Mesaba – Extend the hearing!

February 23rd, 2008


IGCC and coal gasification — Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project is the bloated and thrashed equine carcass that keeps coming back for more.  The Mesaba Project is still dead…
Whew!  That Mesaba hearing in January was such a farce… some was detailed in a previous post, foreshadowing mostly, and some more here in this post. The transcripts of it have to be read to be believed. They’re in St. Paul, as always, at the Dept. of Commerce, and they’re also, thanks to the efforts of CAMP (Citizens Against the Mesaba Project), in the libraries in Hoyt Lakes and Grand Rapids. Really, it’s worth the drive to check these out. This transcript has, in black and white, some of the most egregious examples of procedural bullshit I’ve ever seen, there really is no other term for it. It’s hard to say what sticks in my craw the most, but I’ve got a few more quotes that I’ll stick below.

I’ve been shaking my head in disbelief for almost a month now, and had to do something, this just couldn’t go unacknowledged, so once the transcripts arrived, I had a little help getting some choice quotes and had a couple of questioners of witnesses eager to do some more questioning so we filed this Motion for Extension of Hearing:

MCGP Motion for Extension of Hearing

MCGP Motion – Affidavit of Muller

MCGP Motion – Affidavit of Rich

Here are some snippets:

—————————————————–p. 20

6 MS. OVERLAND: Is there an MPCA representative
7 here?
8 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Is there a what?
9 MS. OVERLAND: Is there a representative of
10 the MPCA here today? MPCA, anyone?
11 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Nobody is raising their
12 hand.
13 MS. OVERLAND: Shouldn’t they be here?
14 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: I don’t know. That’s their
15 choice.

—————————————————–p. 28-29

9 MS. OVERLAND: I have a procedural issue.
10 Carol Overland for MCGP. I have a procedural issue
11 regarding Mr. Starns’ comments early on. Mr. Starns
12 had made a specific reference to size, type and timing.
13 And under Minnesota Rule 7849.5710, Subpart 4, under
14 issues it says, “Once the Public Utilities Commission
15 has determined the questions of need, including size,
16 type and timing, questions of system configurations and
17 questions of voltage, these issues must not be
18 addressed in the public hearing.”
19 Now, the Public Utilities Commission has not
20 determined the question of need and it has not
21 determined questions of system configuration, questions
22 of voltage. So I wanted to point that out, that this
23 proceeding is exempt — their project is exempt from
24 certificate of need requirements. But there has not
25 been a determination made by the PUC about need or any
1 of these other issues.
2 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Mr. Starns, do you want to
3 address that?
4 MR. STARNS: Your Honor, because the project
5 is exempt from certificate of need, that’s why size,
6 type and timing are not to be considered.
7 MS. OVERLAND: Your Honor, again, that’s not
8 what the rule says. It says “The PUC has determined,”
9 and the PUC hasn’t determined, they have not.
10 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: In my judgment the statute
11 exempts this project from the certificate of need
12 requirements. In essence, it seems to me that exempts
13 them also under that rule as if — so it should be
14 interrupted as if the commission had determined that.
15 If we did otherwise, we’d be bringing back in a
16 requirement that the legislature said shouldn’t be
17 there. So I think his statement was accurate, Mr.
18 Starns’ statement was accurate.
19 Any other preliminary matters?

—————————————————–p. 308

2 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: We’re going to go back on
3 the record. This is the second session of the public
4 hearings in the matter of the joint applic366ation to the
5 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for the following
6 pre-construction permits: Large electric generating
7 plant site permit, high voltage transmission line route
8 permit, and natural gas pipeline routing.
9 We’re going to go back, essentially, to the
10 originally scheduled process of doing the Stage 1
11 proceedings at the start of today, meaning the company
12 will call its witnesses and have them testify. If I or
13 the department have any questions, we’ll take those,
14 and then when we’ve completed those witnesses, we’ll
15 move into Stage 2, the public comments and questions.
16 Mr. Starns.

—————————————————-p. 366

2 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: We’re not taking public
3 questions. We’ve changed the process. We’ve gone back
4 to the original process that we’re going to do the
5 Stage 1 portion of the applicant putting in its
6 exhibits or testimony. Then when we’re done with that,
7 we’ll take questions from the public.
8 MS. OVERLAND: Does that mean all the
9 witnesses?
10 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: That’s right. We’re about
11 halfway done.
12 MS. OVERLAND: You mean through the entire
13 list of witnesses?

So he rammed through 16 witnesses in one day, it took all day:

Applicant witnesses:

Todd Royer
Thomas Henning
George McVehil
Jeffrey Davis
John Lee
Charles Michael
Kelly Henry
Brad Kovach
Anne Ketz
Bret Johnson
David McKenzie
Robert Mantey
Stephen Sherner
Paul Young
Richard Stone
Bob Evans

In Hoyt Lakes, the gym the hearing was held in was unheated, and Mihalchick made us sit all day through introductions of all those witnesses and it was DAMN COLD, and as Alan got up to start questioning:

15 MR. MULLER: My name is Alan Muller. Before I
16 begin, I’d like to note that Mr. Micheletti is wearing
17 gloves, representatives of the Department of Commerce
18 are wearing gloves. Many people in the room are
19 wearing gloves and overcoats. I don’t know if the
20 rules of the Office of Administrative Hearings call for
21 holding public hearings in heated facilities, but that
22 might be something to consider in the future.
23 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Nobody is suffering more
24 than I am.

————————————- p. 629-630
16 A. I’m addressing the comments we received.

17 Q. At what point will you —
18 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: I think that’s enough. I’m
19 going to have to ask you, if you want to submit
20 anything more, please do so within the next month in
21 writing. I have one person back here who seems to
22 really want to talk, but maybe not. So I’m going to
23 take some other comments now and then adjourn.
24 MR. MULLER: Okay. Well, I’d like the record
25 to show that I do have more questions for more
1 witnesses.
2 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Thank you. It will show
3 that.

———————————————-p. 631-632

20 JUDGE MIHALCHICK: Take one more comment. I
21 didn’t mean to have cut off Mr. Muller, but I think the
22 hearing has gone long enough. We’ve got adequate time
23 for the public comment and the company. I’ve extended
24 the public comment period. I certainly invite all of
25 you to submit comments during that time. And I think
1 we’ll close. Is there anything else, any procedural
2 things to wrap up here? Thank you all for coming and
3 enjoy the rest of the winter.

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