(Navy spin test facility)

The spin of this Mesaba ALJs recommendation of denial of the PPA is dizzying:

“The reaction (we received) is that we’ve introduced the most obnoxious kind of project you could ever imagine, rather than introducing the cleanest coal plant in the world,” [Micheletti] said.

Ummmm… this is a surprise? It IS the most obnoxious kind of project you could ever imagine!

From the Grand Rapids Herald Review:

Mesaba Energy Project sees major setback

Than Tibbetts

Monday, April 16th, 2007 08:14:30 AM

The Mesaba Energy Project could be one unfavorable ruling away from ruin.

Two administrative law judges overseeing Excelsior Energy’s case for a 600-megawatt, coal-fired power plant north of Taconite ruled that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission should not approve the company’s plans.

The commission, which has the final authority in the matter, is expected to hear the case early this summer.

Judges Steven Mihalchick and Bruce Johnson wrote in their decision that the project is not an “innovative energy project,” language crafted in a 2003 law meant to kick-start development of an integrated gasification combined-cycle, or IGCC, power plant in Minnesota.

The project’s proposed $2 billion price tag meant it would need plenty of public money as well a guaranteed buyer for the plant’s electricity. Mihalchick and Johnson also recommended that the commission scrap the proposed power purchase agreement between Excelsior and St. Paul-based Xcel Energy.

The judges’ ruling — which included stating that the project is not likely to be a least-cost resource — took both proponents and opponents of the project by surprise.

Excelsior CEO Tom Micheletti said it seemed like the judges ignored most of Excelsior’s testimony.

“It flies in the face of everything that’s being discussed about the need to do something about global warming,” he said. “Either they totally ignored our evidence or they just didn’t read it.”

Excelsior officials have touted the power plant as an economic windfall for the area which would create more than 100 permanent, high-paying jobs.

Charlotte Neigh, co-chair of Citizens Against the Mesaba Project, said the ruling was vindication for CAMP members and the hard work they put in to defeating the proposed power plant.

“It demonstrates that some of the reasons that motivated CAMP were valid,” she said of the ruling. “They did an excellent job in that report…and I don’t see how the (public utilities) commissioners could vote any differently.”

If the Mesaba Project has any hopes of getting built, the public utilities commission will have to side with Excelsior and grant a power purchase agreement, Micheletti said, or construction cannot begin.

Carol Overland, an attorney for Mesaba project’s opponents, said the judges made a very strong statement.

“I was really struck by the way they started out by directly saying it’s not an innovative energy project,” she said. “That carries so much weight.”

Excelsior has about three weeks to file exceptions to the judges’ ruling.

Overland said the public utilities commission typically follows administrative law judges’ decisions except for politically charged issues or, in many cases, for Xcel Energy. With many area legislators backing the Mesaba Energy Project, the PUC’s hearing could be interesting, she said.

Peter McDermott, president of the Itasca Economic Development Corp., said the ruling is a disappointment, but still saw a window of possibility.

“I think (Excelsior has) seen stumbling blocks before and gotten around them,” he said. “Whether they can get around this, I don’t know.”

Itasca County Board of Commissioners Chairman Catherine McLynn was at a meeting of the Western Mesaba Planning Board Thursday evening when the news was announced of the judges’ ruling. McLynn said there were representatives from both Excelsior Energy and CAMP at the meeting and all were taken aback by the announcement. But McLynn stated that all, including the county, understand that this decision does not stop the project.

McLynn explained that the board remains “on record as passed by resolution” to be in support of the project should it pass the environmental permitting process. She emphasized the fact that the final decision on whether the project moves forward is not a decision of the county. However, McLynn explained that the county has been active in supporting the construction of infrastructure needed for the Minnesota Steel mill project which would also service the Mesaba Project.

“We will continue to work with Excelsior on terms and agreements that are mutually acceptable,” said McLynn in an interview with the Herald-Review Friday morning.

“We are still in the middle of the fact-finding phase,” McLynn added. “The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be released soon and we’re waiting for that piece of information.”

Representative Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) said he has always been in support of the states strong review system, “Companies have to respond to the review process.”

Both Overland and Micheletti noted that the ruling could have far-reaching effects. Several IGCC power plants are in the works around the county, and Minnesota was seen as the first large-scale project to test the public’s palate for new coal plants.

Micheletti said Excelsior will continue to work to bring a power plant to Taconite, adding he hopes the public utilities commission has “more experience” with energy issues.

“The reaction (we received) is that we’ve introduced the most obnoxious kind of project you could ever imagine, rather than introducing the cleanest coal plant in the world,” he said.

And a note of congratulations from Stephanie with this original:


I’ll keep it with the line drawing of me falling out of my broken chair, and the very moving photo of her with her assassinated ducks laid out on a board…

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