A recent “poll” in the Grand Rapids Herald Review showd 64% opposed Excelsior’s Mesaba plant. The percentages at the Taconite meeting on May 16th showed even higher percentages against the plant. The questions were very informed ones, where the questioner had obviously been doing homework. “The people” are figuring it out, and that’s because they’re asking:

What is the ‘truth?’

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 01:34:55 PM


A week ago there was a preliminary hearing of the Public Utilities Commission regarding the Mesaba Energy Project being proposed by Excelsior Energy. This was the first meeting in the process to approve a â??power purchase agreement.â? The proposed project does not have a buyer for the electricity they will produce. Before the project can go forward this agreement must be in place. At the Mesaba Energy informational meeting in Taconite last Wednesday, the spokesman for the project basically said that â??not a shovel of earth would be turnedâ? without a power purchase agreement.

â??Itâ??s a done deal is whatâ??s heard around town!â? The message from this preliminary hearing was loud and clear–itâ??s far from a done deal! In fact there seemed to be a lot of opposition among the â??energy peopleâ? at the hearing. The soonest a decision can be made regarding this stage of the project is six months, but most parties involved were asking that the decision not be made until August 2007.

There were a lot of lawyers involved. The lawyers were representing Excelsior Energy, Xcel Energy, Minnesota State Power, Great Northern Power and a few other organizations. Excelsior Energy does not seem to want affected private landowners to be involved in the discussions relative to this critical step in the process. Their lawyers filed a petition to not allow people directly affected by this project a â??seat at the tableâ?â??they argued that the State Department of Commerce could adequately represent them. The judge in charge of the proceedings ruled that the private landowner group could be involved in the power purchase agreement discussion. Thank goodness! One has to ask whether Excelsior Energy wants to be a â??good neighborâ? to those affected or simply to â??steam rollerâ? private landowners by exercising their â??right of eminent domain.â?

But what struck me about these early discussions was what seemed to be a number of versions of what the â??truthâ? about this project might actually be. The truthfulness on trial here is that of Excelsior Energy. Are they telling the truth or not? Do they really have a plan to make this project work?

During the proceedings, Excelsiorâ??s lawyer held up a 3-inch thick document and said that it was â??the planâ? for the Mesaba Project. The Xcel Energy lawyer immediately pointed out that the document contained many blank pages and little of the detail necessary to adequately evaluate the technical aspects of the project that are necessary to determine the cost and environmental impact of the project, and the ultimate cost of the electricity to rate payers. People that are following this project have been continually frustrated by what seems to be changing plans and changing answers to old questions. What is the truth about all aspects of this multi-billion dollar project? The deliberations of the Public Utilities Commission will hopefully bring them out and determine the rightful fate of this projectâ??that is, â??not a shovel of dirt turned.â?

John Zasada
Grand Rapids

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