Scenic Hwy. 7 near Excelsior’s Mesaba site

Check out Shawn Conrad’s letter in the Grand Rapids paper:

Proposed Taconite Excelsior project is not the one approved by the 2003 Legislature


I am writing about the Excelsior Energy Mesaba project proposed for the Scenic Highway 7 area near Taconite. Youâ??ve heard about the jobs this may create, but the number of potential jobs has dropped significantly over time, and other projects of this type have failed in other states. What you havenâ??t heard much about are the costs to our community.

According to the original bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature, Excelsior Energy would be able to access the power of eminent domain to force landowners to forfeit their property to this private interest, or worse, have the county act for them if the county goes forward with bonding for the infrastructure for this private corporation. Excelsior is exempt from a certificate of need for all facilities associated with the projectâ??including transmission lines â?? and any upgrades they want. This means Excelsior need only name the property it wants and they can take it. There are people in the Scenic Highway 7 area who will lose their homes against their will. A lot of land will be needed for the Scenic Highway 7 rerouting for Excelsior, a water pipeline large enough to handle 6,500 gpm, a natural gas pipeline, transmission lines and railroad tracks. Those who do not lose their homes will lose their quality of life. The community will see a significant decline in the value of property and their ability to enjoy the property, living next to a huge industry. The precedent set by this abuse of eminent domain could affect anyone who owns land some day, and it should not go forward.

It is just wrong for private industries to access the threat of eminent domain to take property from individuals. We should be progressive in looking at energy conservation rather than developing forestland and evicting residents from their property to increase supply.

Other problems with this project can be found in Senate File SF 2570, which Senator Saxhaug and Representative Solberg have authored and introduced.

First, the project was originally proposed for a brown field with infrastructure in place. SF 2570 and HF 3020 struck down that requirement so that Excelsior could choose undeveloped forestland and make Itasca County taxpayers foot the bill for infrastructure.

How much will we pay for infrastructure? The best estimate is $54 millionâ??thatâ??s over a half million per potential job! Do we, as taxpayers, think spending a half million per job is the best possible investment? What if Excelsior would be exempt from paying personal property taxes at all? Should they get that kind of tax break when local residents are struggling with tax bills?

Yes, we want jobs up here, but in this case the human and monetary costs of these jobs far exceed the potential benefits. I have not begun to address the many environmental concerns of proceeding with this project. Please oppose the Excelsior Energy Mesaba project at its current proposed site near Taconite. This is not the project the Legislature approved in 2003.

Shawn Conrad

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