It’s one great Excelsior Mesaba coal gasification project news day in the Grand Rapids Herald Review, all about greenfield, brownfield, all that on-site infrastructure, remember?

Here’s part of a group that went out to see the site, on left is John Dimich, soon to be former County Commissioner, also present were Ken Fedeldy, Mike Andrews (works under Peter McDermott), Fred Tanner and Ed Shaunessey of AMEC, a county railroad infrastructure contractor.

But before we go there, here are the handouts from two PowerPoint presentations that Tom Micheletti did before the House Regulated Industries Committee and the Senate Energy Committee in 2002. I got them, I was there, I testified against it at every opportunity, and I’ll gladly sign an affidavit about what was presented and promised there, but the PowerPoints say it all, expressly. If you review these handouts for information about a brownfield site, you’ll know just where these brownfield ideas came from…


What did Micheletti sell to the legislature? The House version is pretty clear:

2000 megawatts (MW) of integrated gasification combined cycle (“IGCC” or “coal gasification”) generating capacity located on a brownfield site in Northeastern Minnesota.

But it says even more:

Use of Brownfield Site and Existing Infrastructure and Transportation Corridors: The Mesaba Energy Project has committed to use a brownfield site on an existing industrial site on the Iron Range if possible, reducing the environmental impact of the project and providing the opportunity to bring net environmental benefits to the site.

The Senate one is even more specific:

Sited on former LTV mining site near Hoyt Lakes.


Project site is an existing industrial site


Mesaba power will be cost competitive due to… Site Infrastructure


Site Advantages

  • Existing rail and port access
  • Empty unit trains and ore boats
  • Private water resources
  • Isolated existing industrial site
  • Strong public support

Nope, you won’t find any of these touted site advantages at Excelsior’s now-preferred greenfield “West Range” site! Plus at the time Micheletti was promising “1,000 direct, permanent jobs” and “2,000-4,000 additional indirect jobs.”

Now back to the present… the GRHR article:


Concerns raised over Mesaba site

Than Tibbetts

Monday, November 20th, 2006 08:22:10 AM

As hunting season closes, several hunters and landowners in the vicinity of the proposed Mesaba project wonder if it could be one of their last seasons bagging bucks in the area.

The proposed 600-megawatt, coal-fired power plant â?? 1,200 megawatts if you include both phases being proposed â?? would sit on land near Taconite that many say is not what proposer Excelsior Energy originally said â?? a brownfield site.

Their concern is that construction of the power plant would destroy acres of pristine woodlands, and not occupy former mining land as some say Excelsior Energy officials have led the public to believe.

Excelsior Energy is seeking to build an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant. The technology is designed to convert coal into a synthetic gas before it is burned to create electricity.

The project would require new railroad lines to be built, along with new power lines and gas pipeline.

Kurt Christopherson is one of those crying foul. He said Excelsior documents show power lines, gas pipelines, railroads and County Road 7 all being built or relocated on or near his property.

Christopherson was deer hunting before the second weekend of deer season and took some time to ride a four-wheeler to the proposed site.

â??Thereâ??s no sign of any mining being done in that section,â? he said. â??Itâ??s greenfield with mature timber, oaks with 24-inch diameters, birch with 15-inch diameters.â?

Excelsior Energy CEO Tom Micheletti disagreed.

â??Weâ??ve been straightfoward with people up there,â? he said. â??That land has been disturbed, logged, utilized and itâ??s located in the immediate vicinity of mining. Itâ??s not â??pristine.â?? â??

Itasca County Commissioner Catherine McLynn said she has visited the Mesaba Energy site as well as the site of the proposed Minnesota Steel site.

â??The Minnesota Steel site is clearly an old mining area,â? she said. â??The Mesaba Energy site is simply a hardwood forest. Itâ??s not an old mining area.â?

County Commissioner John Dimich said he also toured the site.

â??Itâ??s a very typical, Minnesota woodland,â? he said. â??It could very well be that this area had been logged off and regrown.â?

Bovey resident Marvin Schmidt said he hunts the area with his son, Dave.

â??Itâ??s trees, nice big timber,â? he said. â??There was never anything to do with mining over on this site.â?

Dave Schmidt said he shot and mounted a large buck he harvested from the area.

â??Itâ??s pretty much been untouched for the last 50 years, for sure,â? he said.

Micheletti said itâ??s been no secret that the land is meant for industrial use and that to say otherwise flies in the face of long-standing decisions made by local officials.

â??The fact of the matter is, this is land that is zoned industrial,â? he said. â??It doesnâ??t matter to the county whether thatâ??s greenfield land or brownfield land.â?

While supporters and detractors of the project can go round-and-round about the state of the site, it is clear that the Mesaba Energy project was originally billed as being placed on something like an old mining site.

Jason Lewis, the Mesaba Energy project manager for the Department of Energyâ??s National Energy Technology Laboratory, said Excelsior Energyâ??s original proposal identified a brownfield site, and not one of the two sites Excelsior is currently considering, the Taconite site and one in Hoyt Lakes.

â??The original brownfield site submitted in the proposal was an East Range site,â? he said.

The Mesaba Energy project received $36 million in federal funding under the Department of Energyâ??s Clean Coal Power Initiative.

The press release announcing the funding states, â??Mesaba will be located on a brownfield site, a former taconite mining facility, with access to water and multiple fuel transportation options.â?

As for the natural condition of the site, Micheletti said he was unsure where the statement about a brownfield site came originated.

â??That may have been in one of the original information pieces supplied to the (Department of Energy),â? he said. â??Weâ??ve been straightforward. If we were a bunch of liars weâ??d have never got this project to where it is today.â?

Oh, man, if I were his attorney, well, if I were, I’d quit and be writing the book with my feet up under the mango tree at my little tico house on the river. Whew, what quotes! I’ve got Katze’s muzzle under the passenger seat for clients in just these types of occasions. And that delightful article is just the start… there was some “high-sticking” at the County last week:

County sends letters of support for Mesaba Energy

Britta Arendt

Monday, November 20th, 2006 08:21:28 AM

At the request of Excelsior Energy, the Itasca County Board of Commissioners took action this week to send letters of support for Excelsiorâ??s proposed Mesaba Energy Project to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the administrative law judges involved in the hearing before the MPUC regarding a power purchase agreement between Excelsior and Xcel Energy. The state utilities commission will make the decision whether Xcel Energy will be required to purchase energy generated at the coal gasification plant, planned for a location near Taconite.

â??Pat [Micheletti, director of public and community affairs for Excelsior Energy] approached me asking that [the board] deliver a letter of support,â? said Itasca County Board of Commissioners Chairman Rusty Eichorn. â??Since the Mesaba Energy Project is being heard before the Minnesota Public Utilities and Minnesota Law Judges, Mesaba Energy is looking for letters of support for the purchase of power agreement.â?

The letter, which Eichorn said he drafted with help from Pat Micheletti, and dated Nov. 14, states:

â??I write to you on behalf of the Itasca County Board of Commissioners in support of Excelsior Energyâ??s Mesaba Energy Project. The project will provide much-needed economic development in an environmentally friendly way to the region.

â??When the Board of Commissioners considers the Mesaba Energy Project, we see considerable economic benefits for the region. A substantial addition to the tax base, 1,000 construction jobs, and over 100 permanent jobs will combine to provide direct and indirect growth opportunities. And those benefits are associated with just the first unit of the project. New and existing businesses in the area will see increased revenue thanks to the Mesaba Energy Project.

â??The Board of Commissioners is pleased that these economic development benefits do not come at the expense of the environment. The substantial emissions reductions offered by IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) technology make this an even more appealing project.

â??Thank you for your consideration of our position. We hope that you share our support for the Mesaba Energy Project.â?

Micheletti confirmed that he, â??approached Rusty in regards to letters of support for our project.â?

Before the board approved action to send the letters of support, Commissioner Catherine McLynn expressed her concern regarding specific language within the letters indicating that the economic benefits of the project will not come at the expense of the environment. McLynn said she does not feel the board should make such a statement when it is not certain to be factual as an Environmental Impact Study of the project has yet to be completed.

â??I have not problem having the chair send facts to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioner,â? commented McLynn.

The approval to send the letters was made by a vote of 3 to 1, with McLynn voting against and Commissioner Russ Klegstad absent. Also included with the request for board action was a copy of the original resolution adopted on Jan. 24, 2006, which the county board unanimously approved support for the Mesaba Energy project.

â??If there truly are major expenses to our environment, then those will surface in the environmental review and permitting process,â? said Eichorn in a separate interview this week.

Eichorn described the letters of support as a â??good-will gestureâ? by the board. He said he felt timing was of the essence to submit the letters as the public hearings on the matter will begin next month.

Janet Gonzalez, with the MPUCâ??s Department of Energy, explained that letters of support from the public, including public government entities, is allowed during hearing process. These submissions, however, are not considered as evidence yet as public comment.

â??The commission has to make decisions on broad-public interest,â? explained Gonzalez.

â??I feel I want to do whatever I can to move the process along,â? Eichorn added.

The issues to be addressed by the MPUC are whether the commission should approve, disapprove, amend or modify the terms and conditions of Excelsior Energyâ??s proposed power purchase agreement; determine that Excelsior Energyâ??s coal-fueled plant is, or is likely to be, a least-cost resource, obligating Xcel Energy to use the plantâ??s generation for at least two percent of the energy supplied to its retail customers; and determine that at least 13 percent of the energy supplied to Xcel Energyâ??s retail customers should come from the plant by 2013.

According to documents filed with the commission, Xcel Energy is concerned that power from Mesaba Energy would be too expensive and require the provider to increase rates to its customers. Public hearings on the issue are scheduled to begin Dec. 18 in St. Paul, Dec. 19 in Hoyt Lakes and Dec. 20 in Taconite. The deadline for written public comment is Dec. 22. The administrative law judges are scheduled to make their findings of fact and recommendations to the MPUC in February of 2007, with the MPUC expected to make a final decision sometime next spring. Construction of Mesaba Energy is expected to begin in early 2008 with completion slated for 2011.

Christine Partlow had this succinct response to the overreach of the County Board:

Commissioners should rethink their support

Monday, November 20th, 2006 08:29:14 AM


Dear Commissioners, I am completely appalled that on short notice you would take a stand and submit a letter of support for the Mesaba Energy Project, especially one that was filled with fallacious information. The permit application clearly points out that Excelsior intends on closing Canisteo Pit to public use. How can you say that there is no negative environmental impact when they intend on cutting off public access to a great fishery? The plant’s footprint is either forest or wetland/open water. None of it is mining, industrial, brown field.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has taken a stand of opposition stating that the plant will likely have a negative net economic impact on the state of Minnesota. The Citizens Against the Mesaba Project just released new documentation on the economic impacts of the project. It is clear that the loss to the environment outweighs the minimal benefits to the county and that the public’s cost is too high to benefit a private for-profit company.

The Citizens Against the Mesaba Project have completed many information presentations across the county. During the presentations there is significant opposition to the plant and well over 500 people have signed a petition officially opposing the project. How many people have signed a petition supporting the plant? How many people supported the project at the Taconite scoping meeting? Are you listening to the people that elected you?

Christine Partlow

and Bob Norgord was equally specific and direct:

Writer questions letters

Monday, November 20th, 2006 08:28:16 AM


At the Nov. 14 Itasca County Board meeting, Commissioner Rusty Eichorn and Pat Micheletti of Excelsior Energy jointly submitted an addition to the boardâ??s meeting agenda. They asked that the board approve two letters of support for Excelsior Energyâ??s Mesaba Energy Project. Commissioner McLynn objected to this last minute action because the letters contained some possibly less than accurate statements, but her objections were voted down three to one.

I canâ??t speak for Commissioner McLynn, but after obtaining a copy of the letters in question, I can see several points of contention. The letters were obviously written by the Excelsior camp (no pun intended), and stated that the board sees the Mesaba Project as an economic benefit that does not come at the expense of the environment. How do they arrive at that conclusion ahead of the Environmental Impact Statement that is currently being drafted and wonâ??t be done until February? Could this premature conclusion have anything to do with the fact that by February we will have a new county board?

The letter also states that “we see considerable economic benefits for the region.” Now our commissioners know more than William Blazer of The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce who concluded that the net economic benefits to the state are negative. These three commissioners also must be more knowledgeable than Dr. Amit of The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Warren Candy, senior vice president of Utility Operations for Minnesota Power and Burton Abrams, Ph.D., professor and acting chair of the Department of Economics, University of Delaware, all of whom see this project as a bad idea for various reasons too numerous to list.

Jobs? Jobs? Jobs?

Bob Norgord

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