Stolen from Rolling Stone 

Earth to Franken – IGCC is a pipedream!

Published today in the Bemidji Pioneer:

Commentary: Franken on guns, coal and forests

Brad Swenson Bemidji Pioneer
Published Sunday, February 17, 2008
The operative word the electorate seems to be embracing this election cycle is “change.”

And, in Minnesota, you probably couldn’t get a more obvious “change” than in Al Franken, a Democrat vying for the party nomination to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

Franken has never held an elective office, has never until recently shown an interest in organized party politics (although he hasn’t been shy about which way he leans), he’s not a lawyer or a career politician and while growing up in Minnesota, Franken was born in New York and spent most of his life in New York.

My goodness, the man’s a comedian, a funnyman — a satirist.

Yet the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and actor draws a crowd most places he gathers for meet-and-greets, including 250 people recently in a Wadena café and likewise packed a Park Rapids café.

“Once they hear me speak, they know I speak from the heart, from the head and from the gut,” Franken told me a week ago as he overnighted in Bemidji on the way to a Senate candidate debate in International Falls. He’s on the trail with Twin Cities attorney Mike Ciresi and St. Thomas University Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

He’s visiting a lot of rural towns, especially in northern Minnesota, not so much for name recognition — thanks to his “other” career — but to drill in that he understands Minne-sota and lived in Minnesota (St. Louis Park). It’s why he’s run-ning barrage of television ads now, to solidify his Minnesota connection before anyone can tag him a “Hollywood” candidate because of his entertainment friends and their money.

“Going around, I discovered it was important for people to know I grew up in Minnesota,” he said.

Minnesotans do want to know their candidate, want to eyeball him or her in person, and want to know what they say about issues important to them. In our talk at the Green Mill, just a mention of Coleman’s role as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the war in Iraq wound Franken up for 15 minutes. And it must be touchy, as Sen. Coleman called me late last week to spend a half hour refuting all that Franken had said, quipping that Franken tells “half-truths and whole lies,” something sounding suspiciously like an Al Franken book title.

But what does candidate Franken know about northern Minnesota? Obviously, as a New Yorker, he hasn’t spent much time in the woods with a deer rifle. In fact, last fall Franken went hunting for the first time and had with him as his guide U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District, an avid hunter and founder of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

“My briefing was, ‘Shoot this,’ and a picture of a pheasant rooster, ‘Not this — Collin,’” Franken said of the second picture of Peterson. “Mission accomplished. I shot two roosters and not Collin.”

That episode aside, Franken said people have the right to have guns for collection, protection and hunting, recreation and target shooting. “I don’t think people should have artillery,” he said with a deep chuckle.

More seriously, “I think we should just enforce the laws that we have,” he said.

Franken’s been criticized of being a little light on farm is-sues, but says he’s learning. And he says he knows of the plight of northern Minnesota’s timber industry, and hopes a niche can be found in renewable energy production from the forest.

“Ag is obviously important to this state and it’s important to this country,” he said, adding that “I’ve been consulting with Collin Peterson, as well.” Peterson is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

“I do think that the green economy will be very good for rural Minnesota,” he said. “And also we’re talking about renewables and energy efficiency, and creating jobs through both of those.”

He’s been asked about the Iron Range’s current build-up and the need for more energy, with a “clean-coal” coal gasifi-cation plant proposed to gen-erate power. While it seems Franken may oppose the plant, he says he supports the techn-ology but is unsure if it’s appro-priate for that place at this time.

“The idea of coal gasification where you can sequester the CO2 is a technology that we ought to develop,” Franken said. “I’m just not sure at that plant is the best project. We want to get the most bang for the buck, and you want to make sure it’s sequestered properly.”

The technology is needed, he said, as China and India put up a coal-fired plant once a week. It does no good for the United States to seek a zero-carbon footprint when the other two nations continue unabated with carbon emissions.

“We need international agreements,” Franken said, such as a global cap-and-trade program to control carbon dioxide emissions, or the ability to sell U.S. clean-coal technology abroad.

On forestry, Franken says one of his strongest supporters is Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, who specializes in forestry issues. “Tom is a big champion of sustainable forests, and I think there’s tremendous possibilities of using forest products for biomass gasification.”

If it’s any indication of his willingness to learn northern issues, Franken has been also been endorsed by Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe of Bemidji, Rep. Brita Sailer of Park Rapids and Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook. He also recently won the endorsement of former U.S. Agriculture Secre-tary Bob Bergland of Roseau, who also served as U.S. House member from the 7th District.

Brad Swenson is the Bemidji Pioneer’s Opinion page and political editor.

There’s another Letter to the Editor today in the Grand Rapids Herald Review — the writer doesn’t take into account the pollution and health hazards that the Mesaba Proect presents, nor does he address the extreme burden his proposal would place on Minnesota Power, already distressed about the rate impacts of the transmission cost!

Relocate the Mesaba project

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 10:52:51 AM


The Itasca County Board is supporting the construction of an approximately 600 MW coal gasification plant which so far is apparently publicly funded. Part of this public support is the construction of infrastructure and part is the agreement that the project will not pay taxes back to the county in the near future.

On the other hand, other large companies like Blandin and Minnesota Power do pay taxes that benefit Itasca County as well as providing good jobs.

By locating the Mesaba project on its Highway 7 proposed site, the county must construct a short line rail and accept long wait times at rail crossings, extend a gas pipeline, construct a transmission line, dedicate the waters of the Canisteo pit and convert a greenfield site. Why not locate the project in a more suitable location where most of this infrastructure already exists?

If the project were located at the current Boswell plant site, it would be in an industrial location where gas, rail and transmission corridors exist. With lower emissions (as stated by Excelsior), it could replace Units 1 and 2 to the benefit of the environment. Operating costs would be reduced as the cost of coal delivery would be lowered.

It appears that the main objection to the Mesaba project is the chosen site and the exposure of Itasca County taxpayers to risk from funding and operating infrastructure projects. Relocating the project to the Boswell site would address both of these concerns while still preserving the project and the jobs.

Dean Sedgwick


Delaware has an IRP docket open thanks to a legislative mandate that brought back IRP. Here’s the utility’s site, Delmarva (sounds like laundry detergent). Their site asks “What would you like to do?” but the options suck.

There are three competing projects which, deja vu all over again, probably aren’t even needed. There’s gas, wind and NRG’s coal gasification proposal. But you ought to see their proposal:


Good Luck! Click on the NRG ones and try to see your way around the cheezy “redaction” job. NRG’s black magic marker crossing out the juicy parts lead to a Motion and more biomass flying around, and that’s at the bottom of the “ALL THE DELAWARE PROPOSALS” link.


A little birdie told me that NRG’s been told they have until Monday at high noon to come up with some better and more specific reasoning for their many redactions of stuff that, given what I know about IGCC now, seems bizarre, overly secretive. Stay tuned, because it’s gonna get interesting. Now I sure hope that the Delaware PSC staff is on this and reading the record for the Excelsior proposal here.

Here’s the word to NRG:

February 20, 2007

Mr. Houghton:

Staff has reviewed your submission dated February 16th, 2007, consisting
of your support for the continued redaction of extensive portions of
your bid.  After considerable thought Staff does not believe that your 4
page “explanation” follows either the spirit or letter of our guidance
with respect to the support requested relative to the scope of claimed
confidential materials.  The use of “broad categories” and the
contention that it would be “impractical and inefficient to draft a
point by point analysis of each redaction made” is unresponsive to our
request.  Because of the nature of the response, Staff is unable to
ascertain what data should retain its confidential protection.

Please be advised that absent a more comprehensive and detailed itemized
analysis, which would allow the Commission to make informed judgments on
the NRG redactions, Staff is prepared to recommend to the Commission
that the entire NRG bid be made public.  Staff is willing to provide you
until noon Monday to comply with its request, consistent with both the
oral and written communications that have occurred on this matter.  We
look forward to a responsive filing no later than Noon, Monday, February
26th, 2007.

Michael Sheehy


They’re going to hold meetings around the state, maybe it’s window dressing, or maybe it’s a reason to get out into the communities, or maybe it’s a lead-in to a decision that might not please the corporate Dogs, or maybe it’s something to keep us all busy and out of trouble…

Citizens voice opinions on gasification plant

Melissa Cox
The Daily Tribune

Thursday, December 21st, 2006 10:33:21 AM

TACONITE â?? The proposed coal-fired gasification plant was once again the topic of debate this week.

Six public hearings regarding Excelsior Energyâ??s proposed power purchase agreement (PPA), which would require Xcel Energy to purchase power from a base load power generating facility to be located near Taconite or Hoyt Lakes, were held in St. Paul, Hoyt Lakes and Taconite this week.

The hearings allowed the public to voice comments and concerns on the Mesaba Energy Project. The comments will be placed on record and taken into consideration by administrative law judges from the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

After the record is closed, the parties involved will file briefs and replies, and then the administrative law judges will make reports to the Minnesota PUC. The Minnesota PUC makes the final decision regarding the PPA.

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Story Content

The proposed coal-fed Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power generation facility would be constructed in two phases. Each phase would have the capability of producing approximately 600 megawatts of base load power. Construction of the proposed project would begin in 2008 with the expected serve date of 2011. There would be approximately 1,000 construction jobs and about 100 people employed during operation. Excelsior Energy would construct and operate the facility.

Two public hearings were held at the Taconite Community Center regarding the PPA Wednesday. The community center was packed for the 1 p.m. hearing.

Bruce Johnson, administrative law judge, facilitated the hearing, which lasted more than two hours.

â??We will be forwarding all your written comments as well as this oral testimony on to the Public Utilities Commission for the commissionâ??s consideration when it receives our report,â? Johnson told attendees.

After Johnson explained the process, representatives from Excelsior Energy, Xcel Energy, Citizens Against the Mesaba Project, Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy had a chance to speak. Then, the floor was open to the public with more than 30 people commenting. People spoke both for and against the project.

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Those in favor of the project focused on economic benefits to the region including high-paying jobs.

Peter McDermott, president of Itasca Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit corporation for helping create quality jobs in Itasca County, discussed the economic needs of Itasca County. He pointed out the county has high poverty levels, and this project would create jobs both directly and indirectly in the county.

Fred Tanner of Bovey said the schools have lost many children over the years and any type of economic improvement in the area would help the district and tax base. Tanner also pointed out that an advantage of the project would be using the water from Canisteo Pit, which could help with ongoing overflow issues.

Mark Mandich, Itasca County commissioner, said he is on record of supporting the project dependent on state permitting that is required in order for the plant to move forward.

Darrell Godvoug of a local ironworkers union said he supports the project because of the economic impact it would have.

Paul Dulong of Pengilly said economic development is required to keep this area going, to keep the school districts growing and to provide opportunity for people that are raising young families.

He said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to find a good-paying job in the area, but many of his classmates did not.

â??Generally, when you go to college you move on,â? he said. â??Thereâ??s no place to come back to. I was a displaced worker at Blandin. I went through the cutbacks of the forest industry. I watched the mining industry struggle. We have to diversify.

â??I heard people say, â??This is 100 jobs. What is 100 jobs?â?? Well, economic development spurs economic development and you have to take that step.â?

Being as strong on environmental standards as the state is, Dulong asserted that if this project passes those requirements, there is no doubt it needs to move forward to help the area grow.

Bob Schwartz noted as a small-business owner it is difficult to talk on record about the project. He said creation of 107 jobs is significant. He said he ran an ad for two full-time permanent positions with benefits for one day in the newspaper and received 197 applications, which is an indication that the area needs jobs.

Also, as a local football coach he has seen a lot of kids graduate and move away. He estimated that 90 to 95 percent would love to come back to the area and have good-paying jobs.

â??Those are the type of quality people we need to bring back,â? he said.

Schwartz said if it isnâ??t the power plant, then everyone in the room should band together for economic development.

Other supporters placed letters of supports from their organizations on record and talked about how they would like this area to be a place for future generations to live and work.

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Many concerns were raised from those who spoke in opposition to the project with a focus on environmental, health, economic and financial issues.

Jim Merhar, tribal chairman for White Earth Reservation on the Iron Range, said they are building an assisted living facility about a mile and a half from the plant. He said they have big concerns with the project including mercury, pollution, carbon, wetlands and water quality.

â??As native people, we really want clean water and clean air,â? he said. â??I donâ??t believe the taxpayers of this county should spend one dime building a railroad for this company …â?

LouAnne Hansen of Grand Rapids agreed that poverty is a huge problem in the area.

â??But, 100 jobs is such a small payment for the added financial responsibility for people living in the area to help pay for the infrastructure projects and the possible extra financial burden of Xcel customers,â? she said.

She noted that the economic ripple can go the other way with loss of tourism and other concerns, which she added is too big a price to pay.

Susan Backe of Grand Rapids said that a plant that offers 100 jobs will not eliminate poverty in Itasca County.

â??I would as a human being rather be poor and live in a clean house, than be rich and live in a dirty house, which is what is going happen to our lakes when the emissions from this proposed plant starts up,â? she said. â??I donâ??t feel this plant is beneficial for the citizens of northern Minnesota.â?

A concern raised by Charles Grant was that the technology needed to pull the carbon from the coal to keep it out of area lakes and peopleâ??s lungs isnâ??t there. Which in turn could cause health problems and environmental concerns.

Elmer Pederson said he supports the idea of having jobs in this area, but cannot support the project. He said the power isnâ??t being distributed in this area of the state, and residents shouldnâ??t have to deal with the contamination.

Murray Mills, of the Itasca Citizens for Responsible Government, opposed the project.

â??I think the key here this afternoon is the word responsible and we believe this project is irresponsible,â? he said.

Other concerns raised and questions asked include effect of carbon sequestration on reservoirs, mercury omission, effect on stock in Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, too many uncertainties, effect on well water, cost of the project, potential of acid rain, who the project is going to benefit, and effect on property value.

Comments voiced at the meeting and other written statements filed before Friday will be placed on record and considered in the proceedings.

Written comments regarding the power purchase agreement can be mailed to Office of Administrative Hearings, 100 Washington Square, Suite 1700, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2138, emailed to or faxed to 1-612-349-2665. Comments have to be submitted by 4:30 p.m. Friday in order to be included as part of public record.

Don’t forget that today is the Open House for Excelsior’s new office in Coleraine. It’s from 4-7 p.m. at the Peterson Funeral Home, be sure to stop in and ask when they’re holding the memorial service for Excelsior! With any luck, I should receive some photos from some little birdie or another…

What literally got me thinking about that was that I’d forgotten to feed the birdies and all my birdies were out over the poop deck bitching and kvetching, mad chickadees, junkos, nuthatches, blue jays and cardinals, not safe to let the grrrrrrls out, those little guys would divebomb like the eagles do at Colville Park! So, they’re taken care of, back to business…

Julie Risser, i.e.,, was netletted today in the STrib:

Better rethink coal-gasification plans

Regarding the Dec. 3 Business section article “Power-plant plan producing hot debate”: Tom Micheletti and Julie Jorgensen’s vision of six coal-gasification plants springing up over the next 30 years in northern Minnesota is outrageous; Minnesota lacks the geography needed for carbon sequestration and it does not produce coal.

Minnesota is already too dependent on coal to meet its electricity needs — more coal plants will not move us closer to energy independence. The cost of coal will continue to rise — approximately 50 percent of already comes from transporting it.

Finally, the potential pollution problems to Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams are enormous. Coal gasification is not a good fit for Minnesota. Team Excelsior should take its plans to Wyoming or Montana — go where the coal is.


But “to Wyoming or Montana?” They are clamoring for it, BUT water problems there have the same impact as water problems here, and then there’s… gasp… TRANSMISSION!!!