A Mesaba day in St. Paul

April 6th, 2006

Mesaba Half Moon 2.jpg
Half Moon Lake — I know, it’s “East Range” but it’s one of my all time favorite photos

(Here’s the short report, will fill out sometime when I’m not breaking out in coughing fits)

It’s not too bad a day when PUC Commissioners use the words “Intervenor Compensation” without visibly gagging, and to have “consideration” of Intervenor Compensation actually written into an order… not that it will ever really be ordered. It was good to see some recognition of what it takes, the effort and resources to intervene in this, where all the “players” are well-funded corporations, profit and “non-profit” alike. Will post the Order when it’s official.

Saxhaug’s SF 2570 got through tax, and the amendment providing for local government approval and Host Fee Agreement remained intact.

County will not likely foot charge for aeriel photography bill for infrastructure work

And my LTE of the day:

Why give up tax revenue for Mesaba?


Iâ??m an â??outsider,â? as Tom Micheletti says, â??Sheâ??s from Red Wing!â? But utility personal property tax is an issue from my own backyard. In 1997, I argued with Micheletti against cutting the rates paid by utilities because that tax was â??compensationâ? for life with a nuclear power plant. Tom, as NSPâ??s main lobbyist, succeeded in slashing the tax. Goodhue County, Red Wing and the school district lost over $10 million annually!

Utility personal property tax came up again last year, when I represented a client who lived near a proposed power plant near Waseca. Her legislators introduced a bill exempting that plant from millions in tax, and they did not inform the local governments. Those legislators gave away tax revenue, and worse, they left out any requirement that the power plant negotiate a Host Fee Agreement. We worked hard, scrambling to bring the county and township up to speed, and they passed resolutions requiring a Host Fee Agreement.

And yet here we go again — your legislators did the same thing to you. Sen. Saxhaug and Rep. Solberg, joined by Dill, Anderson and Moe, â??authoredâ? and introduced bills to exempt Excelsiorâ??s plant from millions of dollars annually utility personal property tax. They did this without consulting local governments and without giving them notice.
Wasnâ??t this project going to provide community benefits, not take them away? In addition, the RAMS lobbyist, Ron Dicklich, didnâ??t let Itasca County know, and theyâ??re paying him to protect local interests and keep them informed. And it gets worse — these bills were introduced at the same time that legislators and local governments were meeting regularly about the $55 million Excelsior bonding bill, so it seems that they can communicate when they want the county to ask for Excelsiorâ??s infrastructure funding, but they canâ??t say â??by the way, thereâ??s this exemption billâ?¦â?
Keep a watch on SF 2570 and HF 3020.

Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission is reviewing Excelsior’s petition to force Xcel to sign an agreement to purchase the capacity of the Mesaba plant. This Power Purchase Agreement will provide equity necessary for Mesaba to go forward. Iâ??ve requested that they send all documents to local libraries. Have they? Information is available at www.puc.state.mn.us and click on â??eDocketsâ? and plug in the Docket No. 05-1993. Thursday, the PUC will determine how this matter will proceed.

Please tell your legislators and county commissioners what you think about the impacts, costs and benefits of this project. Itâ??s our job as citizens to speak up. The county board has demonstrated its ability to step up and protect the county, and they deserve loud and hearty thanks.

Carol A. Overland
Representing local landowners near the â??westâ? site
Red Wing

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