Last night was the Energy Discussion that Mike Bull put together, one of many he’s doing around the state. Here’s his name in lights this week: Energy plan tilts to windmills. Mike’s the Assistant Commissioner for Renewable Energy and Advanced Technologies, and I’d guess he’s probably hitting those areas that need the help that only the Gov’s top energy boy can lend! Coming up soon, Morris, Preston, and somewhere on the Range in December! Without a doubt, it’s campaign season in Minnesota…

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As Ray notes in his blog, many of those present were lobbyists — how many can you name in this photo???

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After Mike’s presentation, it was opened to questions, and there was a lot of talk about biodiesel, and Jesse Streitz did have great comments about reducing energy and the need to make energy options available to all, making it an individual action that people can really take — I sure couldn’t afford solar or a new hybrid car, much less a home like Ray built for Jesse!

The Face of Mesaba

The drum roll came as Linda Castagneri spoke. She and her husband Ron Gustafson are the “Face of Mesaba.” Linda is a native of the range who grew up with the Michelettis. Ron and Linda are very real people who are faced with this insane concept of trains and trucks roaring through their yard, transmission lines overhead, underground pipe lines for natural gas and water, constant industrial sounds and bright lights… who could have imagined that one day this project would come to their beautiful haven nestled between two lakes in the old growth pine bog?

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Linda and Ron are two of the landowners affected by the Mesaba coal gasification plant. Here is the site plan Download file

Linda asked Rep. Cox why he supported the bill exempting Excelsior from a Certificate of Need, and giving them, a private company, the power of Eminent Domain. Ray admitted to supporting the Bill, but stated that it has turned out to be a “bait and switch” as legislators were led to believe the project was to be built in Hoyt Lakes. He did not say that he’d do anything to change it!

Mike Bull stated several times that the Excelsior Energy Plant was not a done deal, and said the state is “kicking the tires” and not quite sure to buy into the project or not. He said it has become very expensive and that no one knows at this point what it will actually cost. Ron, who had the DOE Notice of Intent, reminded him that the Federal Register lists the cost at 1.9 billion, plus the state bond costs, and he let us know that Excelsior Energy had come to the County wanting even more money, more than $50 million for infrastructure. Mike also stated that although the statute exempts Excelsior from a Certificate of Need, it does not prevent the state from requiring Excelsior to prove the need for the plant, and they will have to do this at the PUC when the Power Purchase Agreement goes before the Commission. This statement was contrary to what Bill Storm, the EQB project manager, has previously told Ron and Linda. It’s also contrary to my take on the law and agency process. And claims that “it’s not a done deal” do not alter the fact that everyone concerned about Mesaba will have to participate in every aspect of the permitting process — I’ve already been on this project since December, 2001. It keeps moving forward, and it is moving forward, it has not stopped.

Mike Bull said that neither he nor the state considers coal gasification as a renewable energy source, although there were legislative attempts to classify it as renewable. He thinks the coal gasification process MAY be a cleaner alternative to present coal burning plants and an alternative to nuclear plants, and the state needs to look at all alternatives. Ron pointed out that the Federal Register identifies Coal Gasification as a “Demonstration Project of high economic risk”.

Linda and Ron also provided Cox and Bull with handouts of the law from the 2003 Special Session, Chapter 11, HF 9, photos of their property and their neighbors, and the Federal Register Notice of Intent from the Department of Energy. Mesaba is going forward. It’s time those who promote it recognize the real damage it will do, and recognize the impacts it has on the very real people who live in its footprint and beyond.

This is the face of Mesaba… Linda’s statement was riviting.

It’s time to hold the supporters of Mesaba accountable. You could build tens of thousands of off-grid energy efficient homes before it would offset the negative impact of this one Mesaba plant.

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One Response to “The Face of Mesaba & the Cox & Bull Story!”

  1. Stephanie Henriksen Says:

    I see Coleman’s face in the photo here. I’d say he better start worrying about being reelected. I started reading the Mesaba account here to my husband and he couldn’t stand listening to it.

    Makes one wonder if those we elect are completely incompetent or WHAT. Big energy and big agriculture seem to come out on top in Minnesota. Fertile ground for big blunders.

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