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Today the “Exceptions” to the ALJ’s Recommendation in the Chisago Transmission Project case were due.  Once again, the Department of Commerce has outdone itself in bizarro submissions.  Click on the documents below to check them out, and really, DO read the one from Commerce:

ALJ Recommendation for Chisago

And here’s what we all had to say about the ALJ’s recommendation:

Exceptions – City of Lindstrom

Exceptions – Xcel

Exceptions – Concerned River Valley Citizens

Bizarro “non-exceptions” – Commerce

Something tells me that the PUC argument on this one will be a hoot!  Ought to sell tickets…

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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.

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The Environmental Assessment for Xcel’s Chisago Transmission Project, the transmission line running along Highway 8 from the Chisago substation to St. Croix Falls (and then off through Wisconsin) has been released, and here it is, in a couple of pieces:

Chisago – Environmental Assessment

Chisago – Environmental Assessment, Appendices

So what to do if you have a Comment?  Sit on it!  Here’s the Notice of Availability — scan it for info on how and where to send Comments:

Chisago – Availability Notice

Here’s info on the public hearing from the Notice:

Public Hearing Schedule

A joint public hearing to receive public testimony in both the need and route matters will be convened in two sessions at:

7:00 PM
Tuesday September 4, 2007 and Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Chisago Lakes Area Library
11754 302nd Street
Chisago City, MN 55012

Evidentiary hearings on the Certificate of Need application will also be held in the library on September 4th and 5th beginning at 9:00 am. Evidentiary hearings on the Route Permit Application will be held in the library on September 6th and 7th beginning at 9:00 am.ach public hearing session will continue until all persons have had the opportunity to present evidence and question witnesses. If needed, the hearing may be recessed and continued by the ALJ, and additional hearing dates may be established by the ALJ in accordance with Minnesota Rules 1405.1400 to 1405.2300.

Written comments on the proposals may be submitted to Judge Lipman, at the address listed above, at any time before 4:30 p.m. on September 14, 2007. After the close of written comment period, Judge Lipman will prepare a report and make a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission regarding Xcel Energy’s proposal.

It’s not just in Delaware. Things got wound up in the Chisago Transmission Line docket, starting Friday, the 6th. For background, check these dockets:

04-1176

06-1677

To do that, go to www.puc.state.mn.us and then to “eDockets” and then to “Search documents” and then search for the dockets.

Friday was the day when Commerce sent this convoluted and tortured responsive letter (not pleading) to the City of Lindstrom’s Motion to Extend Task Force:

City of Lindstrom – Motion to Extend Task Force

Here’s their take — which is beyond… beyond… well, read it for yourself:

Commerce Letter to ALJ Lipman

The Commerce position was a bit more than I could take — to think that, even where the PUC decision is silent on it, to think that the routing of the Chisago project is not a contested case is just nuts, so I fired off this quickie Petition to get this nailed down:

City of Lindstrom – Petition for Contested Case

They’ve been doing a good job of trying to keep the public out, keeping local government out. It started right out the gate, when Xcel didn’t serve me with the Certificate of Need application, and then didn’t seve me with the Routing application either! They didn’t serve my former client, Concerned River Valley Citizens, etiher. Chisago City was not served with notice or the application or with notice of the Citizens Task Force. CRVC participated in the notice plan, and yet when it was time for Comments on Completeness, Commerce did not bother to serve any of us with those Comments, and when challenged, PUC staff Bret Ekness said they were only about “completeness” and that the Comment period shouldn’t be extended. Nevermind that they were arguing for a “non-contested” proceeding, which given Chisago history is NOT realistic. Then came the PUC hearing, at which time Jim Alders addressed whether it should be a contested case, saying that the company expected it would be a contested case and that Xcel did not have an issue with that.

But noooo, that’s not the end of it. Last Monday, the ALJ issued two Orders, one regarding the City of Lindstrom’s Motion to Extend Task Force:

ALJ Certification to the PUC

But noooo, that’s not the end of it. Here’s the Minnesota version of gavelling the public, quashing participation:

ALJ Harrassment and Quashing of CRVC

By Wednesday of this week, the ALJ  has ordered CRVC that:

3.    On or before 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, a representative of the Concerned River Valley Citizens shall file responsive papers addressing the following matters:

a.    Whether either Mr. Neuman or Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in Minnesota or any other jurisdiction;

b.    Whether, in the view of the association, representation of Concerned River Valley Citizens by a non-attorney would amount to the unauthorized practice of law, as those terms are used in Rule 1400.5800;

c.    Whether, in the view of the association, retaining the services of a licensed attorney to appear on behalf of Concerned River Valley Citizens would be unduly burdensome;

d.    Whether the Concerned River Valley Citizens, if granted intervention as a party, would seek access to confidential trade secret data; and,

e.    Whether a more limited role than intervention, under Rule 1400.7150, might meet the needs of Concerned River Valley Citizens

…. sigh… can  you believe????
So we’re before the PUC on Thursday.

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The Chisago Transmission Project is going forward with vigor, and with not a heck of a lot of notice.  For example, the Public Comment session on scoping of the Environmental Assessments was last Tuesday, and Comments are open until the 29th of March.

PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE WITH COMMENT INFO

DEPT OF COMMERCE – CHISAGO SITING DOCKET

 XCEL – CHISAGO TRANSMISSION PROJECT APPLICATIONS
They’re in such a hurry that they’re appointing the Citizens Task Force tomorrow, notifying them by the 9th, and week of the 12th they’re starting the Task Force meetings. There’s no way that public entities, i.e., cities, can properly nominate and approve a Task Force member by that time.  NO WAY!!!  That’s “streamlining” in the extreme!

Here’s an article on Jeremy:

Freshman lawmaker Jeremy Kalin of Lindstrom exhibits high energy, working on series of initiatives

Monday, 05 March 2007

by T.W. Budig
ECM capitol reporter

There’s a pair of baby shoes in Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-Lindstrom, office at the Capitol.

They’re a gift from a family member, a memento of the drive candidate Kalin exhibited in wearing out five pairs of shoes campaigning in District 17B.

Now the high-energy candidate has made the transition to high-energy lawmaker.

“First of all, I’m having a blast,” said Kalin recently of life in St. Paul.

“If I’m going to be effective, I have to take advantage of every second I’m here,” he said.

Events move quickly at Capitol

Although only two months on the job, one thing that has impressed Kalin is how quickly events move at the Capitol.

And he’s noticed, too, that it’s not when lawmakers are making speeches or otherwise posturing that the work gets done. Deals are struck over coffee, walking to committee, he explained.

Indeed, Kalin wanders about during House floor sessions, not aimlessly nor sightseeing but to buttonhole colleagues, extract information.

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In rapid fire Kalin can list a series of initiatives he’s working on. Some have been planned, others developed when he saw an opening and thought “Why not?”

An example of the latter is a proposed East Central pilot project for growing prairie grass for the ethanol industry.

Kalin — who is carrying a portion of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s energy bill — thought growing grasses for ethanol production could be a good use of the sandy soils found in the district.

Jumped in with a proposal

So he saw an opening in some legislation and jumped in with the proposal. “I believe my folks sent me done here to get things done for them,” he  said.

Another energy-related idea Kalin, 32,  designer and draftsman by profession, has is to rate the energy efficiency of public buildings on a state Web site.

The idea, he explained, is to activate the public — to provide information.

When they learn their city is losing thousands of dollars through poor energy use, taxpayers will let their council members know about it, he explained.

Kalin serves in a political place and already has had to make political decisions.

Recently, the House debated an increase in their per diem or daily allowance.

DFL leaders didn’t want a floor debate but rather send Republican amendments on the increase to committee.

Breaks with the leadership

Kalin broke with leadership, voting with Republicans. “I can tell you that wasn’t easy to do,” he said. Yet Kalin argues that per diem is being used as a salary supplement. “I think we should have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Yes, we should raise pay,’ or ‘No, you shouldn’t,’” said Kalin.

While not ruling out a pay increase in the future, Kalin argues now is the wrong time.

In recent days, DFL leaders at the Capitol have indicated that some big issues, such as health care, cannot be fully addressed this session.

That some must be put off for future sessions.

Kalin argues that’s acceptable.

“They don’t want us to do everything at once,” said Kalin of the public.

You don’t want the right ideas with the wrong details, he warned.

In discussing other issues, Kalin said the transportation finance committee only now is figuring out the budget — the issue of a possible gas tax increase hasn’t been decided yet, he explained.

Kalin believes most constituents in his district would accept a gas tax hike — district transportation needs are so pressing, he explained.

“Of course there’ll be some (political) grief,” he said, smiling.

“There’s a little grief waking up and keeping my title ‘politician,’” he said, laughing.

Kalin’s first bill

Kalin’s first bill, a bill dealing with veterans applying for hunting licenses, is expected to come up on the House floor for a vote.

It’s a compromise, Kalin explained. And it’s better for it, he opined. “I think it’s a big success,” he said.

On one recent day, Kalin — the bright sun outside his office window beautifully lighting the Capitol entrance across the street — spoke of rapidly approaching committee deadlines.

He spoke of the need to move faster. Of getting more done. “There’s so much more to do,” he said.

Kalin and his fiance, a physician, are planning to marry in August.

(Photo by T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter)