Here’s the Mesaba Daily News report of the Scoping hearing:

Environment, jobs top concerns at Excelsior scoping meeting

And here’s the MPR lead=in for today’s meeting:

Coal gasification gets environmental review

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Damn, caught in the act! But I couldn’t be bought, the dining room set offered just isn’t enough — I keep telling Micheletti he can’t afford me but he doesn’t get it — he’s been hit by a hockey puck too many times… or was that his brother???

Anyway, today’s meeting was… large… standing room only. Most of the Excelsior crew was there. Reps. Irv Anderson and Loren Solberg and Sen. David Tomassoni (the bill’s primary Senate promoter) were there, Mayor of Taconite and part of the City Council, an Itasca County Commissioner and more… the local elected officials seemed to have no idea of the project details, yet they were all doing their rah-rah promo speeches. How much is Taconite getting in Personal Property Taxes, or is this project exempt? Who is paying for the infrastructure — we know the county is taking on bonding for some… What about public safety necessities, like first responders, the volunteer fire department — it reminds me of Lake City’s volunteer fire department as the first responder to nuclear emergencies!!!! One council member acknowledged this problem, as a fire fighter he would be hard pressed to ignore it, and he was wondering where the needed training would come from. GOOD! Somebody’s thinking here! Chuck Michael, of Short Elliot Hendrickson, and who also runs the “Community Readiness Committee” has at least done his homework, but that’s probably because he actually works on the projects. As opposed to yahoos like Ron Dicklich, a lobbyist for GRE and Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, who gave the most pathetic “we’re going to freeze in the dark in an incubator without a job” comment, after all. He brought up that 6,300MW need and of course no mention of the 16,712MW in the MISO queue, I mean, it’s all from the same report, CapX2020, and you don’t even have to read narrative or do math to figure this one out — it’s pictures — LOOK AT PAGE 7. He’s about to inherit my monikor for Dick Day!!! OH, excuse me, I forgot, what do facts have to do with this… we don’t have the “facts” about this project anyway. Yes, I get that development of a project is always a moving target, but this is absurd.

Before the meeting, there was an informational session where the reps were there to jaw with the folks, which we all did, and we got info that’s not been public before — for example, Highway 7 is going to be rerouted. This was news to the guy who’s land it’s going through, and he learned at the meeting. When asked why he hadn’t been informed, he was told that they’d given plans to neighbors to pass around. Can you spell “communications issues?” Here’s the map, Hwy. 7 is the green line that is on the bottom half, a horizontal near the middle of the plan and then turns down to the south. He was in shock, and as we were talking, Tomassoni walks by, I nail him, “Here’s somebody you need to talk to,” and he was caught for a couple minutes at least. But he said, “I’m the guy you need to talk to, but I’m not the guy to tlak to, I don’t really know what they’re proposing.” Can this be true? Oh, I forgot, what do facts have to do with this…

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Here’s Excelsior’s Bob Evans backlit by some fun “facts” about the project that we’ve not been privy to before — can you believe they didn’t have this on handout for the folks? I raise that they should hand this out to the folks there, and there’s no initiative whatsoever. Thankfully, Bill Storm of the EQB/PUC/Commerce (whatever the hell it is nowdays), said he’d post it on their site and Rick Hargis of the DOE said he’d email it to me, but my concern isn’t for ME, it’s that the public needs this information. I can get it one way or another, but if this is a public meeting, the folks need to be able to take this stuff home and digest it. Again, risking sounding like a broken record, how in the hell can people comment on EIS review of a project if they don’t know what the project is?

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Excerpts from my Initial Comment:

Comment: Application (grant, project, whatever documentation provided information for the NOI) must be provided to the public at beginning of Comment Period. Meaningful scoping comments are difficult, if not impossible, and are thwarted where there is no project information available at the time of Federal Register publication. Notice was published on October 5, 2005, and to this date, this vague account is the most detailed information published about this project. I contacted the NEPA Document Manager, Mr. Hargis, and received a message that there was no underlying document. I contacted Michael Wadley of Excelsior and was told that there was a grant application that had been submitted, and he would check to see if that could be redacted and released. This dearth of information is not reasonable. It is impossible to guess at scoping issues or bounds, and it is not reasonable to have the public informational meeting just before the scoping meeting the first opportunity for the public to get any idea the details of the project if anything is produced. I’m not confident. But I am assuming that the DOE is not providing this private company with a massive grant and a billion dollars of loan guarantees for a project drawn on the back of a bar napkin. On the other hand, if it is, please consider this the application of Public Energy, Inc., for a similar project and send the check to the address above!

Comment: DOE must conduct wider alternatives analysis. I am disturbed by the DOE�s notion, without citation, that the DOE�s environmental responsibility is lessened because this is not a federal project, and that it is a private project. THIS DEMONSTRATION PROJECT WOULD NOT GO FORWARD BUT FOR DOE FUNDING. Because DOE funding is essential, the DOE�s responsibility is equal to or heightened from a project where there is a federal ownership interest. The DOE is not relieved of its environmental responsibilities under NEPA by ownership or lack thereof.

Comment: This project threatens environmental mitigation steps taken by the MEQB. In an effort to prevent bulk power transfers, increased use of coal generation, and the resultant increased mercury deposition and greenhouse gasses, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requested, and the Environmental Quality Board ordered, limits to the capacity of the Arrowhead transmission line. The capacity limit of the line is �enforced� by a phase shifting transformer, specified for this line to provide stability, and in this case, it was limited to 800 MVA � the line will receive only the electricity the transformer provides. However, Excelsior has discovered that addition of the Mesaba project to the grid creates grid instability:

� The studies showed that development of 345kV lines into and out of Arrowhead Substations causes the 230kV phase shifter installed to control the flows onto the Arrowhead-Weston 345kV line to become ineffective as the phase shifter is effectively by-passed.
o This issue has been brought to the attention of the project developers � Minnesota Power and American Transmission Company � and is being evaluated.

From Excelsior Energy Powerpoint presentation to MAPP NM-SPG. Given the grid in the area, the Arrowhead-Weston line is the logical choice, and it�s difficult to imagine an alternate route. The EIS must address the impact of increased mercury deposition and production of greenhouse gasses due to the bypass of the MPCA and EQB limitation.

Comment: This project threatens public safety by putting the grid at risk. In light of the above, the project puts public safety at risk by by-passing a transformer that has a grid stability function. The EIS must address public safety and risk to the grid of Mesaba interconnection.

Comment: If this project is to connect into the Blackberry substation, significant upgrades will be required. According to a Minnesota Power fax of 4/6/99, and subsequent analysis by Steve Leovy, WI-PSC staff engineer, the Blackberry to Arrowhead line and others are already in need of upgrade before this project is even considered. The EIS must examine safety and stability of this interconnection.

I’ll have a lot more to say about specifics, but today I wanted to stress some procedural issues, make sure they get that information must be provided and that the alternatives analysis must be more than “do we finance it or do we not finance it.” Good enough never is.

Here’s the “other Mike,” Excelsior’s Michael Wadley, talking with “The Face of Mesaba” Linda Castagneri and Ron Gustafson.

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Here’s Tom getting in the last word. More tomorrow…

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