Tuesday’s Mesaba DEIS hearing

November 29th, 2007

Photo soon…

After barely landing from a 1,200 mile blast into Red Wing, I had to head up to Taconite for the Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project DEIS hearing. What a farce, that we’re doing this at all, and all these people had to spend a lot of time reading it, doing comments, when this project is just not happening. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

As I said in my bleary-eyed comments, the most gratifying part of this work is watching people learn and become masters of the information, digging in and finding the truth in the promoters’ techno-speak, and getting it out in public, exposing the problems and questions so eloquently. I love using their own PR nonsense against them. It’s a thrill to hear challenges of the DEIS on sequestration, pipeline costs and impacts, a demand of “zero liquid discharge,” studies of health impacts of PM 2.5 and less, mercury contamination, impacts of 8 kinds of infrastructure through my clients’ yards, it’s like being a proud parent at graduation! These rangers can rip up a “technical report” faster than any Micheletti can spell it!

Here’s the link for the siting docket at Commerce:

Mesaba Docket – Commerce

Here’s the DEIS page, lots of separate links, and it takes a LONG time for the meat of it, Chapter 3, to print.


Comments are due by January 11, 2008, and they must address substantive comments. Send to:


or mail to:

Bill Storm

Dept of Commerce

85 – 7th Place E.

St. Paul, MN 55101-2198

And just for yucks, while you’re waiting for it to print out, compare the MESABA PROJECT SCOPING DECISION with the DEIS(scoping decision is on Commerce page, scroll down, issued Sept. 13, 2006). Hmmmmmmmmmmmm… see how things are twisted?

To get to the PUC docket for the PPA, go to HERE TO “SEARCH DOCUMENTS” and search for Docket 05-1993.


Here’s Bob Kelleher’s MPR report:

Critics voice concerns at Iron Range power plant EIS hearing

by Bob Kelleher, Minnesota Public Radio
November 28, 2007

The critics ruled at a public meeting for a proposed Iron Range power plant Tuesday. The gathering in the town of Taconite was to hear comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Excelsior Energy’s proposed coal gasification power plant.

Taconite, Minn. — Excelsior Energy’s draft Environmental Impact Statement lays out the major potential consequences of building a $2 billion, 600 megawatt coal gasification power plant in Itasca County.

To be fair, the meeting in Taconite was never intended to be a balanced debate on the electric power project. It was supposed to gather concerns and comments on an 800 page EIS. To hear the people who turned out on a bitterly cold Iron Range night, there are plenty of potential problems the study’s authors overlooked.

Ross Hammond set the tone. Hammond represents the group Fresh Energy – an organization that’s no fan of coal-fired power. Excelsior’s power plant is supposed to be able to capture carbon dioxide from coal. Carbon dioxide is believed a leading cause of global warming.

“It’s ready to capture carbon – carbon dioxide,” Hammond said, “But we’re not going to capture the carbon dioxide. So, if they do not capture carbon dioxide, it’s going to be the second biggest polluter of carbon dioxide in the state, and it’s just going to be an expensive power plant.”

Excelsior officials say they intend to develop carbon capture eventually; but that wouldn’t happen in the early phase of the power project.

But area resident Ron Gustafson doubts it’ll ever happen.

“Excelsior’s carbon capture sequestration plan is merely a conceptual scenario with no established time line, cost estimate, or cost impact analysis to rate payers. It’s a pipe dream,” he said.

The lack of a carbon plan was mentioned by many at the meeting – as were related concerns about a pipeline that could some day take carbon from the Iron Range as far as North Dakota.

Charlie Decker, a doctor from Hibbing, says the Iron Range is the wrong place for the coal gasification power plant.

“It should be build somewhere where the coal is located,” he said. “Somewhere where carbon dioxide can be sequestrated, ‘dumped in the ground’ as the one speaker said, and would not cost a fortune and make the product, as another speaker mentioned, cost prohibitive for sale – and increase the cost of power to consumers.”

Others had worries closer to home. Linda Castagneri worried about exposure to high voltage power lines, and about air pollution, like the kind of small particles that can come from a power plant stack. She says the EIS has no in-depth study of potential respiratory problems.

“If we have adequate funding to fund a high risk demonstration plant, there exists in this country, adequate funding to study properly, and make appropriate comments regarding these health issues,” she said.

No one spoke in defense of the project. The pro-business Itasca Economic Development Group’s Mike Andrews says his organization will take seriously comments to the EIS and draw up a response. In the past, that group has been a strong project supporter.

But Carol Overland hasn’t. The attorney has been a vocal opponent and a party to recent hearings before the Public Utilities Commission. So far, the PUC has refused to mandate Excelsior’s proposed power purchase agreement with Minneapolis based Xcel Energy. Without that agreement, the project can’t happen.

Overland expressed her frustration that EIS meetings are even happening.

“And here we are, you know, wasting our time doing this,” she said as some in the audience applauded. “And I find that really offensive. I’ve been on this project for almost seven years.”

Another meeting on the EIS is tonight in the town of Hoyt Lakes, which is considered a fall back site if the Taconite site gets rejected.

Written comments will be taken through January 11th, and the Public Utilities Commission could be making a final decision on the EIS, and whether the project gets permitted, next May.

CCX – a lot of hot CO2

November 24th, 2007

Kurt, the polar bear

There’s a movement afoot to wake up the world about the problems with the Chicago Climate Exchange.  CCX is a good idea gone bad if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve been ranting against it for a while.  Finally some groups have come out against it, and here are their reasons:

  • CCX rules have loopholes that do not warrant government support
    • Offset rules offer too many outs
  • Governments should not participate inprograms developed through a closed, non-transparent process
  • Participation in CCX may limit the options for participation in other programs
  • States and cities can achieve their climate goals without joining CCX
  • Voluntary programs are not the solution

I’d add one of my own:

  • Privatization of market is improper/wrong – who pays and who benefits?

Here’s their report:

States and Cities should not join CCX

As you know, or should know, CCX, a private CO2 market developed by the Joyce Foundation.  Yes, that same Joyce Foundation that has given enviro groups such as Clean Wisconsin, RE-AMP, Great Plains Institute, Clean Air Task Force, and National Resource Defense Council bucks to support IGCC, and of course these groups and programs also support CCX, not cap and tax.  Who stands to make $$$$ from this market?  How do you stop generation of CO2 when a cap & trade scheme allows new CO2 to be generated?

Here’s the Joyce Foundation’s.. errr… Energy Foundation’s… er… the Midwest Climate Change Project 1 & 2:

Midwest Climate Change Project Part 1

Midwest Climate Change Project Part 2

And why not?  Once more with feeling — here’s why!

States and Cities should not join CCX



Photo Fair Use from NewsJournal

Former Gov. Russ Peterson addresses PSC

Thanks to Mary for forwarding this!


Yesterday was a good day at the Delaware PSC. Chair McRae was feistily gracious as always, wielding that iron gavel! I think she’s getting used to me telling them what Delaware needs, or maybe she’s learned from Chair Koppendrayer that I just won’t go away. The only item on the agenda was the Bluewater Wind project, the winner in the RFP contest between natural gas, IGCC coal gasification, and wind. The PSC wisely took a broad look at the choices and chose “one from Column A and one from Columb B,” a wind/gas combo.


Since the wind/gas combo decision, Delmarva and Bluewater have been hammering away at a PPA, and at each other — it seems the last thing Delmarva wants is a PPA with Bluewater. At this meeting, the PSC extended the timeframe and strengthened the directive to complete the PPA. We’ll all be back to the Commission on December 18, and hopefully they’ll have a deal. And if not, the PSC can always order one.

Click here for the RFP docket.


Muller-Green Delaware Comment

As for moi, I kept my testimony short, noting that wind is important because it doesn’t emit, and that we need to get wind established, but not only get it established, but REPLACE coal burning in Delawre. I reminded them of their jurisdiction and authority and urged them to think about it and order approval of the PPA, that this part of energy policy in Delaware is regulated, and that they have a responsibility to regulate, direct, and order, and under the statute, there SHALL be a PPA, it’s not a “shall” with conditions as it is for Excelsior Energy and its Mesaba Project. I also asked Chair McRae for a definition of “good faith,” because she’d made a statement at the outset that Delmarva Power had acted in good faith, based on her conversation with the facilitator. I asked because I’m skeptical, in labor negotiations, all “good faith” means is that they show up, not much more. She gave a pretty specific listing of the characteristics of “good faith” that she ascribed to the declaration of good faith. I’m not in a position to argue about it because negotiations are confidential, but given Delmarva’s statements, I see nothing but footdragging and sabotage on their part. On the other hand, they really stuck their foot in it when they handed out a charg showing costs of various “RENEWABLE” energy generation, which included coal, IGCC and nuclear. REALLY, COAL, IGCC, AND NUCLEAR. OH MY!!!!


Here’s the article from the News Journal:

Last ditch chance for wind farm

Public interest and support is strong, following a Step It Up rally two weeks ago, and a gallery at Leg Hall yesterday, and OVER 2,000 COMMENTS ON THE RECORD! This tsunami of concern keeps the PSC in the hot seat to get this wind project done.


Pictured above in the News Journal is former Gov. Russ Peterson, who had this to say:

Madam Chair, Commissioners, and agency representatives, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak on behalf of Delaware’s and our planet’s energy future. I have dedicated the better half of my career to protecting our global environment and to the extent that I have been successful, I consider that my legacy. We Delawareans can take pride in the contribution we have made, such as the law to protect Delaware’s coastal areas from destructive impacts of heavy industrialization and offshore loading facilities. We fought off the naysayers then and made a commitment to protect our natural heritage for future generations, and have reaped the benefits ever since

The decisions you four agencies now make in shaping Delaware’s energy future will be part of your legacy, and Delaware’s legacy. Now is the time for Delaware to fact up to the serious threat of global warming by embarcing a form of electric generation that does not use the fossil fuels that cause it. You have the opportunity to make Delaware the first state in the nation to generate clean energy from an offshore wind park.

The wind is a free fuel — it transports itself — it doesn’t cause global warming — it does not, like the fossil fuels, emit effluents that poison us — it promises electricity at a stable price – it will not be subject to the carbon tax that will very likely and appropriately be applied to fossil fuels — and the technology for using the wind has been well established.

So why not use it? The large investment in building and installing the wind turbines and transmission lines is high, and will result in a small premium for the electricity produced. The consultant’s report estimates about $1.60 per week for an average size house, the price of one half-gallon of gasoline. When a carbon tax is eventually applied to fossil fuels, the premium for wind will be much lower.

You four state agencies earlier blessed the Bluewater Wind proposal and asked Delmarva to negotiate with them. These negotiations have been less than successful. Delmarva Power has wildly exaggerated the premium for wind. She needs to get away from her love affair with fossil fuels and provide some leadership toward reducing the super-serious threat of global warming. I encourage you all to do al you can to find common ground here.

A wave of concern about global warming and of resolve to do something about it is now growing and spreading all over the world. Just this past weekend the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change with memers from 130 nations reported the results of their latest study. It showed that emissions of greenhouse gasses worldwide was increasing faster than predicted, and making global warming more dangerous than the worst case previously envisioned. The U.N. Secretary General, in releasing the report said, “Climate change is the defining challenge of our age,” and called upon the United States to “play a more constructive role.” You and I need to take this problem more seriously.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee showed their concern recently by awareding their Peace Prize to the U.N. panel and to Al Gore for their work in enlightening the world to the threat of climate change. Our own University of Delaware Professor John Byrne is a prominent member of that panel. We can now recognize him as a Nobel Laureate.

More and more countries, states, cities, corporations, churches, and synagogues are becoming involved. The news media have made it a prime subject. The New Your Times on Nov. 7 of this year had a twelve-page Special Section on the “Business of Green.”

Absent significant action by the Bush Administration, state governors are taking over creating regional agreements to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana told a group of Midwestern governors that dealing with global warming was the greatest imperative of this and future generations. “We need to find a sustainable, renewable American supply,” he said.

President Harker of University of Delaware is working to establish a new Institute of Alternative Energy to develop renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The courts are getting into the action. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just rejected fuel standards established by the Bush Administration, telling them to produce new rules taking into account the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Clearly a powerful force is building to do something about global warming. We Delawareans have an opportunity to do so by building an offshore wind energy park.

Let’s get on with the job.

After the former Gov., Treasurer Jack Markell, now running for Governor, made his comments, and they’re on his blog HERE.


More on December 18th, or before, but it seems to me that the PSC will figure out a way to make it happen.


Nope, Xcel’s line is NOT Volkommen in Lindstrom! The ALJ decision in the Chisago Transmission Project came out late yesterday, and the ALJ did find that Xcel “needed” the line, and that it should NOT go through downtown Lindstrom, but instead should go to the north, around downtown Lindstrom, by going up around the lake and then rejoin the existing corridor. That answers some of the city’s concern, the major concern of the unworkable mix of that transmission line and the city’s plans for upgrade of Highway 8. The DOT’s Todd Clarkowski presented detailed information about the plans and impacts, plans that have been many years in the making. That, and his 12+ foot color plan, made the case! Amazing what a little subpoena can do.

Hot off the press, here’s the Recommendation:

Chisago – ALJ Findings, Conclusions & Recommendation

The ALJ did a great job setting out the Department of Commerce’s power grab and attempted power take that did not sit well, and all we have to do now is get an engineer on Commerce staff — one would think that’d be regarded as a necessity, but we’re just not there yet.


Is this any place to build a power plant?  The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly says NO!  And it’s based on economic reasons, the IPPs that they’dapproached about building the plant were “non-responsive.”  Sounds dead to me!

MEA to shelve coal plan for at least five years
ALTERNATIVES: Costs, critics pushed utility to look at options.


(Published: November 10, 2007)

WASILLA — Matanuska Electric Association is shelving plans to build a coal-fired power plant south of Palmer, citing “anti-local-power sentiments” held by local elected officials and a spike in costs related to building coal-fired plants.

A law passed by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly in August that regulates new power plants, as well as demand for coal-generated power in China and other less-strictly regulated countries are to blame, according to MEA general manager Wayne Carmony.

“Until problems with the borough’s ordinance can be addressed and recent spikes in world coal plant prices stabilize, it is imprudent to proceed with construction of the coal portion” of the Integrated Resource Plan adopted by MEA earlier this year, Carmony wrote by e-mail Friday to the MEA board of directors.

The plan details how the Palmer-based electric cooperative would build two, 100-megawatt power plants, one fired by coal for base power and another by natural gas for peak demand.

Carmony in his e-mail said he would ask the board in December to delay building the coal-fired plant for at least five years. He would also present alternatives to building a coal plant.

That’s great news, said Jim Sykes, leader of MEA watchdog group UtilityWatch.

“If they set it aside for five years, it’s dead. The economics of a coal plant are not going to get better in five years,” Sykes said. “That was the first thing they needed to realize, that their proposal for a coal plant was a dog.”

MEA board member David Dahms called Friday “a sad day for science and economics.”

He blamed Friends of Mat-Su, a local pro-planning group, and The Sierra Club for organizing opposition in April to the coal-fired plant. Without that plant to provide electricity, consumer costs will rise as the supply of natural gas in Cook Inlet dwindles, Dahms said.

“I would suggest that every member of our co-op send their electrical bills to Friends of Mat-Su and Sierra Club in 10 years when they can’t afford to pay their electric bills,” Dahms said.

MEA spokeswoman Lorali Carter said the international market for coal power was part of the MEA decision to drop its coal plans for now.

Independent power producers, with whom MEA discussed plans to build and operate the two new plants, were “non-responsive,” Carter said. She said confidentiality agreements prevent her from identifying the power producers MEA spoke with.

“If they can go to China and build a 1,000-megawatt coal plant, the economies of scale are far greater than building that plant here,” Carter said.