For background on this Excelsior Energy scam known as the Mesaba Energy Project, just search on that link and here on Legalectric for Excelsior, Mesaba, gasification, boondoggle, etc.!!!!

If you search their site, what is most noticeable is the changes, lots is missing, for example, on their “About Us” page, their “Our Team” is missing a lot of people.  Here’s what it used to say:

Excelsior Energy Print Page

Excelsior’s executive team has significant utility and power plant experience including all of the following aspects of large energy projects, planning, development, engineering, financing, permitting, construction and operation.

Executive Team
Julie Jorgensen Co-President and CEO
Thomas Micheletti Co-President and CEO
Thomas Osteraas Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Dick Stone Senior Vice President, Development and Engineering
Robert Evans Vice President, Environmental Affairs
Kathi Micheletti Vice President, Government Relations
William Ruzynski Vice President, Development
Mary Day Controller

Additional Senior Personnel

The following senior industry experts work with Excelsior Energy on a regular basis

Stephen Sherner Sherner Power Consulting
Bruce Browers Browers Consulting

It’s just a remnant of its former self.

Anyway,  the Duluth News Tribune articles were published:

Millions in public money spent, but Iron Range power plant still just a dream

Iron Range energy project seeks lifeline in more funding, new fuel source

… and then came some responses, first from the paper’s editors standing up against this boondoggle (finally!), and then from Julie and Tom:

Published August 23, 2011, 12:02 AM

Our view: Taxpayers have right to answers on Excelsior

What happened to our more than $40 million?

And what’s with the speculation that the dreamers of a coal-gasification plant on the Iron Range may come asking us for more cash?

Those are among questions outraged taxpayers could be asking — and ought to be asking — in the wake of a News Tribune investigation over the weekend into Excelsior Energy, which, after nearly a decade of planning, meetings and drawing from the public tap has yet to get off the ground and “has yet to move a shovelful of dirt to build its would-be 2,000-megawatt, $2.1 billion power plant,” as the newspaper’s Peter Passi reported.

Not only that, “Despite receiving virtually all of its backing from the public trough, the company’s spending records, including its officers’ paychecks, remain under wraps,” meaning a secret from all of us taxpayers footing a bill that stands at more than $40 million and counting, the News Tribune found.

“At the end of the day, this is a project that has not hired one full-time worker on the Iron Range. Only lawyers, lobbyists and professional meeting-attenders have gotten jobs,” Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township — and, disappointingly, the only Iron Range legislator who has ever really questioned the project — said in the two-day series.

Elected officials’ embrace of Excelsior can be understood. Seasoned, proven energy professionals brought the idea in 2001, right after LTV Steel Mining Co. closed; they promised hundreds of jobs, millions in investment dollars and a way to better use the nation’s domestic coal reserves without harming the environment.

Among the project’s problems, however has been the lack of a buyer for its power. Well-established Xcel Energy seemed a logical customer. But, like Minnesota Power, it objected to the project, warning it would drive up its customers’ rates. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission apparently agreed, refusing repeated pleas from Excelsior to compel Xcel to buy its power.

Nonetheless, elected officials and others with their fingers on the public purse strings haven’t been shy about dumping our money into it. Excelsior owes $9.5 million to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. It was supposed to start making loan payments 13 months ago but was given an extension to 2017. The company also received $10 million in state aid through the Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s Renewable Development Fund, despite objections from environmental groups about a plant designed to run on fossil fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy contributed another $22 million intended to cover half of the preliminary design costs, the investigation found.

And how much have Excelsior’s owners pumped into their own company? Only $60,000, according to public records. Meanwhile, their combined annual salary has risen to an estimated $600,000.

“Tracing where all Excelsior’s public money went and how it has been used is not easily accomplished, particularly after state lawmakers voted to restrict public access to Excelsior’s financial statements,” Passi reported. “Before 2008, reports the company is required to submit to the IRRRB as part of its loan agreement had been publicly available.”

Even then, what was reported often was incomplete.

And now Excelsior risks running out of steam entirely if it cannot attract additional investment from the public or private sector soon, as Monday’s story indicated.

Questions abound: Why didn’t elected leaders demand more spending scrutiny? Why has Rep. Anzelc been largely alone in waving a red flag? Why did state lawmakers vote to hide from the funds-providing public financial information? Why has there been no effort in the Legislature to provide more transparency, especially during the shutdown when every penny was being squeezed?

And, perhaps most pressing of all to taxpayers, what happened to our more than $40 million?

Here’s what Julie Jorgensen and Tom Micheletti had to say in response:

Published August 24, 2011, 12:00 AM

In response: Excelsior Energy project is an important energy option for state

By: Julie Jorgensen and Tom Micheletti, Duluth News Tribune

As co-CEOs of Excelsior Energy, we are writing to clear up inaccuracies and misconceptions about our company contained in an editorial yesterday (Our View: “Taxpayers have right to answers on Excelsior”) and in recent News Tribune articles (namely Sunday’s “Millions in public money spent, but power plant still just a dream,” and Monday’s “Project seeks lifeline in more funding, new fuel source”).

The Mesaba Energy Project, under development by Excelsior Energy, is a unique public/

private partnership selected through competitive solicitations for state and federal funding awards due to its contribution to national and state energy security and environmental goals.

We at Excelsior Energy take our obligations under our

public/private partnerships very seriously. We provide complete transparency to our funding partners as to how we use the funds provided, complying fully with the same rules, regulations and reporting requirements that apply to all other recipients. We maintain books and records that comply with both generally accepted accounting principles and the rigorous federal contracting requirements of the U.S. Department of Energy. We participate in weekly review meetings with the Department of Energy and are subject to annual external audits and periodic routine reviews and in-depth audits by the federal government.

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, or IRRRB, provided a portion of the project’s funding in the form of a loan to Excelsior under express conditions that the funds be used only to reimburse documented project-development costs. These conditions were complied with by Excelsior and strictly enforced by IRRRB. The project has not received funding from IRRRB for more than four years.

The funding and support from our state and federal partners has been critical to bringing the project to a very significant stage of development. The Mesaba Project is the only available alternative to provide new coal-

fueled power to meet Minnesota’s needs. All other new coal resources are subject to a state ban, as are new nuclear resources. Recently, the project received the first site and route permit issued by the state of Minnesota in more than 30 years for such a base-load power plant.

Because of its advanced technology, the plant will all but eliminate the pollution normally associated with coal. It will do so by cleaning up the synthesis gas produced from coal prior to using it. The flexibility to use natural gas first, and switch to coal when market prices dictate, provides a hedge to protect Minnesota consumers and businesses.

The high costs and extraordinarily long timeline to permit a base-load power facility, as reported in the articles, are unfortunate realities in today’s business climate. The costs and risks of complying with myriad regulations and requirements to obtain dozens of permits from multiple state and federal agencies in order to construct a facility are a major obstacle to building even the cleanest plant using the most state-of-the-art technology.

Proposed new coal plants around the country have spent similar amounts, and in some cases double or more the amount, cited by the News Tribune before being cancelled or put in the “too hard” pile.

The regulatory logjam on clean, new facilities does nothing to enhance our environment and harms any effort to create or maintain jobs in our state and nation. It threatens our global competitiveness in the long run.

The project is nearing the end of this complex governmental-

approval process and has much to show for it. We have certainly faced many challenges, as have many other entrepreneurial companies in this continuing recession. We believe the economy will turn the corner; and when it does, the state will need clean, domestic energy supplies to power the recovery.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s electric supply options are shrinking. The low-cost coal plants, surplus hydro and nuclear resources that have kept rates low in the past, can’t be relied on for our future. Many old coal plants currently serving Minnesota are expected to be shuttered in the next five years because they can’t meet new pollution-control requirements.

The hydroelectric power that Minnesota utilities have been planning to import from Canada may not come to fruition, as the costs and feasibility of the proposed new dams were brought under attack in a July report by the Manitoba Public Utilities Board. The cost of complying with nuclear regulations is on the rise after the nuclear crisis in Japan. Wishing that wind and conservation were enough is not a robust plan for the future.

We are proud to lead a small Minnesota business trying to put people back to work. We would like to thank all of the policymakers at the federal, state and local level who have afforded this project support through its ups and downs. We will continue to work to earn your trust and confidence. In addition, we will continue to advance the development of the Mesaba Energy Project and advocate for it as a clean, cost-effective, in-state option to meet Minnesota’s electric power needs.

Julie Jorgensen and Tom Micheletti are co-CEOs of Excelsior Energy Inc.

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