Rep. Steve Green, MN House District 2B

Late last month, I read an article in the Park Rapids Enterprise:

Constituents flock to town hall meeting

It’s about a Town Hall meeting where state Rep. Steve Green lied openly, throwing out a wildly false statement about voter fraud along the lines of tRump’s millions of fraudulent votes.  24,000 fraudulent voter registrations in the 2008 Senate race?  WHAT?!?!  And though the crowd apparently recognized that he was lying, the paper reported the statements and crowd’s reactions, but didn’t challenge him on the fabrication.  WHAT?!?!?!  The press has a responsibility to expose liars.  So I fired off a missive to the reporter… and just now, got notice from a friend that they published it!  Here it is:

Letter: Rep. Green’s claim is false

Here’s the quote: “The Republican lawmaker suggested that most voter fraud occurs in Hennepin County. Green claimed there were 24,000 new voter registrations that had no one living at those addresses in the 2008 election of Senator Al Franken.

The audience audibly sniggered their disapproval. A few called him a ‘liar.'”

And look what kind of legislation he’s behind… HF 551HF 551 would gut Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, from the description, “Pollution Control Agency and Natural Resources Department rulemaking authority eliminated, and sunset or enactment of existing rules provided.”  Click for larger version:

 

This is “my” state Senator, Mike Goggin.  He’s pushing SF 899, a bill that would exempt employers from paying overtime to H2A workers who work more than 48 hours a week.  WHAT?!?!

Contact Sen. Mike Goggin!

I’ve been keeping an eye on him because he’s our latest “Senator from Xcel,” following Sen. Steve Murphy (January 5, 1993 – January 3, 2011).  And with reason… he’d been carrying water for Xcel Energy, sponsoring a bill to allow Xcel, his employer, to circumvent the Certificate of Need requirement, that a utility prove up “need” and that it is least cost, before building.  Alan Muller wrote a letter which the STrib printed that was published on February 7:

A pair of bills oozing their way through the Legislature are a giveaway to Xcel Energy:

HF113/SF85 would (1) authorize Xcel to build a new power plant without getting a Certificate of Need from the Public Utilities Commission; (2) require the PUC to make Xcel customers pay for it, and (3) establish a scheme for an inflated rate of return for the plant.

The point of a Certificate of Need is to ensure that ratepayers don’t pay for unjustified capital projects. For Xcel to use its political clout in this way suggests the company knows the project cannot be justified except to inflate its “rate base” and thereby its profits.

These bills are discreditable to all the legislators involved, but especially concerning is that one of the Senate authors, Mike Goggin, who represents my district (21), is an Xcel manager.

Sen. Goggin’s authorship of a bill so flagrantly benefiting his employer at the expense of his constituents should be considered an ethics violation.

Alan Muller, Red Wing, Minn.

On January 19th, the House amended the companion bill, HF113, to include language making Xcel Energy’s gas plant subject to some scrutiny, and then turned around and took it OUT on the floor February 9.  Goggin withdrew as an author on February 16, 2017 (p. 645).  Governor Dayton signed it on February 28, 2017.

So on to SF 899.

Only two Senate authors listed, Senators Goggin and Weber.  Goggin moved that it be pulled it from Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance and forwarded to Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy, which passed.  On March 2, it was removed from that Committee agenda, and then labeled as “PENDING REFERRAL.”   It seems to have stalled out.  ???

So on the House side, it’s HF 1032.  Only two authors here too, McDonald and Anderson, P.    From the minutes, “Representative Pierson renewed his motion that HF1032 be re-referred to the committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance. THE MOTION PREVAILED.”  Listen to the House committee hearing  starting at 27:06 to 1:14:50 (my comments in parens).  This has been re-referred to Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

  • $12.75 an hour average (and employer pays transportation from country of origin to site, housing, meals or kitchen facilities) – tape at 28:06
  • about a year and a half ago, farmers raised question as to whether overtime rule applies and found it does apply – tape at 28:40
  • a worker cannot provide enough produce in an hour to justify overtime, produce left in the fields – tape at 28:50
  • “This bill was up a couple years ago”  hmmmmmmmm, it didn’t pass  tape at 37:55
  • Adding up the transportation, housing, meals/kitchenette, that comes to average of $17-19/hour, add the overtime and we just can’t afford that – tape at 43:40
  • What is the behavior in the broader field?  Grievances brought, settlement, year or two ago, maybe longer – tape at 45.38
  • We don’t have enough people in Minnesota that will do this kind of work (at these long hours!?!) – tape at 49:18
  • For $17-19/hour, I think people would show up, wondering about efforts done, have you tried to offer that kind of wage, attract local Minnesotans?  It’s seasonal employment… – tape at 52:24
  • “those workers don’t pay taxes, while they’re here” (is that true? Yes, but, or no, but, here’s the scoop) tape at 54:15
  • We’ll hire you if you can walk or breathe, that’s how short we are – tape at 56:07
  • We’re obligated under federal rules to advertise at $12.75 (not limited to $12.75, but must advertise at least $12.75, and could but don’t advertise for $17-19) – tape at 56:19
  • Do any of these workers have other jobs?  We’re not allowed to allow them to work at any other place by the statute they’re committed to working under the contract they’ve signed with us as an employer (and they can’t therefore just quit, this is NOT “at will” employment where they have the option to quit, they’re stuck) – tape at 1:10:25
  • They’re just trying to be in compliance with the federal law (?!?) – tape at 1:13:21

How is this not a case where the market has spoken and the employers must pay the freight rather than exploit the workers?  To get H2A visa workers, they must demonstrate that they cannot find US workers to hire.  Do they offer that $17-19/hour to local/US workers?  Given the “fight for $15” minimum wage campaign across the nation, methinks that they wages they’re offering generally are not even close.

What to do?  Contact House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.  Ask that they reject HF1032, that this is not in the public interest, workers deserve overtime pay, and pick and chose from reasons above, listen to the tape if you have time, to get a feel for the issues.

rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn, rep.jim.newberger@house.mn, rep.karen.clark@house.mn, rep.tim.mahoney@house.mn, rep.jean.wagenius@house.mn, rep.paul.anderson@house.mn, rep.cal.bahr@house.mn, rep.dave.baker@house.mn, rep.jim.davnie@house.mn, rep.dan.fabian@house.mn, rep.jeff.howe@house.mn, rep.sandy.layman@house.mn, rep.erin.mayequade@house.mn, rep.jason.metsa@house.mn, rep.rena.moran@house.mn, rep.anne.neu@house.mn, rep.marion.oneill@house.mn, rep.jason.rarick@house.mn, rep.peggy.scott@house.mn, rep.mike.sundin@house.mn, rep.paul.thissen@house.mn, rep.bob.vogel@house.mn, rep.nolan.west@house.mn

Here it is, TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline is baaaaaaaaaaack. From the Federal Register Notice:

On February 5, 2014, the Department invited members of the public to comment on any factor they deem relevant to the national interest determination that will be made for the Keystone XL project application (79 FR 6984) and it is not inviting further public comment at this time.

Really…

A cut and paste from the State Department site:

Keystone XL Pipeline Application

On January 26, 2017 TransCanada submitted a Presidential permit application to the Department of State. The application and other project documents can be found here.

Documents relating to TransCanada’s 2012 application can be found here.

Two days… they resubmitted the application two days later… and no comment period.  WHAT?!?!

Here’s the Federal Register Notice for TransCanada Keystone Pipeline (it did take about two weeks for that to come out, and it’s just after the Enbridge Line 67 Expansion Federal Register Notice!).

(click for larger version – fair use from Global Resources News)

Pipeline construction at issue here in Minnesota, Line 3 “replacement,” Line 67 across the US/Canada border, and there may well be others.  The State Department handles pipeline Presidential Permits, and the DOE handles transmission line Presidential Permits.  The process State Department uses for public participation is appalling… they held an “open house” but did not allow for public comment.  There was extreme “security” which was a display of extreme insecurity, searching of people coming in, making them stand out in the cold waiting to get in, for sure that will CHILL public speech!

And FYI, Line 3 “replacement” and Line 67 are indeed connected:

Day before yesterday there was an “open house” held by the State Department about a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on “Line 67.”  The “open house” was a mess, very poorly orchestrated by the State Department, and an utter failure in the “public participation” arena:

Very little coverage… lots on fb though!

Here’s the change filed with State Deparatment:

06/16/14 Letter Amending the Application of Enbridge Energy Line 67

Here’s the State Department’s Line 67 page.

– 11/20/12 Application of Enbridge Energy Line 67

And what’s at issue at this point is the

Looking at the State Department’s pipeline info generally, note that on the Keystone XL (TransCanada) line page they have this blurb:

Presidential Permits for liquid pipelines

The Secretary of State has the authority to issue Presidential Permits for cross-border liquid (water as well as petroleum product) pipelines and other cross-border infrastructure. The Bureau of Energy Resources Office of Energy Diplomacy receives and processes permit applications. All documents relating to current applications are located here.

And who is now Secretary of State?  Rex Tillerson, “resigned” as CEO of Exxon on January 1, 2017 to take this position.  He has recused himself from Keystone XL Pipeline issues.

Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone pipeline issues: State Dept.

Why recuse from Keystone XL pipeline issues and not others? Again, let’s look at this map, and consider the origin of Keystone XL in relation to other lines — who’s to say Exxon wouldn’t benefit from granting permits for any of these proposed pipelines, or if not, who’s to say Exxon wouldn’t benefit from denial of permits for any of these proposed pipelines?

And to be clear, because there’s lots of misunderstanding going on about this Presidential Memorandum and its impact on Keystone XL, here’s the poop, direct from State Dept. website:

On January 24, 2017, the President issued a  Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which invited TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. (TransCanada), to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and directed the Secretary of State to receive the application and take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review.

Full text: Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Documents relating to TransCanada’s 2012 application can be found here.

As above, tRump’s Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is an “invitation” to resubmit application, NOT an approval.

 

 

Thursday, tomorrow, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will take up the rulemaking, Minn. R. Ch. 7849 and 7850, that’s been ongoing since 2012. 

Agenda Meeting

Public Utilities Commission

Large Hearing Room — 3rd Floor

121 – 7th Place East

St. Paul, MN

Watch Live Webcast HERE!

The Commission will consider the draft rules, below, and decide whether to move the process forward (in itty bitty steps) and release the rules for public comment and a hearing (and we’ll need 25 requests for a hearing to get that hearing), or to send us back to the drawing board, or revise themselves, request public comment, or “take other action as the Commission deems appropriate.”  See the last pages of Briefing Papers for these options in detail.

Yes, since 2012 — that’s 5 years in the making, an unreasonably long time.  But wait, it gets worse — the enabling legislation is the 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell!  That’s particularly galling because the 2005 legislative changes were enacted to pave the way for CapX 2020, and all of CapX 2020 was rammed through without rulemaking covering these changes.  GRRRRRRRRRRR.  I like to encourage clients to carry on with the process after our immediate issue is resolved, because who knows better how the Certificate of Need and Siting/Routing process works than those who have been through it, but 5 years?!?!  12 years?!?!  Some of these things I’ve been on the Commission about for over 20 years, particularly notice issues.

The existing rules:

7849 CERTIFICATE OF NEED; POWER PLANT OR LINE
7850 SITE OR ROUTE PERMIT; POWER PLANT OR LINE

And the proposed drafts that the Commission will consider:

20173-129606-01_Briefing Papers

20173-129606-02_Draft Ch. 7849 – Certificate of Need

20173-129605-01_CoN_Legislative Changes

20173-129606-03_Draft Ch. 7850 – Siting/Routing

20173-129605-02_Siting-Routing_Legislative Changes

Certificate of Need

An issue right up front is in the definitions in Certificate of Need rules, where a “transmission company” is a “utility.”  Draft Minn. R. 7849.0010, Subp. 32.This is problematic because a Certificate of Need is the “need” determination necessary for use of power of eminent domain.  A “transmission company” has a private purpose, not a public purpose, and should not have access to eminent domain.  This change should not be made, and if it is, should only after thoughtful consideration abut the meaning of the change.

Another issue, which is in line with statutory changes, is the use of “the region” as a consideration for an determination of impact of denial of the application upon “future adequacy, reliability, or efficiency of energy supply to the applicant, to the applicant’s customers, or to the people of Minnesota and the region.  Draft Minn. R. 7849.0120.  This regional aspect has an impact on the Commission’s jurisdiction, and on the weight the Commission gives to MISO review and “approval” of transmission, which is very different from the review and approval performed by the Commission.  Where it’s regional need, how does that mesh with the Commission’s responsibility to the residents and ratepayers of Minnesota?  When “efficiency of energy supply” is at issue, how is the inherent inefficiency of transmission taken into account, particularly over the long distances contemplated by regional planning and buildout?

There’s a 10 day Comment period for the CoN Environmental Report which should be longer than 10 days, that’s a bit too tight!

Siting and Routing

There are quite a few provisions for additional notice — more notice is always good.  Lack of notice was an issue in both CapX 2020 Brookings and Hampton-La Crosse dockets.  Previously, the applicants were allowed to submit route alternatives very late, even a day before the public hearings, where people had no notice and no idea what the process was or how to participate.  I’ve made oral and written motions to extend intervention deadlines for these people to be able to jump in, and the motions were denied. Another notice issue is that where alternatives routes/sites are added, now they may not be added after the scoping decision is issued.  This means that people will get notice in a more timely manner.  AND, notice upon adding alternatives for consideration MUST be given.  Previously, there was no requirement, and when people would say, “Hey, we didn’t get notice,” Commerce would say, “Oh, well, there’s no requirement.”  ENOUGH!  These draft rules would require that they get notice.  DOH!  This is a no brainer, and very glad to see this in the draft.

The timing has been improved in a couple areas — look at the charts at the end of the Briefing Papers.  The timing of release of the DEIS and FEIS is improved, but remains an issue, because the Draft EIS can be released up until the time of the Public Hearings, meaning just before and people won’t have time to review prior to the hearings.  On the other hand, the draft rules do provide for a comment period for the Final EIS, which hadn’t happened previously.  In several dockets I’ve worked on, the FEIS was not available until AFTER the public hearing and AFTER comment period had closed, and there was no way to raise adequacy issues with the FEIS.  Twice, or maybe three times, I’ve made motions to keep the comment period open, but was denied.

I’d like to see a more beefed up rule, or a broader interpretation, of the Public Advisor’s role, because on the routing road shows, I’ve had to ask questions in the meeting to get the Public Advisor to explain the participation options.  Public Advisors do get in the groove and let people know about Participant and Intervenor roles, volunteering for Citizen Advisory Task Force, and what they can do, but this shouldn’t have to be pulled out of the Public Advisor.  What people have told me, over and over, is that the information about participation options is not volunteered, that they have to know the questions to ask, and that they feel that is not fair, that the Commission and Commerce should volunteer information to help them speak up and be heard.

Citizen Advisory Task Force has morphed into something unrecognizable over the last 20 years.  These days, membership is limited to representatives of local units of government, and whether that limitation is by Commerce, or the facilitator, it has not been limited by the Commission, and it’d be useful for the Commission, in authorizing Task Forces, to specifically state that participation on a Task Force is NOT strictly limited and that members of the public are welcome to apply and participate.

There’s more, but I’m trying to keep it simple for tomorrow.  There ARE some positive changes, things we’ve been raising for a long, long time.  But there are some very important things missing here.