required to do the “no-build.” He did not address the timing of the zoning change, that the review has to be done under the zoning in effect, IN EFFECT, not voted on, at the time the AUAR was ordered. They must do the review based on the zoning in effect now, and not on December 31, 2005. This really isn’t that difficult — unless there’s an intended result different from that required by the EQB.

Then the conslutants passed around their copies of that EQB document. BUT it wasn’t that document, it was one from 2004, and that document omits that section I just quoted about the “no-build.” What’s the difference between the two? Just two variations in language. There’s one insignificant difference, but notably the major difference in the versions is that the above paragraph from page 2 about the need for a “no-build” review is missing! It’s not there in the one they handed out. Nada. Here the county is paying big bucks to these conslutants, and they are handing out the WRONG guidelines.

Apparently it is very important that the “no-build” not be analyzed. What’s that about? What would make someone so dead-set against considering not enacting this plan that the “professionals” would use outdated documents — I had given them 15 copies of accurate up-to-date ones and they acted like they were coated with anthrax. When I pointed out that paragraph to them, they acted as if they would throw me out! Planned, intentional institutional deceit is what I’d call it.

Folks, we have really got a problem here. The conslutants are the actors, leading this group by the nose, but who are the directors? Who’s the producer? Who’s the financier?

Great, power just went out, back on, and I don’t want to blow up this computer. So much for Xcel’s SAIDI, CAIDI and SAIFI’s!

It’s everywhere today — hard to miss that people are concerned about the way Rice County is trying to ram the I-35 development through and the recognition that development should mean community enrichment, not exploitation and taxation of a community for private enrichment. Here’re the Northfield News articles today.

Responding to the I-35 Master Plan

LWV hosts Fourth Monday forum on issue

Dundas officials learn critical lessons

Board approves permit


Dundas City Engineer Tom McMahon summed it up well:


“That’s the shortest period of time someone can ever dream of that happening in,” he said of the approval process. “I’m not saying it’s a bad deal. It’s just not been well thought out.”

Rice County exposed!!

June 29th, 2005

Today’s STrib has an article about the Rice County plans for development of I-35!


Rezoning worries some

Shira Kantor, Star Tribune

June 29, 2005

Rice County’s plans to clear the way for development of some 1,200 acres west of Northfield have some neighbors concerned about growth and the way it is handled.

Late last year, commissioners voted to rezone the swath of land along Interstate Hwy. 35 between Hwy. 19 and County Road 1 from agricultural to highway commercial. The designation would allow commercial and industrial development.

“It’s almost like they’re creating another — or trying to create — another town out here,” said Diane Von Ruden, who lives in the rezoned area west of I-35.

Von Ruden and her husband, Chuck, voiced concerns about plans for utilities and roads, increased traffic, and the fact that the county “is getting into development. That’s usually what the cities do.”

A county economic development committee recently drafted a map of what could be built on the land. It includes plans for a wastewater treatment plant and a water tower.

Arlyn Grussing, the county planning director, said the county is doing an environmental study of the area, which remains zoned for agricultural use until Dec. 31. Public comments on the study could be taken from July 18 through Aug. 17.

The rezoned acreage would be by far the largest commercial/industrial area of the county. Some 90 percent of Rice County is zoned for agriculture.

Grussing said the land was rezoned as a long-term strategy to help the county boost its ailing commercial tax base. Commercial property accounted for 26 percent of the county’s tax base in 1993, he said, but it dropped to 16 percent by 2002.

That is largely because of an influx of new residents, Grussing said. Some 1,700 new residents come to Rice County per year.

That explanation doesn’t help Stephanie Henrickson of Bridgewater Township, who worries that the district will disrupt the environment.

“For me, the most immediate shocker was the map they passed — a utilities map with a wastewater treatment plant located on Heath Creek, which is sacred ground to many of us,” Henrickson said.

A group calling itself Rice County Land Use Accountability Inc. has sued Rice County over its land-use planning and environmental review policies. The suit addresses the rezoning of the 1,200 acres and other land-use decisions.

Contact the writer at 612-673-7275

or skantor@startribune.com.

Whatever are they thinking? Let’s take a close look at this. That’s why I went to last night’s Northfield League of Women Voters discussion of Rice County’s “Master Plan” for developing 1047 acres, figure out the rationale, justification, whether the plan proposed by the County makes sense:

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The discussion was moderated by Kathleen Doran-Norton, of the League (photo from another venue):

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Here’s what Rice County is proposing, they call it “Economic Development”, their Master Plan:

North Section
South Section
Infrastructure

How did they choose that area? That’s confusing, because the County Board did NOT vote on that land. First, it was not even on the agenda, it happened under an item listed as “housekeeping,” bait and switch. And here’s how the discussion went in that “housekeeping” section:

Brown: … I’d like to move that we ask Staff to initiate a rexoning of the area from around the Highway 1 intersection of 35, to, ah, going north up to Highway 19 as a Commercial, ah, Highway zone area and proceed with the necessary steps of public hearing and additional …

Grussing: Would this be on both sides of 35 or just on the west side?

Brown: West side.

Grussing: OK

Chair Olson: We have a motion. Is there a second?

Minnick: Second.

Chair Olson: Second by Commissioner Minnick.

OK, let’s see, it was only for area west of I-35? And I got this information from the tape of the meeting, with two others present also observing the same statement, and I submitted an affidavit of this fact to the County. Given that the motion was specifically for the west side only, even after prompting, I think the county should start by removing anything east of I-35 from consideration.

Back to the meeting. It was standing room only, even the kids chairs were covered with adult gluteous maximus overhangs, but only one County Commissioner bothered to attend. Jessica Peterson was that lone Commissioner, she is on “Committee 1,” and she did a good job updating the group on how we got to where we are, a balanced account of history and overview of process and what to expect with the steps going forward. You would think that Jim Brown, who represents the affected area, would attend, but nooooooo….

There was also the full presentation by Loren Abraham, Abraham + Associates, an Architect from Hastings (Boat, anyone? Pup too?), not the abbreviated version we saw when the Rice County Planning Commission so rudely cut it short.

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As he mentioned, there is information available for the taking at the Rice County website that shows that this area is not suited for this development, take a second and look at all that’s offered! And here are some examples:

Prime Soils Map

Septic Suitability

Groundwater Sensitivity

National Wetland Inventory

And Rice County does have a Water Plan! I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about it!

I’m very concerned about the proximity to Union Lake and drainage to the wetlands across 35 to the east, and about Heath and Wolf Creek. I asked about baseline studies of the condition of Heath and Wolf Creek, and Cannon River Watershed Partnership does not have that info, per Hillary Ziols. If CRWP doesn’t have this info, who does??? Apparently, there are no baseline studies, and they have not been tested and so logically could not appear on the state’s “Impaired Waters” list. I’ve contacted Arlyn Grussing to get this information included in the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR). This is the environmental review that the Planning Commission had adopted without any idea what the EQB’s guidelines are, they admitted on the record that they had not reviewed the EQB’s report! As I told Arlyn Grussing, given past performance of the County, I’m not confident that they will complete the AUAR as required, but I am certainly giving them every opportunity to get familiar with the rules and follow them!

The Infrastructure issues are extensive. The County’s consultant, RLK Kuusisto (oh, my, talk about a hyperactive website!) partially addressed sewer and water, but have NOT addressed who will pick up the $17,000,000 price tag. Here’s the RLK review of comments made at the June 9, 2005, Planning Commission hearing.

What I want to see, the BIG issues (I’ll get more specific as the AUAR moves forward):

Water Quality – baseline reports on all affected waters, and plan accordingly
Infrastructure – what’s needed, what does it REALLY cost, and who pays $17 million for water and sewer
Cost/Benefit Analysis – what’s the point of this, let’s get specific
Traffic and Road Infrastructure – what’s needed, what does it REALLY cost, how long do we have to wait for it, and who pays

Most important is the cost/benefit analysis. I see many concerns, many people voicing concerns, and I don’t see anyone lining up to develop out there, certainly not saying so at the public meetings. What’s driving this, Commissioner Brown?