OOOOOH, it’s getting HOTTER in here! Citizens Against the Mesaba Project has done a great job of getting the attention of the Legislative Auditor to focus on Iron Range Resources funding of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba project – a necessary painstaking tedious but none-the-less exciting job well done!

What’s happening? Once again, we see that IGCC is not what it’s cracked up to be. Coal gasification by any other name is as putrid. And what they’ll do to keep the myth going, the money they’ll sink into promoting it, the spin, the hype… the house of cards has yet another card pulled out from under it. It’s everywhere, confirmed in an AP article, it’s showing up all across the state, and by tomorrow nationally??? We can hope. And once again, Tom Micheletti is not having a good day…

(photo – Fair Use stolen from MPR – their report on this is HERE)

Aaron Brown is at it:

You say “review,” I say “audit,” either way, the Iron Range is getting bamboozeled

And it’s hit the STrib:

Minn. auditor investigating Iron Range board complaint

Associated Press

May 28, 2008

HIBBING, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s office is looking into a complaint about money loaned by Iron Range Resources to Excelsior Energy.

The company is seeking regulatory approval to build a high-tech coal-gasification power plant on the Iron Range.

Brad White with the auditor’s office says investigators are doing a preliminary assessment of the complaint and if it finds something a formal probe could follow.

White did not reveal the source of the complaint, but a resident’s group called Citizens Against the Mesaba Project has issued a press release claiming credit.

The group is working to stop the Excelsior plant. It complains about the processes under which the Iron Range economic group loaned the company millions of dollars.

It also questions how Excelsior has handled public money, including spending on lobbying and undocumented claims for expenses.

Top Excelsior executive Tom Micheletti calls the complaint another fishing expedition by the group, but says his company with cooperate with the auditors.

Another fishing expedition by the group? Naaaah, CAMP did their research a while back, and did theirs back in 2005-2006, and now it’s the Legislative Auditor’s investigation, not fishing expedition.

It’s in the Duluth News Tribune:

Auditor looks at IRR loan to Excelsior

Here’s from the Hibbing paper:

Auditor’s office will review loans
Citizens’ group questions IRR’s oversight

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:15 AM CDT
Mike Jennings

ST.PAUL — The Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s office is looking into a complaint raised about money loaned by Iron Range Resources (IRR) to Excelsior Energy, which is seeking regulatory approval to build a coal-gasification power plant on the Iron Range.

The records review is apparently based on questions and concerns raised earlier this year by Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP), a citizens’ group that is working to defeat Excelsior’s proposed Mesaba Energy Project. The project would initially produce 603 megawatts of power, and the company’s preferred site for it is near Taconite.

Brad White, a manager of financial audits for the auditor’s office said, Tuesday that his division is conducting “a preliminary assessment of a complaint” but would not proceed to a formal investigation unless it finds some “point of financial concern.” White said his office had requested records from the IRR and would inform both the IRR and the Legislative Audit Commission, probably by late July or early August, whether it would proceed to a formal investigation.

White did not disclose the source of the complaint, but CAMP issued a news release yesterday saying it had “referred questions and concerns” about IRR loans for the project to the auditor’s office earlier this year. Charlotte Neigh, co-chair of CAMP, said in an interview that CAMP sent “a large package” of information to the auditor’s office in January and was informed by White in March that an audit would be conducted.

White’s statement Tuesday that the auditor’s office is not yet committed to a full investigation “is a change of plan since he wrote to me in March,” Neigh said.

CAMP says that in 2004, IRR excused the company from a requirement that it obtain additional funds from other investors before money from a $1.5 loan the agency approved in 2001 could be disbursed. CAMP also says that in 2004, IRR approved a second loan of $8 million, apparently without having seen any audited financial statements from the company.

In its news release, CAMP says it also raised questions about Excelsior’s lobbying expenditures, invoices reimbursed by IRR that were also reimbursed in part by the federal Department of Energy, undocumented claims for expenses, Excelsior’s classification of workers as independent contractors and consultants and extensions of the due date for an interest payment by the company.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, who joined the IRR board after the loan terms that CAMP is challenging were already in place, said he has questioned the wisdom of granting the loans to Excelsior in the first place and opposes extending the time for Excelsior to make payments on them.

But “I don’t see realistically a payback, unless there is a power plant producing power and making money,” said Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

Tom Micheletti, Excelsior’s co-chief executive officer, called the complaint and the response to it by the auditor’s office “another fishing expedition” by CAMP.“ He said his company would help the auditor’s office in any way it could

He also said CAMP’s tactics could prove costly to Minnesota taxpayers.

“And it just seems to me that we’re coming close to a time when they’ve turned over every rock that they can think of to find some dirt on us,” Micheletti said.

“There’s nothing to hide, and I’m sure that the auditor’s going to find that there’s nothing in this,” he said.

This is a good time to remember that quote from Micheletti a while back:

We’ve been straightforward. If we were a bunch of liars we’d have never got this project to where it is today.

– Tom Micheletti, Grand Rapids Herald Review, Nov. 20, 2006.

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