Coal gasification work group?

What does it mean when the primary groups working against proliferation of coal plants, in fact with programs specifically for that purpose, are secretly meeting wtih utilities and coal companies, and it takes Neil St. Anthony of the Star Tribune to make it public? Where is the discussion of the agenda and the potential impacts?

There was a quiet little party in October, “THE NEXT GENERATION COAL SEMINAR,” a coal gasification “work group” where only a very limited number of participants were deemed “stakeholders” and invited to the party — it appears to have something to do with who is paying for the party. For some reason, my clients dealing with Mesaba coal gasification were not invited, nor were any of us who testified against coal gasification in Minnesota in 2002 and 2003.

What does it mean when days after the coal gasification party, the primary groups announce an effort to “Fight Coal Plant Expansion” when it’s their transmission deals and the transmission legislation they promoted as “a deal, a package deal, and a good deal” made those coal plants possible? Year after year, transmission opponents fought back the transmission construction agenda of “Wind on the Wires” yet after Wind on the Wires, Waltons and Crocker’s NAWO push the Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell through the legislature, Phase I of the transmission projects is announced, and NINE MORE just showed up in the recently released Transmission Plan. What kind of a “fight” will this be when they’ve opened the doors for transmission across the state and applications are flooding in? NINE projects are now expected, in addition to the Phase I projects.

At the coal gasification party, they were learning about coal gasification and CO2 sequestration, and they were shown this map by Jim Falsetti in his presentation, p. 35:

Sequestration - Potential CO2 reservoirs.jpg

Isn’t that map enough to demonstrate that CO2 sequestration isn’t a reasonable plan in Minnesota and Wisconsin?

Shouldn’t they pay attention to the questions raised about the economic feasibility of coal gasification, that the Mesaba project is not economically viable and too risky for private financing so it requires federal loan guarantees and grants from every entity possible? Shouldn’t they be concerned when Falsetti’s presentation states that past poor performance makes lenders reluctant?

When it’s a very limited number of parties from Minnesota and Wisconsin, none of which have taken any visible interest in coal gasification previously, none of which testified against coal gasification previously, how are they deemed “stakeholders?” Oh, that’s right, they’re paying for the party? Ummmmmmm, why are they paying for the party?

When it’s a very limited number of parties from Minnesota and Wisconsin meeting with the coal companies and utilities, and basic maps show that the area is not suitable for sequestration, that the “plan” clearly doesn’t pan out, doesn’t this mean the party’s over? OF COURSE NOT! Laa, la, laa, la, laa, laa, laa, laa, la, laaa, la…

Who’s a part of this group and who are they representing? NOT ME! NOT MY CLIENTS! We’re finding out who they are because new info has been added to the website. In Minnesota, ‘limited number” is a pretty generous way to phrase it — only the Waltons and WOW were invited, and WOW is just an extension of the Waltons, and don’t forget, the Waltons and ME3 are funders of this little group.

From what’s been made public, it’s the Izaak Walton League, ME3, Clean Wisconsin and Citizens Utility Board, and none of them are talking about it. There’s a piece in the most recent ME3 newsletter, but note what it doesn’t say, like who is participating and what they’re doing and when and where the next meeting is! Here’s the blurb from the newsletter:

Proposed coal plants threaten energy system innovation
ME3 regional partnership tackles global warming, promotes clean energy solutions

The Upper Midwest has been called the Saudi Arabia of clean energy in the United States. With an abundance of wind, biomass, and solar power, the Upper Midwest is poised to lead the nation toward a clean, secure, and innovative 21st-century energy system. To accomplish this, ME3 has joined a six-state effortâ??covering Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsinâ??of more than 35 nonprofits and foundations, working to develop Midwest leadership in energy systems and to reduce global warming pollution from Midwest electricity by 80 percent by 2030.

However, despite the Midwestâ??s clean energy potential, the region faces an onslaught of new coal plant proposals that threaten to increase our dependence on coal-fired power. More than 75 percent of the electricity in six Upper Midwest states is already generated from coal-fired plants. In Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, at least 24 new coal plant proposals are currently on the table.

The impacts of burning coal on human health and our environment are well-documented. Once built, coal plants operate for decades. If currently proposed plants are built, the next generation of Midwest power plant capital investments will consist largely of brand new, massive sources of smog and global warming pollution.

Regulatory processes for major proposed coal plants in the Midwest are already under way. A few key proposals follow:

* Big Stone II plant, a 600-megawatt pulverized coal plant proposed for Milbank, South Dakota, but whose electricity will mainly serve Minnesota consumers, has already begun its regulatory process. A process to determine the scope of a federal Environmental Impact Statement is under way by the Western Area Power Administration. An air permit application has been filed with the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources and a plant site permit application has been filed with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. The project will require a permit in Minnesota for the transmission line, as well as a Certificate of Need in Minnesota.

* Mesaba coal gasification project is a 530-megawatt plant proposed by Excelsior Energy Inc. for Minnesotaâ??s Iron Range. Many questions remain unanswered about this plantâ??s impact on the environment and local community. Some analysts believe coal gasification has the potential to solve coalâ??s environmental problems. But unless this plant can provide a realistic plan for managing its global warming pollutants, it should not claim to be a clean energy solution, because, if constructed, it would be one of our state â??s biggest polluters.

* Peabody Coal Prairie State Energy Campus in Illinois is currently slated to use outdated pulverized coal technology in its 1,500-megawatt plant. But Illinois regulators are feeling increased pressure to request that Peabody Coal investigate tougher air pollution technologies for its Prairie State plant proposal after Kentucky regulators rejected an air permit for a similar Kentucky plant proposal and sent it back to Peabody to be redone. Citing the â??best available control technologiesâ? requirement of the Clean Air Act, Kentucky regulators asked Peabody to consider cleaner technologies for its Thoroughbred Generating Station in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky.

Certainly, advocates for a clean, innovative, and sustainable 21st-century energy system face a challenge. But this unprecedented six-state alignment of nonprofits and foundations is up to the challenge. Look for updates on this groundbreaking collaboration from ME3.

Deal opens door to windpower


Cleaning up coal: Promising new, cleaner technologies

A group of strange bedfellows banded together to look for clean answers to the region’s energy potential.

Then on a list, Bill Grant of the Waltons admits that indeed, discussions are ongoing about the future of coal, and Katie Nekola says that they’re talking about coal gasification. Mike Bull and Betsy Engelking aren’t talking at all! In light of all the postings about Mesaba and sequestration I’ve made on this list, in light of attempts of “allies” to quash my testimony, that of Paula Macabbee, and others, against Mesaba in 2002 and 2004, in liglht of the silence of the parties involved, needless to say, I think they’re up to no good.

Here’s the poop that’s now posted that wasn’t there a while ago:
The agenda
Attendees from a October 6, 2005 meeting have been published on their site.

Here’s the list of who went to the October 6 gathering::

Attendee List
Name, Company

Beth Soholt, Wind on the Wires

Betsy Engelking, Xcel Energy

Bill Edmonds, Pacificorp

Bill Grant, Izaak Walton League of America

Bill Ward, The P&G Paper Products Co.

Bob Raney, Montana Public Utilities Commission – SPEAKER

Bonnie Turner, Westmoreland Coal

Bruce Reynolds, Idaho National Laboratory

Cathy Bois, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

Charles Higley, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin

Dallas J. Scholes, Kennecott Energy

David L. Klemp, Montana Department of Environmental Quality

Ed Steadman, University of North Dakota – PRESENTER

Elizabeth J. Wilson, U of MN Hubert H. Humprey Institute of Public Affairs

Gary Hanson, South Dakota Utilities Commission

Howard Herzog, Massachusetts Institute of Technology – PRESENTER
(also Advisory Board, Clean Air Task Force)

James S Falsetti, Process Energy Solutions – PRESENTER

Jeffrey Haase, Minnesota Department of Commerce

Jimmy Sedeita, Joyce Foundation

John Thompson, Clean Air Task Force

Karen R.H. Utt, Xcel Energy

Katie Nekola, Clean Wisconsin

Ken Detmer, Wisconsin Public Service Commission

Ken Wolf, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission

Kevin Vesperman, Alliant Energy

Kim Zuhlke, Alliant Energy

Mark Hodges, Proterra Trust

Mark Meyer, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin – SPEAKER

Mark Redsten, Clean Wisconsin

Melody Sakazaki, Energy Center of Wisconsin

Mike Bull, Minnesota Department of Commerce

Randy Pilo, Wisconsin Public Service Commission

Ray Knudsen, Petroleum Technology Research Center – PRESENTER

Rich Wardner, Dickinson Chamber of Commerce

Roger Johnson, Department of Agriculture

Steve Brick, Energy Center of Wisconsin
(also Board of Directors, Clean Air Task Force)

Susan Capalbo, Montana State University-Bozeman – PRESENTER

Thomas Lynch, Conoco Phillips – PRESENTER


I’ve got a lot of questions about this, like why is this so secretive, but another question sticks out — HAS THIS GROUP ADDRESSED CONTAMINATED WATER, an issue at Wabash River and in North Dakota?

Has the group reviewed the Wabash Final Technical Report that notes that the plant was “routinely” in violation of its water permit with high levels of selenium, cyanide, and arsenic?

Here’s a report about the problems with contamination of water from gasification in North Dakota.


I guess I’ll be sending these reports and others that I have on water contamination to all the participants… sigh…

…and talking about sequestration as if it’s the panacea… and for some reason no one’s talking about the problems with sequestration. Let’s start with basics. Simple math. According to one of the power points from this session, there are 218 billion tons of sequestration storage available, and there is 619 billion tons produced annually. It’s enough sequestration space for what, FOUR MONTHS and then game over! Isn’t that sorta like drilling in ANWR for oil? But then again, for some reason people don’t want to understand that we “need” 6,300MW by 2010 and have 16, 712MW waiting in line, 6,412MW to spare, more simple math that just isn’t acknowledged.

Howard Herzog’s presentation, p. 8, lists potential sites nationally, including the site underneath Nancy Prehn’s home in Waseca! Why wasn’t Nancy Prehn invited to this little party???

Here’s that map, once more with feeling:

Sequestration - Potential CO2 reservoirs.jpg

Maybe it’s time for my Mesaba clients to crash the party! They understand better than most what coal gasification means.

2 Responses to “Playing with fire! Waltons, ME2, CleanWI & CUB”

  1. Mike Bull Says:

    Carol, the coal gasification work group is a great resource for information (pro- and con-) regarding coal gasification as a technology. As usual, you find conspiracies and skullduggery around every corner. That’s just silly. Of course everyone brings their own agenda to a diverse group like this, but the workgroup as a whole isn’t “pro-IGCC” or “pro-coal.”

    For my part, as I’ve said on this board and elsewhere, if we’re going to continue to use coal as a resource, and I think we are, then IGCC seems to be the technology that will allow us to do that with the least environmental impacts. I say “seems to be” — I’m there to learn more about the technology and its potential.

  2. Mike Bull Says:

    And, for what it’s worth, I applaud the willingness of the Ikes, ME3 and WOW to participate in forums like this one — but their opposition to the Mesaba Energy Project, in communications within and external to the workgroup, is clear (in fact, they may be your clients’ best ally on that issue). I don’t mean to speak for Bill or Michael, but it’s my sense that their willingness to consider IGCC stems from the potential for cost-effective capture and geologic sequestration of carbon emissions from IGCC facilities — a net zero carbon emissions potential.

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