Bob Cupit, Energy Facilities Supervisor, is retiring from the Public Utilities Commission today… leaving me to wonder how… rephrase…  he CAN’T be replaced…  so what will happen now at the PUC?

Bob Cupit and Mike Casper are tied for “Most Influential” in subtle and not so subtle direction that helped get me to where I am today.  I began wrangling with him at the very end of 1994 in Nuclear Waste Daze, so it’s been a long time, and as Bret Ekness said, “a long strange trip.”

From my perspective, Bob has always provided a voice of sanity in a process that isn’t working, and I hate to see him leave because I can’t imagine them finding someone who recognizes or attempts to fix the problems that he had on his plate.

Here’s the PUC Staff Organizational Chart, soon to have a big hole.

The most difficult thing I’ve encountered in dealing with the Commission, other than some obviously utterly dreadful “decisions,” is that siting and routing is now handled by the Dept. of Commerce, which has no charge to protect the environment, and which is not representing the public interest.  The “work” by Commerce has been dreadful, process has been perverted, DEIS and EIS consistently leave out important information, and the public and the environment is left in the lurch.  Over and over and over again, they’re bumbling along, or intentionally screwing it up (Which is it?  I think it’s BOTH.).  They’re doing the “staff” work on these permits and then present it to the Commission, presenting only part of the story, and leaving the Commission exposed, making decisions on inadequate or inaccurate information, without “the rest of the story.”  I could go on and on (and I do elsewhere in this blog and at, search for more).

Years ago, when things were not going well, Kristen Eide-Tollefsen and I repeatedly riffed on obvious problems at public meetings and Cupit regularly responded with a measured lecture on the importance of all the aspects of permitting, the Certificate of Need, the Siting/Routing permit, and Environmental Review, that it was a three legged stool.  As an editorial comment, at one point, we presented him with a gold-painted strap-on one-legged milk stool.


Yes, the system was NOT working then… and for other reasons, it’s NOT working now.

Despite that, Kristen and I knew that as he retired, we had to give him one with THREE legs.  However, I had to give a disclaimer, that this is NOT to say that the system is working, because it isn’t.

Kate O’Connell, manager of energy regulation and planning for the Minnesota Department of Commerce (oh, I didn’t know that!), who worked in tandem with Bob, made comments from her “on the ground” perspective, heartfelt — and I wasn’t taking notes, so sorry, no specifics… but for sure over and over noted he will be missed.

Even LeRoy Kooppendrayer, former Commissioner and House Rep., and brother of current Commissioner and former Senator Betsy Wergin, came back to say goodbye:


Bill Grant, formerly of the Waltons, and now the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Energy Facilities Permitting, was there but thankfully didn’t get up to say anything — I’d forgotten to bring rotten tomatoes.

And the “Not Ready For Rate Base Singers” were on hand:


The room was packed, Bob said he was “overwhelmed” and so it appeared… and I am too… it’s a sad day for Minnesota, we’re losing too many MB’s of collective/institutional memory that we can’t replace.

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