Project has many negatives


The recent information and public comment meeting at Taconite was well attended and there were many interesting comments regarding the Mesaba project being proposed by Excelsior Energy – mainly lawyers from the Twin Cities. I came away with the following.
First, it is apparent that our elected government officials, the Iron Range Resources Board, and the Itasca County Development Corporation care little about the quality of the environment in northern Minnesota. They have all done â??special favorsâ? for this project with little public disclosure or debate. They have acted on incomplete and sometimes incorrect information. They granted Excelsior concessions or have given them funding that no other projects with such potentially harmful effects would have been given. All of the incumbent politicians currently running for Itasca County commissioner should be replaced because of their support for this misguided project â?? Dimich, Klegstad and Mandich. State level officials – Saxhaug and Solberg -are not much better and need to be held accountable for their votes to support this project. A vote against these people is a vote for more open and fair government – and for a high quality environment.

The Minnesota statute 216B.1694 – Innovative Energy Project is suspect in every way. The definition of innovative energy is a farce and refers only to the Mesaba project – what could be more ridiculous in this time of power sources such as sun, wind, and bioenergy. This statute almost makes one cry – it sells the environment out to this special interest group – dirty coal Excelsior Energy. Every part of the statute reeks with the odor of behind the scenes wheeling and dealing. But Subdivision 2, item 2 of the statute is most disconcerting as to its meaning and intentions. It states: â??(2) once permitted and constructed, [the project] is eligible to increase the capacity of the associated transmission facilities without additional state review upon filing notice with the commission.â?
Does this mean that they can build all of the other plants on this site – six pollution-spewing dirty coal plants side-by-side? Multiply the pollution, coal cars, and noise by a factor of six! This obviously needs clarification and demands change if this interpretation is correct.

The Excelsior spokesman repeatedly alluded to wanting to be â??good neighbors.â? Yet Excelsior Energy has attempted to block involvement by landowners at every step of the Public Utilities Commission process. They should have been worried about being good neighbors from the beginning – before they lobbied for and received power of eminent domain.

Finally, Peter McDermott speaking for the Itasca County Development Corporation talked about an economic analysis that showed the multi-millions of dollars that would result from the project. What data and assumptions were used in this analysis? Likely they were based on information provided by Excelsior, information always suspect, and, at best, incomplete. A real economic analysis must consider long- and short-term impacts – both positive and negative. There are plenty of negatives – environmental and social – related to this project.

John Zasada
Grand Rapids

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