Voter intimidation by phone

October 30th, 2008

More intimidation tactics going on… this time in phone calls claiming to be tied from Secretary of State’s office, and thankfully someone was savvy enough to question it.  They’re going down in flames and so these threats will probably ramp up to fever pitch before the election.

Here’s the STrib report:

Callers question registered Minnesota voters’ eligibility

… and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s press release:

RITCHIE ALERTS PUBLIC TO VOTER INTIMIDATION TACTICS IN MINNESOTA

St. Paul, Minn.—Oct. 29, 2008—Secretary of State Mark Ritchie today held a news conference to alert citizens to voter intimidation tactics occurring in Minnesota. Ritchie warned voters of telephone calls from individuals falsely claiming to be associated with the Office of the Secretary of State raising questions about the voting practices of the person being called.

“We have a proud tradition of free and fair elections in Minnesota,” Ritchie said. “Mis-representation and voter intimidation will not be tolerated.”

Ritchie’s office has alerted the Ramsey County Attorney and the Office of the U.S. Attorney to a complaint filed with the Office of the Secretary of State by a St. Paul resident. The complainant stated that he received a telephone call last night from an individual claiming to be calling on behalf of the Office of the Secretary of State and challenging his voter record. Upon further questioning, the caller also claimed to be associated with Jeff Davis, president of the organization Minnesota Majority.

“We want to let all Minnesotans know that if you or anyone in your family receives a phone call from any individual claiming to be working with or associated with the Office of the Secretary of State, politely get their name and phone number and then hang-up and immediately contact our office at 1-877-600-8683,” Ritchie said.

Allegations of voter intimidation and deceptive practices are investigated and prosecuted by county attorneys. To report voter intimidation, citizens may contact their county attorney directly or the Office of the Secretary of State at 1-877-600-8683. The Office of the Secretary of State forwards all allegations to county attorneys for further investigation and prosecution.

A bright spot in this Dogawful election from Paul Hipp shades of Gil Scott Herron’s Jo’berg:

Bachmann’s going down in flames, Palin’s trailing not too far behind…

I had to vote by absentee ballot this tie, so I’m done and the wait is excruciatingly long… will ’round midnight on November 4 going into November 5 ever get here? AAAAAAAGH!

A MUST READ!

It’s that time of year again — it’s the NERC report!

2008 NERC Reliabiity Assessment

There’s a lot going on these days, and sorry about this delay, here’s the long awaited “independent conslutant” report on Big Stone:

Boston Pacific Final Report 10-21-08

The STrib’s article:

Consultants say utilities lowballed construction cost estimates

By H.J. CUMMINS, Star Tribune

October 22, 2008

Big Stone II took a big hit Wednesday when independent experts said the utilities behind the proposed South Dakota power plant did their math wrong.

In a report, sought by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Boston Pacific Co. concluded that in three fundamental projections — emissions, construction and fuel — the utilities regularly underestimated costs for the proposed coal-fired plant and overestimated costs for possible energy alternatives.

“In general we believe the range … used in the applicants’ analyses were not appropriate,” said the report of the Washington, D.C., energy consulting firm. “Put another way, they were out of line with current ‘best practices.’”

Environmental groups opposed to the plant applauded the report’s conclusions. “We’re pleased that yet another set of independent eyes have looked at the record, and largely agreed with the points that we have been making all along,” said Beth Goodpaster, who represents several of the groups, including the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and the Midwest Izaak Walton League.

The five Big Stone utilities — led by the Otter Tail Corp. of Fergus Falls — said their reading shows them not far from the report’s preferred numbers in areas such as construction and fuel costs. They take issue with its suggestion that a future carbon tax could go as high as $60 a ton.

“We don’t believe Congress would ever pass a cap-and-trade or tax at that high a figure,” said Big Stone II spokesman Dan Sharp.

Minnesota energy regulators got pulled into the controversy over the power plant, which would go up just across the border in South Dakota, because the utilities need permission to build power lines into Minnesota, where about half their sales would be. The utilities argue that they need the plant to meet growing energy demand. Opponents want clean-energy alternatives because coal-fired plants are major sources of pollutants such as carbon dioxide.

The Minnesota PUC ordered the report in June. It had been expected to make a decision about the permit after four years of debate but four commissioners appeared split, with the fifth, newcomer Dennis O’Brien, expressing frustration about the two sides’ conflicting cost projections.

Boston Pacific analyzed three of the projections: An expected federal tax on carbon dioxide and its effect on the cost of coal-produced energy; the accuracy of the utilities’ plant construction costs; and a comparison between the cost of coal energy compared to natural gas.

The consultants decided that the utilities’ projected carbon tax costs started low and failed to factor in inflation. They said the construction cost projections were below the consultants’ own low-end figures, and any higher costs would fall on ratepayers. Also, they criticized the utilities for not testing their coal price projections against a wider range of possible natural gas prices, given the fuel’s historical volatility.

Lots to read, but it looks like some choice tables showing estimated CO2 costs and construction costs (the per kW costs in the table seem very low and it doesn’t seem that the projected costs of Mesaba were in the mix). More later after I read it… right… when…

Last night was to have been the last meeting of the Prairie Island nuclear generating plant uprate and dry cask Citizen Advisory Task Force.  There was a meeting in Northfield and so I bowed out of the Task Force meeting, and drat, it seems that it was more exciting than the last few.

Alan’s Letter to the Editor was in the Beagle on Tuesday:

Letter: Nuclear power task force is asking key questions

The Republican Eagle – 10/21/2008

To the Editor:

I attended the Oct. 8 and 15 meetings of a _task force_ created by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to advise on “environmental review” of proposed actions at the Prairie Island nuclear plant.

Prairie Island Unit 1 started up in 1973; its license expires in 2013. Unit 2 started up in 1974; its license expires in 2014. Xcel wants to increase power output by 82 megawatts (15 percent) for each unit, and run them another 20 years.

Bill Storm of the Office of Energy Security runs the task force, which concerned citizens petitioned the PUC for. He admitted opposing it, but was allowed to chose the members. He said the public couldn’t comment at the meetings. He turned the main part of the first meeting over to Xcel. Most absurd, he said the task force wouldn’t produce a report. Rather, he would convey what he wished to the PUC.

This is not how a task force should operate, and the members shouldn’t go along with it.

Like nukes or not, we all likely agree that the future of the PI units is significant to Red Wing, the health of the Mississippi River, and our rapidly changing energy situation.

Xcel’s applications — available in the Red Wing library — fill over 10 inches of binders . They raise many questions needing better answers. Xcel admits that radiation releases would increase, heat dumped into the river would increase, and local nuclear waste storage would increase.

The nuclear industry says it has learned a lot since Prairie Island were started up. If Prairie Island is to expand, and run 20 years more than originally agree to, it should be improved — it should become cleaner and more environmentally protective, not less so. “Closed circuit” cooling must be used at all times to protect the river and the fish in it.

It is up to Xcel to show that the hundred of millions of ratepayers’ dollars to be invested in PI might not be better used in some other way — such as conservation and efficiency programs.

No public agency should try to blow off these concerns and exclude the public. The task force members should insist on adequate answers and listen to the public, no matter how long it takes. There is a lot at stake.

The task force will meet at 7 p.m. Wed. October in the Red Wing Public Library.

Alan Muller
Red Wing