Somebody’s having another bad day… Tom Micheletti, Excelsior Energy, the Mesaba Project, IGCC, coal gasification, they’re all struggling, but put a muzzle on it, Tom — if you were my client, I’d fire you.  Instead, I have to thank you for providing your opponents with such hilarious reparte.

Here it is, verbatim, can you believe this rant?

Anti-Range Power’ will stop at nothing

Letter to the editor
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 6:09 AM CDT
Tom Micheletti
Co-President and CEO
Excelsior Energy Inc


I’m writing in response to your Monday, April 14 article about actions taken by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week confirming that state law means what it plainly says. In particular, the quote in your news story from Margaret Hodnik representing Minnesota Power (more properly known as “Anti-Range Power”) warrants a response. Ms. Hodnik’s quote, that Anti-Range Power (MP) was just seeking “clarification,” is totally disingenuous, at best. For over a year they have strained mightily to read very easy and straightforward statutory language (just ask Senator Tomassoni, who wrote it), to somehow not mean what it says. The words are so clear that even a third grader could tell you what they mean. What makes matters even worse is that before signing a contract last summer to undertake transmission upgrades required under Federal law, they insisted that Excelsior seek confirmation from the PUC on or before May 1 of this year that the transmission exemption granted by the legislature applies. Excelsior has been trying since last August to get the PUC to issue such a confirmation, which they did last Thursday. Yet Anti-Range Power (MP) last week, rather than asking that the PUC issue the confirmation (that they required) as soon as possible, instead asked the PUC to delay consideration of the transmission exemption issue. Far from “seeking clarification” they were actively seeking yet more unnecessary delay, proving yet again that they will stop at nothing to prevent the Mesaba Project from proceeding. Once again, they are concealing their true actions and intentions, hoping that people on the Iron Range will believe that they are not doing everything in their power to kill the Mesaba Project. The next thing you know is that the Anti-Range power guys will appeal the PUC’s Order, again proving where their hearts really are when it comes to job creation and environmental protection on the Iron Range.
This is all so similar to what the Anti-Range company is trying to get people on the Range to believe about their current pollution control expenditures at Clay Boswell, Taconite Harbor, and Syl Laskin coal plants: That is, they want people to think that they are cleaning up their polluting smokestacks out of their own kindness, generosity, concern for the health of people on the Range, and concern for the environment. In fact, they were required by federal environmental authorities to undertake those measures. And further, the Anti-Range company also filed lawsuits and lobbied to prevent the imposition of those very clean air (CAIR) requirements. Isn’t it time for Iron Range newspapers to take these people on when they are speaking half truths or no-truths?

Not since the building of the Clay Boswell plant in 1980 has any significant job-creating or environmental investment been made by that Duluth-based power company. If they truly cared about the Iron Range and its customers on the Iron Range, they would be helping us to get the Mesaba Project constructed as soon as possible. Instead, the new crop of anti-Range executives are doing exactly the opposite, with shareholder profits being the only thing that really matters to them, even if they say otherwise. All Range residents have to do is just look around to see what they have built in the last 25 years: essentially nothing. They spend more on Florida swampland than they do in our natural resource-filled lands. Perhaps it’s time for the legislature to revoke the Anti Range Power company’s monopoly service territory on the Iron Range, and give it to a company that won’t abuse such authority to the detriment of those for whom they are supposed to serve. Much higher electric and natural gas rates are on their way, no thanks to a company that seems to care less about its Iron Range bread and butter, and one that thinks that its effort to cover up its actions to do whatever it takes to prevent the Mesaba Project from becoming a reality is apparently not important, or is without consequences.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Tom Micheletti
Co-President and CEO
Excelsior Energy Inc

… and what’s he ranting about?  Here’s the original article:

Excelsior Energy goes 1-1 before commission
CEO, project opponent, both sound upbeat
By Mike Jennings,
Hibbing Daily Tribune
and Lisa Rosemore,
Grand Rapids
Published: Monday, April 14, 2008 6:08 AM CDT
Excelsior Energy won one and lost one when the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ruled Thursday on requests dealing with the Mesaba Energy Project, a coal gasification power plant that Excelsior wants to build on the Iron Range.

By a 3-2 vote, the commission approved Excelsior’s request to exempt transmission infrastructure for the project from a certificate of need

Normally, utilities must convince the commission that there’s a need for a project they propose. But, under a 2003 law, the Mesaba Energy Project won’t require a certificate of need if it qualifies as an innovative energy project — and the commission has already ruled that it does.

The commission’s ruling Thursday extends the exemption from a certificate of need a step further — to the equipment that would transmit the power the Mesaba plant produces. Minnesota Power, rather than Excelsior, might have to build or own some of that transmission equipment.

The utilities commission, meeting in St. Paul, ruled against Excelsior on a second issue. The company’s chief executive called that issue the less important of the two, but the co-chair of a group that opposes the Mesaba project disagreed.

The adverse ruling dealt with a two-phase negotiating process that is supposed to fulfill a legislative mandate. The Legislature has said that, if Excelsior meets the innovative energy project standard, it is entitled to a power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy, a giant utility with more than 3 million customers in eight states.

Last August, the utilities commission declined to sign off on a first-phase agreement, which would have obliged Xcel to buy the 603-megawatt output of the first power production unit that Excelsior wants to build. Xcel filed an appeal, but the state Court of Appeals ruled it premature.

Phase two negotiations would be aimed at requiring Xcel to buy still more power from Excelsior. Excelsior had asked for an indefinite stay of that phase, but on Thursday the commission denied that request on a 5-0 vote.

“It went very well,” Excelsior CEO Tom Micheletti said of Thursday’s hearing in a telephone interview. He said the transmission issue was the more important of his company’s two petitions.

But Charlotte Neigh, co-chair of Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP), said the hangup on a power purchase agreement stymies Excelsior’s progress toward construction of a power plant near Taconite, the company’s preferred site.

Excelsior needs an agreement on power sales to Xcel “because that gives them a captive customer, which is what they absolutely must have,” Neigh said. She said she didn’t think “that winning the transmission thing was significant at all.”

Micheletti voiced disdain for Minnesota Power, which asked the commission to delay a decision on transmission infrastructure until final action on the power purchase agreement has been taken.

“They (Minnesota Power) are taking frivolous and unwarranted positions on state law,” Micheletti said. “I have a new name for them: ARP — anti-Range power.”

Excelsior Energy contended that the law regarding certificates of need and transmission infrastructure for an innovative energy project was very clear and the certificate was not needed. Margaret Hodnik, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for Minnesota Power, said her company held a different view.

“We feel it (state law) wasn’t clear enough,” Hodnik said. “We wanted clarification.”

Excelsior and Minnesota Power have an agreement about connecting the proposed coal gasification plant near Taconite to a sub-station near Blackberry that is owned by the power company.

Neigh said statements made by the commission chairman, LeRoy Koppendrayer, during Thursday’s meeting gave reason to believe he does not want the Mesaba project to go forward. A transcript of the meeting is not yet available.

The commission will hold further discussions later on power purchase negotiations.

Mike Jennings can be reached at To read this story and comment on it online go to

Here’s another from the Timberjay, note the last part where Bill Storm says he’s got to do some homework (DUH!):

Wednesday, April 16, 2008      Volume 19, Issue 14

Excelsior Energy seeking to delay power purchase ruling
By Marshall Helmberger

Excelsior Energy is asking the state’s Public Utilities Commission to put an indefinite hold on its request for consideration of a power purchase agreement, or PPA, for the second phase of its proposed coal gasification plant on the iron Range.

The PUC is set to hear Excelsior’s request at its April 10 meeting in St. Paul.

The company’s request for delay comes in the wake of last fall’s decision by the PUC to deny Excelsior’s request for a PPA with Xcel Energy on the first phase of its proposed Mesaba Energy project. The PUC, back in September, ordered Excelsior and Xcel, along with Minnesota Power, to continue negotiating over the terms of a PPA, but those talks have yet to produce a deal and no further action on the original PPA request is scheduled at this time.

Excelsior principal Tom Micheletti expressed optimism about the progress so far, but he expressed some frustration at the reluctance of the state’s utilities to accept the Mesaba Project and the coal gasification technology it entails. “The PPA is taking way too long,” he said. “It is unfortunate, that all the Minnesota utilities are not with us in helping to solve these problems, instead of just stonewalling the project and stonewalling the technology,” he said.

The lack of a PPA is key at this point, since all parties involved agree that without it, the project won’t move forward. Utilities like Xcel have argued they don’t need the power from the Mesaba plant and they say the technology can’t provide power at an affordable price in any case.

Janet Gonzalez, a staff analyst with the state’s PUC, said no one has a clear idea of the cost of power from the Mesaba plant at this point. She said preliminary cost estimates aren’t reliable since a number of factors haven’t been adequately defined. She acknowledged, however, that power produced by the plant will be more costly than from existing sources. “But that’s generally true with a new plant,” she said.

While Excelsior is seeking a delay on the second phase PPA at this point, Minnesota Power is asking the PUC to decide the matter now. According to Gonzalez, that’s because Minnesota Power wants to challenge a ruling made by the PUC last year, that determined that the Mesaba Project does qualify as an “Innovative Energy Project,” which gives it special regulatory exemptions under state law. Minnesota Power’s earlier attempt to challenge that decision was put on hold by the judge pending a decision on the second PPA.

Even as progress on a PPA appears at a standstill, Micheletti said Excelsior continues to move forward with siting and permitting work, although that process is facing challenges as well. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has raised some fundamental questions about the public purpose of the project, siting decisions, and other matters in a Jan. 11 letter sent in response to a draft environmental impact statement on the project. The EPA letter was just one of 122 comment letters which state officials will have to draft responses to before the EIS can be finalized. Bill Storm, who is overseeing the process for the PUC said some of the comment letters have raised issues that will likely prompt his team to do additional research instead of simply drafting responses to comments.

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