(This is changing and shifting quickly, but I’ll keep adding as it develops, and I think I’ll have a separate post soon for the EPA Comments, they’re that good.)

The nightmare of IGCC – coal gasification takes an interesting twist… very interesting… there’s Comments and correspondence flying around to the DOE and Minnesota’s Department of Commerce about Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project. Hot off the press is a MONTH OLD letter to Richard Hargis of the DOE, the one in charge of the Mesaba Project Environmental Impact Statement at DOE. The Department of Commerce was copied on this, as was Bob Cupit from the PUC. But the public? Hey, we don’t exist, why would we want to know about this…

Let’s look and see what they’ve done on the Commerce project site — why, it’s now been published on the site, but it’s hidden in the January 11, 2008 comments, way down at the bottom, scroll down and look in Agency Comments, see for yourself:

MN Commerce Project Docket for Mesaba

There’s also a big long list of EIS Comments on the PUC’s eDockets “Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project Siting Docket” for the Mesaba Project. Click HERE and then search for docket 06-668.

Now, let’s check out the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE filed Comments on the Mesaba EIS on February 21, 2007. Look for US Army Corps of Engineer Comments. Find it? Right… they’re not there. The USACE sent a letter on January 31, 2008, about it, a LENGHTY letter with attachments of Comments of 2/21/07 and others — look for it in the docket. Find it? Right, it’s not there… Well, it will show up because I finally filed it myself in disgust. Oh, and the EPA, the EPA filed Comments in a letter dated January 11, 2008. See it on the MN Commerce Project Docket or the PUC siting docket? Find it? Right.. it’s not there… Do you notice a trend?

Remember the Mesaba Project joke of a siting hearing, held January 29 and 30? And what date was this sent, January 31, the day after it ended??? And it pops up, from a little birdie, a MONTH later? And it’s not published anywhere on the official sites? How dare they… and thanks to the little birdie:


Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the comments, essentially, they’re saying that the MN Dept. of Commerce and the DOE did a piss poor job of the EIS and that it’s not adequate. Yup, they’re saying it sucks. Really sucks!

Here’s their January 31, 2008 letter

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Letter January 31, 2008 and attachments

This is good stuff. There’s the letter, which notes IN BOLD that an appendix attached to the DEIS, appendix F1, but a different version than the one they’d reviewed, and contains information that “had previously been removed at our request.” Oh, great… and it ends on this happy note:

The Corps also believes that there continue to be several NEPA deficiencies in the DEIS. These are 1) not addressing the alternative of a stand alone Phase I project; 2) not all direct actions are disclosed (e.g., not all wetland impacts appear to be disclosed in the impact tables); 3) not all impacts of connected actions are disclosed (e.g. need for additional high voltage transmission lines beyond the nearest substation); 4) not all impacts due to plant operations are disclosed (e.g., no evaluation of train and truck emissions over the 20 year life of the plant); and 5) an unresolved issue regarding the DOE’s ability to evaluate alternatives to the applicant’s proposed project.

 Mesaba DEIS for your reference

Here are some more choice snippets in the packet that was sent with the letter:

3. Page S-4 second paragraph.  The Corps has requested in prior comments that a “Phase I project only” be evaluated in the EIS.  The DOE had informed the Corps that a phase I only project would not be considered because it isn’t being considered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission [SAY WHAT?!?].  However, CEQ 40 questions specifically state that “An alternative that is outside the legal jurisdiction of the lead agency must still be analyzed in the EIS if it is reasonable.”  CEQ 40 questions also states that “In determining the scope of alternatives to be considered, the emphasis is on what is “reasonable” rather than on whether the proponent or applicant likes or is teself capable of carrying out a particular alternative.  In this case, a phase I only project is not outside the legal jurisdiction of the DOE, and can be carried out by the applicant.  Whether the applicant desires a phase I only project, and whether the state is considering this option, are not sufficient to determine this alternative is not reasonable under NEPA.

Yeah, you tell ’em!  “…not being considered by the PUC?”  And they can get away with that as long as that kind of response is not public.

And here’s a hilarious one, coming after Chair Koppendrayer’s famous “Nobody needs it, nobody wants it, and we’re not going to force this on anyone!”

8. Page 1-6 discusses the need for additional baseload power and references documentation in Appendix F1.  Because a reasonable review of the project need is an important part of our public interest review, and several utility companies have prepared and submitted new 2007-2008 resource plans, this information should be updated to reflect current projections.

Now THAT’s funny!  And what a coincidence, it just so happened that I challenged their need statement and attached a link to NSP’s Notice of Changed Circumstance to my DEIS comment — great minds…  see P. 3.

 MCGP DEIS Comment

And then there’s transmission:

12. Page 2-30 Section Infrastructure requirements.  The discussion on the MISO studies is from DOE’s response to our February 07 comments.  What is the current status of the MISO studies?  This information should be updated and reflected in the FEIS.

… and it gets better:

13. Page 2-30-31 Section Includes discussion of the network upgrades that would be necessary (Boswell to Riverton, and full power deliverability to the Twin Cities).  It does not appear that impacts resulting from these actions are discussed or evaluated.

Yup, and that’s a fact!  SNORT!

What’s most interesting about this is the cover letter, which lays out the timeline of various letters and meetings where the Corps has tried to bring the EIS in line with federal requirements, and it’s just not happening, and the frustration is evident in the letter and in the Comments.  It’s also good to see the evolution, with heightened stress on cumulative impacts, and the careful attention to wetlands.

I’ll pick out some more choice snippets, but in the meantime, dig this, just in, the response to my FOIA request!

US EPA Comment on Mesaba DEIS

Yes, the EPA Comment deserves a separate post… I cannot believe… this is Bush’s EPA saying this! Again, I’ll pick out some snippets, but it’s worth reading the whole damn thing. And it’s worth sending an email to Bill Storm and Richard Hargis and asking why they’re hiding this!

meanwhile, the doggies want to go out, and it’s a beautiful day…

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