So what are they looking for? What do they see? Are they learning anything? They came to our meeting, and I hope they all grabbed all the handouts for a little light reading:


Moi and Ross Hammond at the intro…


Standing room only crowd at the Grand Rapids Library.

From the monthly report of the Itasca Economic Development Corporation:

Excelsior Energy â?? On July 25, the Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP) held their first public meeting at the Grand Rapids Public Library with approximately 100 in attendance. CAMP is a group of concerned citizens opposing the construction of a coal gasification power plant on the Scenic Highway in Itasca County. The groupâ??s stated reasons include: degradation of the recreational lake country; exacerbate global warming; air pollution; excessive financial risk; the small number of jobs available to local residents does not offset environmental and financial risks; and the use of eminent domain on private property owners. Mesaba Energy Action Team members and IEDC staff were present to increase their understanding of project opposition.

On July 26 the Western Mesaba Mine Planning Board and the Greenway Area Business Association, assisted by Mike Andrews, hosted a community open house on the Mesaba Energy project at the Bovey City Hall. Company management was on hand to explain and answer questions on all aspects of the project including infrastructure (transmission and pipelines), environmental, work force needs and overall economic impact. Approximately 60 people participated in the open house.

On July 31, Excelsior Energy announced the filing of applications for required preconstruction permits with the MPUC for the first two phases of the Mesaba Energy Project. The two phases of the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power station will be constructed sequentially, with each phase having a nominal generating capacity of 606 MW.

When they say “60 people participated in the open house” would you believe 30 of them were consultants? Excelsior had a display, and they asserted that they “HAD” a Power Purchase Agreement with Xcel. Uh-huh… so you say…
We had 115, standing room only until a fierce storm cleared some of the room. Peter McDermott was there taking it all in, but I wonder who the “Mesaba Energy Action Team” is, and what their interest is! So are we ahead by 55?


Bob Evans earned his pay that night, he was on his own and had to directly address some issues that I’m sure they’d rather we forgot, and he did get a little green around the gills, above, when I brought up the Buy the Farm provision of the Power Plant Siting Act. Check it out — it’s something that each landowner must know about so they have a chance negotiating a reasonable easement settlement rather than go to condemnation court. Buy the Farm is where a landowner can require that the utility condemn all their land and not just a little bitty parcel for a little bitty pittance. It also as a big impact on cost of eminent domain proceedings by changing the stakes and it’s a bit of an equalizer in the power imbalance. And remember that although there were changes in our eminent domain law restricting takings for private use, UTILITIES WERE EXEMPTED. Gee thanks. What’ll it take for legislators to get that utility takings will be the majority of condemnation proceedings — I guess it’ll take CapX2020 to wake people up!

The first Citizens Against the Mesaba Project public meeting was a great success. Stop by their booth at the Itasca County Fair in Grand Rapids next Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And check out www.camp-site.info for more info about CAMP.

And of course for the bestest all around source for info on the Mesaba Project, check out www.mncoalgasplant.com! It’s hard to keep up with all the filings and documents flying around these days, so if you’re looking for something and don’t see it, let us know — send a note to info@mncoalgasplant.com.

Here’s the report from yesterday’s Grand Rapids Herald Review:

Setting up CAMP against Mesaba Energy

Britta Arendt
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 09th, 2006 11:26:25 AM

There is a new camp on issues surrounding Excelsior Energyâ??s proposed project, Mesaba Energy.

They call themselves CAMP, or Citizens Against the Mesaba Project. A group of concerned citizens opposing the construction of the coal gasification power plant slated for construction near Taconite and the Scenic Highway, CAMP was formed after a Trout Lake Township meeting on April 20. At this meeting, dozens of residents came to hear from Excelsior Energy officials who spoke about the design, schedule and progress of the project.

â??I started following this fairly closely since they looked at the Scenic Highway as the preferred site,â? said Charlotte Neigh, a resident of Trout Lake Township who serves as co-chair of the group which has grown from an informal meeting between friends and neighbors into an incorporated non-profit agency with a board of directors.

â??We sat down last spring with about 15 to 20 people we knew, friends and neighbors and we said, â??None of us like this, what can we do?â??â? said Ed Anderson, also a resident of Trout Lake Township and CAMP co-chair who helped found the initiative. â??We didnâ??t want to be complacent so we began sharing information that each of us had gathered and eventually we established a board of directors.â?

From what started as just about a half dozen has now grown to hundreds of people who have shown interest in CAMPâ??s mission. An informational meeting on July 26 attracted about 80 people to the Grand Rapids Area Library where Neigh, Anderson and others presented their findings, their opinions and their questions surrounding the proposed plant. A new Web site has been established, detailing CAMPâ??s positions. And, according to Anderson, hundreds of people have shown interest, visited the site or requested further information on CAMP.

â??What brought us to this point is we all love the area where we live,â? said Anderson. â??Also, we wanted to be sure we were spreading accurate information because we believe the information that has come from Excelsior has been spun.â?

Within the informational packet CAMP is distributing, it explains, â??One year ago, when the preferred site for this coal gasification power plant suddenly changed from an abandoned mine site near Hoyt Lakes to a pine forest and wetland greenfield near the Scenic Highway, many local residents started paying close attention. It has been difficult to get good information about the project, especially with respect to why the Scenic site was chosen. After attending public meetings put on by Excelsior Energy, we had even more questions and felt a need to more fully understand the scope of this project. Weâ??ve read Excelsiorâ??s documents and have done extensive research resulting in a more complete picture of the Mesaba Project. What started as a group of individuals working to grasp the full picture became a committed, organized group of citizens very much opposed to this project.â?

After months of studying Excelsiorâ??s plans, members of CAMP have educated themselves on all sorts of new terms like â??syngas,â? or the product produced by exposing coal to high temperature and processes like IGCC, or integrated gasification combined cycle. They have researched various coal burning technologies and have weighed in the costs to tax-payers as well as potential effects on the health of the environment and the residents, like themselves.

â??There may be a win-win situation, but probably not,â? continued Anderson. â??They can do this technology in a better way than they have planned, but theyâ??re not.â?

Anderson explained that the IGCC process of carbon dioxide capture could be more cost-effective. Yet CAMP has found that even though IGCC may be cleaner than conventional coal burning technology, it still involves airborne emissions of mercury, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, arsenic and more. CAMP believes these emissions will be associated with increased smog, acid deposition and air pollution.
â??Most of the pollution will fall within five miles of the stack since they are proposing a shorter stack,â? said Neigh.

While Excelsior plans to use water from the Canisteo Mine Pit to cool the two plants, CAMP also has stated that this cooling increases the concentration of mercury, lead and arsenic in the cooling water. Anderson further explained that Excelsior has admitted that the process of releasing the waste cooling water has the potential to pollute the pit in the future.
â??First, carbon capture is important, if you can do it right; secondly, the financial costs shifted to the public is not fair; and, lastly, if they can prevent the pit from being polluted, why not?â? said Anderson.

Excelsior Energy has filed applications for required reconstruction permits with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) and other state agencies for the first two phases of the Mesaba Energy project as a 1,212 megawatt integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) electric power generating system. The plan is for the first two phases of the IGCC power station to be constructed sequentially. This filing is an important step in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, which will be jointly prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The joint application included requests for a large electric power generating plant site permit and routing permits for a high voltage transmission line and natural gas pipeline.

â??Weâ??ve been working off their documentation,â? said Neigh who explained that CAMP has reviewed Excelsiorâ??s application and is carefully following the permitting process.

On July 6, the MPUC accepted the joint application for the large electric generating plant site permit, the high voltage transmission line route permit and the natural gas pipeline routing permit as complete. In its filing, Excelsior Energy stated that, â??The Mesaba Energy project will give Minnesota and the nation much needed, new baseload power using a lower polluting technology for making electricity out of coal, the nationâ??s most abundant and stable domestic fossil fuel resource.â?

In order to get the financing needed for the Mesaba Energy project, Neigh explained that Excelsior will need a mandated Power Purchase Agreement from the MPUC which will force NSP/Xcel to purchase the power they hope to produce.

â??NSP/Xcel has said this would be too expensive,â? said Neigh. â??Excelsior admits that without the power purchase agreement, they canâ??t get customers.”

According to information obtained from CAMP, public funding for Mesaba Energy so far totals $55.5 million, of which $9.5 million is from the Iron Range Resources; $10 million from the state of Minnesotaâ??s Renewable Development Account and $36 million from the federal DOE. Also, the state is borrowing $12 million that may be spent by Itasca County for infrastructure for this project as well as the Minnesota Steel project.

â??We are not an agency that is against industry,â? said Anderson.

â??Weâ??re finding a lot of people have concerns, but thought there was nothing they could doâ??thatâ??s not the case,â? added Neigh.

â??A lot hinges on the MPUC; this is not done until mid-2007,â? added Anderson who has been selected to serve on a citizens task force set up through MPUC to review the application, site and local concerns.

For more information about CAMP, visit www.camp-site.info

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