Rock-Tenn heats up — FIRE!

January 19th, 2008


I’ve posted previously about the garbage burner planned for Rock-Tenn and the fight to keep that from happening, lead by Neighbors Against the Burner, a very effective bunch from the surrounding community. Well, it got really hot on Thursday (yeah, old news, that’s how it goes…), hot in a different way:

Fair Use photo stolen from WCCO…

Rock-Tenn fire caused $500,000 damage
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/18/2008 06:21:05 PM CST

The two-alarm fire at Rock-Tenn Co. in St. Paul on Thursday caused $500,000 in damage, the St. Paul fire marshal said today.

Fire investigators have narrowed the cause of the fire, but it remains under investigation, said Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. It wasn’t intentionally set, he said.

At the state’s largest paper recycler, work has continued elsewhere at the 42-acre site and will soon resume at the site of the fire, said Rock-Tenn general manager Dave Briere.

No workers were injured in the fire at Rock-Tenn, near Interstate 94 and Vandalia Street. More than 40 firefighters fought the blaze.

Throughout this garbage burner fight, Rock-Tenn is claiming to be a “victim” of MERP, the Metropolitan Emissions Reduction Project (plan? p???), which was the means of shutting down coal at Xcel’s Riverside and Highbridge plants.

Anyone involved in MERP knows full well that loss of steam at Highbridge was NOT an unknown, and Rock-Tenn sat on its hinder, thumb or head implanted, and did nothing, NOTHING, as MERP went through a long negotiation and PUC docket, not exactly a private proceeding, and Rock-Tenn was certainly discussed. And now here they are, begging at the public trough, expecting taxpayers to subsidize their business by building them a steam source, and by financing a District Energy expansion into the eastern edge of St. Paul… say what??? Why? THEY DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO INTERVENE IN THE MERP DOCKET!!! This whining “victim” stance is very odd… the basic legal word for their “problem” is “laches,” the “you snooze, you lose” theory. Rock-Tenn is trying to turn it into a “you snooze or you sit back, feet up, and YOU WIN THE SUBSIDY LOTTERY!!!” I don’t think so. “STRANDED COSTS?” Over my dead polar bear! Here’s what they tried in 2004, and thankfully it didn’t prevail, but it gives an indication of the extent they’re willing to go to get that big subsidy:

From the Senate Briefly, March 26, 2004:

Anderson also authored a bill, S.F. 2854, providing for the recovery of stranded costs by thermal energy customers adversely affected by the Metropolitan Emissions Reduction Program. Representatives of the Rock-Tenn Company, which manufactures 100 percent recycled paper board and buys steam from the High Bridge plant in St. Paul, outlined their needs and the investments they have made in their business and a steam line between the High Bridge plant and their facility, which is located in the Midway area of St. Paul. About $20 million of costs will be stranded when the High Bridge plants converts from coal to natural gas, said Larry Schedin, an engineer. Rock-Tenn Vice President Jack Greenshields said the company intends to build a biomass power generation facility on its manufacturing site. Chris Clark, Xcel Energy, said the bill is the wrong way to solve Rock-Tenn’s problem. The company’s contract to buy steam is with NRG, not Xcel, Clark said. Xcel ratepayers should not bear the burden of paying for Rock-Tenn’s loss, he said. Beth Goodpaster, Izaak Walton League, said the bill sets an inappropriate precedent for the use of emissions reduction riders. Stranded cost recovery usually involves a taking by the state, Ourada said, but the emissions reduction plan is a voluntary action undertaken by Xcel. Rock-Tenn made a business decision to buy steam from a third party, he said. However, Anderson said the state helped along the process leading to the conversion of the High Bridge plant. A motion to advance the bill failed on a 6-6 tie.

This wasn’t just in the Senate, S.F. 2854, there was also a House bill, H.F. 2823:

S.F. 2854, authors Anderson; Pappas; Larson; Hottinger (Gaither removed his name as author)

H.F. 2823, author Hausman (referred to Regulated, but no hearing)

The bill would have added the following language to 216B.1692, Subdivision 5, and renumbered subsequent paragraphs:

(2) allows a thermal energy customer of a facility subject to a qualified emission reduction project to recover stranded costs caused by the qualifying emissions reduction project;

and the 2003 “Prairie Island” bill, Laws 2003, First Special Session Chapter 11, article 3, section 12, would have been amended, adding:

Minnesota Statutes, section 216B.1692, subdivision 5. Such costs must also include amounts to be reimbursed to a thermal energy customer of a facility subject to this primary metropolitan emission reductions proposal for recovery of stranded costs under the rider caused by the qualified emission reductions project pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 216B.1692, subdivision 5. Such stranded costs include, but are not limited to, recovery of costs incurred in connection with the construction and other required capital improvements to the steam production facilities that are subject to a qualifying emissions reduction project which provides steam service to such thermal energy customer and to the steam delivery pipeline used to deliver steam from the steam production facilities to the thermal energy customer. The commission shall verify and approve the amount of stranded costs to be recovered under the rider.

Thankfully this didn’t get anywhere. Whatever were they thinking?

Note Larry Schedin weighing in on this. He was “The Environmental Organizations” expert witness in the SW MN 345kV line, a former Xcel employee, probably back in the NSP days. He’d worked on the 345kV ring around the metro area! Here’s his testimony for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in the Rate Case. He was also involved in the 2004 Wind Integration Study.

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