The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rulemaking for Minn. R. Ch. 7849, Certificate of Need, and 7850, Routing and Siting, is slowly moving forward. Here are the final drafts up for review before they go to the Commission for a rubber stamp and release for general comment:

20173-129606-02_Draft 7849

20173-129606-03_Draft 7850

Final initial comments on drafts were due on Monday and here they are, in alphabetical order:

20175-131641-01_Commerce DER

20175-131640-01_Commerce EERA

20175-131687-01_Goodhue Wind Truth – Marie McNamara

20175-131650-01-1_Great River Energy

20175-131683_ITC Comments and Attachments

20175-131698-01_Just Change

20175-131686-01_NoCapX – U-CAN – NRG & GWT

20175-131675-01_Wisconsin Power & Light

20175-131688-01_Xcel Energy

Reply comments are due by 4:30 p.m. on May 31, 2017.  eFiling is preferred!  If you need to register to eFile, GO HERE!  It’s easy, quick, and makes filing a breeze.  Get to work — there’s a lot here to comment on!

Comments on the Minn. R. Ch. 7849 and 7850 rulemaking are due next Monday!  Are you making any progress? Info on who, what, where, why, when of filing comments is here:

20173-130158-01_Notice of Comment Period

What to comment on? Here are the latest draft rules:

February 2017 Draft 7849 February 2017 Draft 7850

Get to it!  

Tonka has arrived!

April 21st, 2017

Tonka has arrived from GSRAW in Wisconsin, who gave us Summer”

Ode to Summer…

Tonka is quickly adjusting to her home and her new roommates.  She did well on the trip, and today, greeted me by running up to me smiling.  Here ears are up, her chin is up, and she’s a happy grrrrrl.

She’ll do fine!  She even met Nigel, nose to nose (note the powerline in the background):

… and they’re fine, although she’s a little unnerved by the chickens!

Wyoming is fossil fuel country, coal plants everywhere, here a mine mouth plant on west side of Kemmerer:

And gas… EVERYWHERE, there were wells all the way up 30 and 89 up until the mountain pass, where the rain turned to snow, UGH!  This is what Wyoming looks like just north of Little America:

Remember that 2005 National Geographic article about the gas wells in Wyoming? Here’s my post with links to that article and videos — in particular, check out the “Bad Water” section, the woman holding a glass of “water” from her well reminds me of Nancy Prehn and her water when they’re pumping at the gas underground storage near Waseca:

Drilling in the West – in National Geographic this month

Up here towards Jackson Hole there are no gas wells, I don’t know if that’s because there’s no gas, that it’s not BLM land up for “lease” (at way too reduced rates), or because if the impact of $$$ in this area.

Heading back soon… and yeaaaah to GSRAW  for making this adoption happen!


The Great Plains Institute has long been a problem, and it remains a problem, evidenced in today’s missive trying to bootstrap onto tRump’s “infrastructure” agenda, by releasing a “White Paper” “calling on President Trump and Congress to make CO2 pipelines a priority component of a broader national infrastructure agenda and recommending that the federal government support the development of CO2 pipeline networks.”  Oh, great… brilliant idea, just brilliant.

Great Plains Institute a problem?  Yes.  They were paid handsomely to promote coal gasification, projects including but not limited to Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project, the boondoggle of boondoggles.  For example:

Great Plains Institute – is Joyce getting their $$ worth?

January 18th, 2007

Carbon capture and storage/sequestration was seen by many circa 2005 as a “way forward for coal.”  So the Walton’s Bill Grant said.  No.  It wasn’t.

CO2 sequestration is so… like… not happening!

It wasn’t a “way forward for coal” then, and it isn’t now.

The market has spoken on coal, and it’s clear that coal is on the way out as coal companies go bankrupt, as coal generated electricity languishes on the energy market, and as the inefficient and costly older coal plants have closed, with newer larger plants waiting in queue to be shuttered.

And CO2 capture and storage/sequestration is a farce.  Why? Well, we learned a lot about CO2 capture in our fight against Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project.  That’s where the Public Utilities Commission determined that it was just to expensive and risky to approve a Power Purchase Agreement — go HERE and search for PUC Docket 05-1933. Here’s a rough visual of CO2 capture and storage/use:

From Global CCS Institute HERE

So what’s the problem?

  • First, capture is costly and difficult, particularly capturing any significant portion of CO2 generated.
  • The higher percentage captured, the higher the cost of that capture, and high percentage capture has not been achieved.
  • The cost of capture is not only the cost to physically do it, the hardware, technology, and engineering, but there is a high cost in efficiency of the CO2 producer, a parasitic cost, meaning that if you’re capturing that CO2, you’re paying a high price in efficiency of an already inefficient process (burning is always inefficient).
  • And another parasitic cost, these pipelines require pumping stations to pressurize andpump it into the pipeline, a pumping station every 75 miles or so to keep that pressure up, and a pumping station at the destination, and those pumping stations require 4-10 MW of power, depending.
  • Environmentally, the impacts of digging up land for hundreds of miles is immense.
  • These are private projects and for a private project, a private purpose, eminent domain isn’t available for the taking of people’s land.

Yet this CO2 capture and storage/sequestration farce continues, evidenced in the most recent Great Plains Institute missive I found in the inbox, here the missive’s link to CO2 capture and storage for oil extraction, “Enhanced Oil Recovery”.

Here’s their “White Paper” with what they’ll be lobbying for:

21st Century Energy Infrastructure: Policy Recommendations for Development of American CO2 Pipeline Networks

Short version:  The federal government should make this CO2 pipeline and infrastructure build out happen across the country, a la the Interstate highway system.

In light of tRump’s Executive Order 13766, Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects, that’s a scary notion.

Check out this site from Global CCS Institute, and note, they talk of benefits, but look for talk of costs.  Hmm…

A “way forward for coal?”  CO2 capture?  Over my dead polar bear.

Thursday, tomorrow, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will take up the rulemaking, Minn. R. Ch. 7849 and 7850, that’s been ongoing since 2012. 

Agenda Meeting

Public Utilities Commission

Large Hearing Room — 3rd Floor

121 – 7th Place East

St. Paul, MN

Watch Live Webcast HERE!

The Commission will consider the draft rules, below, and decide whether to move the process forward (in itty bitty steps) and release the rules for public comment and a hearing (and we’ll need 25 requests for a hearing to get that hearing), or to send us back to the drawing board, or revise themselves, request public comment, or “take other action as the Commission deems appropriate.”  See the last pages of Briefing Papers for these options in detail.

Yes, since 2012 — that’s 5 years in the making, an unreasonably long time.  But wait, it gets worse — the enabling legislation is the 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell!  That’s particularly galling because the 2005 legislative changes were enacted to pave the way for CapX 2020, and all of CapX 2020 was rammed through without rulemaking covering these changes.  GRRRRRRRRRRR.  I like to encourage clients to carry on with the process after our immediate issue is resolved, because who knows better how the Certificate of Need and Siting/Routing process works than those who have been through it, but 5 years?!?!  12 years?!?!  Some of these things I’ve been on the Commission about for over 20 years, particularly notice issues.

The existing rules:


And the proposed drafts that the Commission will consider:

20173-129606-01_Briefing Papers

20173-129606-02_Draft Ch. 7849 – Certificate of Need

20173-129605-01_CoN_Legislative Changes

20173-129606-03_Draft Ch. 7850 – Siting/Routing

20173-129605-02_Siting-Routing_Legislative Changes

Certificate of Need

An issue right up front is in the definitions in Certificate of Need rules, where a “transmission company” is a “utility.”  Draft Minn. R. 7849.0010, Subp. 32.This is problematic because a Certificate of Need is the “need” determination necessary for use of power of eminent domain.  A “transmission company” has a private purpose, not a public purpose, and should not have access to eminent domain.  This change should not be made, and if it is, should only after thoughtful consideration abut the meaning of the change.

Another issue, which is in line with statutory changes, is the use of “the region” as a consideration for an determination of impact of denial of the application upon “future adequacy, reliability, or efficiency of energy supply to the applicant, to the applicant’s customers, or to the people of Minnesota and the region.  Draft Minn. R. 7849.0120.  This regional aspect has an impact on the Commission’s jurisdiction, and on the weight the Commission gives to MISO review and “approval” of transmission, which is very different from the review and approval performed by the Commission.  Where it’s regional need, how does that mesh with the Commission’s responsibility to the residents and ratepayers of Minnesota?  When “efficiency of energy supply” is at issue, how is the inherent inefficiency of transmission taken into account, particularly over the long distances contemplated by regional planning and buildout?

There’s a 10 day Comment period for the CoN Environmental Report which should be longer than 10 days, that’s a bit too tight!

Siting and Routing

There are quite a few provisions for additional notice — more notice is always good.  Lack of notice was an issue in both CapX 2020 Brookings and Hampton-La Crosse dockets.  Previously, the applicants were allowed to submit route alternatives very late, even a day before the public hearings, where people had no notice and no idea what the process was or how to participate.  I’ve made oral and written motions to extend intervention deadlines for these people to be able to jump in, and the motions were denied. Another notice issue is that where alternatives routes/sites are added, now they may not be added after the scoping decision is issued.  This means that people will get notice in a more timely manner.  AND, notice upon adding alternatives for consideration MUST be given.  Previously, there was no requirement, and when people would say, “Hey, we didn’t get notice,” Commerce would say, “Oh, well, there’s no requirement.”  ENOUGH!  These draft rules would require that they get notice.  DOH!  This is a no brainer, and very glad to see this in the draft.

The timing has been improved in a couple areas — look at the charts at the end of the Briefing Papers.  The timing of release of the DEIS and FEIS is improved, but remains an issue, because the Draft EIS can be released up until the time of the Public Hearings, meaning just before and people won’t have time to review prior to the hearings.  On the other hand, the draft rules do provide for a comment period for the Final EIS, which hadn’t happened previously.  In several dockets I’ve worked on, the FEIS was not available until AFTER the public hearing and AFTER comment period had closed, and there was no way to raise adequacy issues with the FEIS.  Twice, or maybe three times, I’ve made motions to keep the comment period open, but was denied.

I’d like to see a more beefed up rule, or a broader interpretation, of the Public Advisor’s role, because on the routing road shows, I’ve had to ask questions in the meeting to get the Public Advisor to explain the participation options.  Public Advisors do get in the groove and let people know about Participant and Intervenor roles, volunteering for Citizen Advisory Task Force, and what they can do, but this shouldn’t have to be pulled out of the Public Advisor.  What people have told me, over and over, is that the information about participation options is not volunteered, that they have to know the questions to ask, and that they feel that is not fair, that the Commission and Commerce should volunteer information to help them speak up and be heard.

Citizen Advisory Task Force has morphed into something unrecognizable over the last 20 years.  These days, membership is limited to representatives of local units of government, and whether that limitation is by Commerce, or the facilitator, it has not been limited by the Commission, and it’d be useful for the Commission, in authorizing Task Forces, to specifically state that participation on a Task Force is NOT strictly limited and that members of the public are welcome to apply and participate.

There’s more, but I’m trying to keep it simple for tomorrow.  There ARE some positive changes, things we’ve been raising for a long, long time.  But there are some very important things missing here.