Renewable Energy is EVERYWHERE!

December 29th, 2006

Fair Use lift from West Central Tribune, photo by ChervenyÂ

Every day, Rep. Al Juhnke sends around links to outstate papers reporting on issues and legislators. This is SO valuable, I hope he knows it, but it couldn’t hurt to tell him at [at] — this is a major community service! One featured today was from the West Central Tribune, where a group had met with local legislators and the discussion focused on renewable energy. I’m concerned about what might come up this session because Rep. Aaron Peterson was one of those pushing for the 2005 Transmission Bill from Hell that opened up the doors for new coal plants, like the Big Stone II plant now permitted in South Dakota — but for the changes in transmission law, that wouldn’t have happened, because without transmission, it wouldn’t be built! Now, with the CO2 momentum building, will they take action to reduce CO2 emissions or pass legislation that only mandates commodification of CO2 and enrichment of those participating in and controlling the CO2 market? Will they pass a renewable electricity mandate, and if they do, will they require community development and will they count hydro as renewable? We’ve got a lot of work to do this session! Here’s the report of the meeting:

A â??greenâ?? agenda now comes with lots of energy

Tom Cherveny
West Central Tribune – 12/29/2006

MONTEVIDEO â?? Put three dozen people together with an interest in clean water and the environment, and where does the discussion lead?

Straight to renewable energy and the prospects that the Minnesota Legislature will take steps to encourage its development in western Minnesota.

â??The public interest is there, the public is behind that,â??â?? said Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, as he and Reps. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, and Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton, joined for a meeting on environmental issues for the upcoming session. They met Wednesday at the Milwaukee Road Depot in Montevideo for a session sponsored by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, which represents more than 80 environmental organizations in the state; and local sponsors including Clean Up our River Environment and the Land Stewardship Project.

Although the session has yet to begin, the three legislators said renewable energy already has wheels. They expect a host of bills and amendments to be considered during the session.

Much of the debate will focus on whether the state should set renewable energy objectives, as Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants, or hard and fast standards. Kubly, who is soon to be announced as the chairman for the Senateâ??s energy subdivision of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, said he favors standards.

â??I am just not sure anybody can do it without a mandate,â??â?? he said.

Like the stateâ??s experience with ethanol, the three legislators also voiced their support for bills that would encourage local or community ownership of wind and other renewable energy projects.

Koenen said it is â??very important to himâ??â?? that renewable energy development remains focused on local ownership.

Both Kubly and Peterson emphasized the economic importance of a renewable energy industry to their rural districts, and the state as a whole. A potential â??multibillion-dollar joltâ??â?? is how Kubly described the development of wind and other renewable energy sources on the scale being promoted. The governor called for producing 25 percent of our electric power from renewable sources by 2025. There are other proposals calling for 20 percent by 2020.

â??It would be the biggest economic development thing weâ??ve seen,â??â?? said Kubly.

Despite their enthusiasm, the legislators cautioned that renewable energy proposals face major challenges this session. Rural Electric Associations and municipal utilities have already made known their opposition to renewable energy mandates, they noted.

They also anticipate legal challenges to measures that would favor the development of Minnesota-owned renewable energy projects. The legislators are well aware of wind-power developments in South Dakota that are targeting Minnesota electrical markets. Theyâ??d like to see community-based or Minnesota-owned projects given preference, despite possible conflicts with interstate commerce law.

There are also marked divisions among proponents of renewable energy. Peterson noted that Xcel Energy wants hydroelectric power it purchases from Manitoba, Canada, counted toward the renewable energy standard or objective. He said that he suspects that the governor may want to include these and other out-of-state sources as well. â??What are we going to count?â??â?? he asked.

There may be lots to overcome, but Kubly suggested that renewable energy has the momentum needed to move forward. â??Because the people support it,â??â?? he said.

For the very same reason, the Kubly said he believes that legislators will start asking the stateâ??s utilities to look at how they can reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. He believes it is only a matter of time before greenhouse gas emissions are regulated in some manner, perhaps through the carbon trading model proposed by Gov. Pawlenty. â??I think it is going to happen because the people want it,â??â?? he said.

And here’s where you can add your comments — I couldn’t resist: COMMENT HERE


Here’s “Our Amy” at The Coffeehouse in Austin, Minnesota for her sendoff to Washington. On the left is Jessica Wright, staff charged with keeping things together as our new Senator heads east… and I hope they filled up that left rear tire…

So far there’s not a specific person for energy issues, such as Excelsior’s Mesaba project, but as soon as I get a name and contact info, I’ll post it.



Not one Range legislator spoke in favor of Excelsior’s Mesaba coal gasification (IGCC) project PPA Public Hearings last week. Not one! At prior public comment opportunities, they were fighting each other to be first to “rah-rah” and do the Barney dance with the promoters. Oh, barf… But what’s happening now? Are they getting the message that this project is hazardous to their political health? Can they be paying attention to their constituents, and paying a little less attention to special interests?

But hearing that Pawlenty wants to “grandfather in” Mesaba if there’s restrictive CO2 legislation… whatever is he thinking? That’s going too far! We’re way overdue in holding these guys accountable, we’ve been letting them be such Excelsior toadies — and what’s up with Amy anyway? As they’re saying on the Range, “Not OUR Amy?!?!?” We’ll see, seems to me she’s surfing that learning curve and “needs more information.”

To some extent it comes with the political territory. Everyone knows that if you google Pawlenty and Excelsior you get 964 hits and the news that Excelsior has moved this photo of these guys to parts unknown (hello, ever heard of Wayback?) (and who’da thunk that “The Excelsior Choir” photowould not be on point):

And then there’s Coleman, also pictured above, he gets 1,070 hits, some of them hilariously irrelevant, and this photo:


And lately, Micheletti’s been quoted claiming Amy Klobuchar’s support:

â??(Minnesota Sen.-elect) Amy (Klobuchar) has been supportive from Day 1 â?¦ sheâ??s endorsed the project. Thatâ??s critical because sheâ??ll be on the Senate Environment Committee. Sheâ??s strong on the global warming issue and realizes that new technology is key. And sheâ??s a quick study,â? said Micheletti, who said other senators, such as Barbara Boxer of California, also recognizes the importance of the coal gasification process.

On the other hand, not a word from Klobuchar herself that I can find. Inquiring minds want to know! So off to Rochester!

Stolen from!

I’m about to blow a gasket with this computer nightmare. Not only did the power supply fry up in Virginia, MN (at the same time the car wouldn’t start), but now Dell lost my order, so I’m still waiting and waiting and waiting after having started over from zero, oh, I hate this. This dinosaur is freezing up every couple of minutes, deleting all my email, OK, YOU, STOP IT, STOP IT RIGHT NOW!


No way can I keep up with all the news this last week. Here’s what’s just been put on line from the Grand Rapids Herald Review — hey, at least Than Tibbetts got the number right, “several hundred” and that’s just the afternoon session. For some reason, most are downplaying that!

One thing they’re also not noticing, but I couldn’t help but notice because in Taconite, Reps. Solberg and Anzelc were sitting not too far ahead of where I was standing in the back, NONE OF THE RANGE LEGISLATORS TESTIFIED FOR THIS PROJECT, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM! They trotted out Mike Beard, at the hearing in St. Paul, but in Hoyt Lakes, Sen. Tomassoni and Rep. Rukavina were notably absent (would have been impossible to miss them in that crowd of 12 people, 9 in the evening!), and in Taconite, there sat Rep. Solberg and Rep. Anzelc, and neither had a thing to say about this. Sen. Tom Saxhaug was no where to be found, though in that crowd, it would have been easier to hide. On one hand, it’s good they’re listening to the public speak, and on the other hand, maybe they’re seeing that support for this boondoggle is a politically hazardous thing! And here I was looking forward to a go ’round with Tomassoni and Rukavina, drat and double drat!!!
And of course I can’t do photos on this computer… grrrrrr…


Hundreds at Mesaba hearings

Than Tibbetts

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 02:05:39 PM

Several hundred people packed into the Taconite Community Center Wednesday to voice concerns, support and questions about the proposed $2 billion Mesaba Energy Project.

The project, a proposed 600-megawatt power plant near Taconite, needs a buyer for the energy it would produce, something Excelsior Energy officials hope to secure a contract for with Twin Cities-based Xcel Energy.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide whether Xcel has to buy the power, so the commission called on Administrative Law Judge Bruce Johnson to sort through piles of testimony and to conduct public hearings in St. Paul, Hoyt Lakes and Taconite.

â??Your input is important to us and to the commission,â? Johnson told the audience.

The hearings opened with introductions from the parties in the case. Xcel Energyâ??s Chris Clark told the audience that Xcel believes the project does not meet the requirements of a 2003 state law tailored to the Mesaba project. The law defined a â??clean energy technologyâ? as one that uses an integrated gasification combined-cycle process, or IGCC, which converts solid coal into a synthetic gas before burning it.

â??There is far too great a risk on our customers,â? Clark said. â??The project is not likely to be a least-cost resource.â?

Clark added that Xcel estimates it would cost its customers $1.5 billion over the life of the project versus other alternatives the company is considering.

Hibbing resident Paul Minerich said he considered coal gasification to be a viable option for reducing the countryâ??s dependence on foreign energy sources, but was skeptical whether the costs involved were worth the approximately 100 full-time jobs Excelsior estimates will be needed to run the plant.

â??Is it going to be cost effective for the sacrifice to be asked of the people here?â? he said.

Ron Dicklich, executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, added his support for the project.

â??For 26 years, this area has been economically depressed,â? he said.

If the project was completed, it would bring new jobs and help fill area schools, Dicklich said.

Mike Andrews, a business development specialist with Itasca Economic Development Corporation, said he happened to grow up about one mile from the projectâ??s proposed location. He said the concerns about the site being â??pristineâ? are misguided.

â??We need a better quality of life,â? he said.

Johnson, along with Judge Steve Mihalchick, are expected to make a report to the public utilities commission in the spring.


And here are the LTE’s — doesn’t this sound like Tom talking???

Mesaba Energy and MDs

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 02:09:26 PM


Many of the Grand Itasca Hospital and Clinic doctors placed an ad in the Herald-Review warning the public about “health risks” and associated “public health costs” in regards to the coal gasification plant proposed by Excelsior Energy. One wonders why the concern now about this cleaner technology when the older, more polluting coal burning process has been present nearby for years.

Through the many years that the Clay Boswell power plant has produced electricity in our area, Minnesota Power, or ALLETE now, has been a responsible corporate citizen. This large investment has produced electricity from coal subject to rigid state and federal pollution control guidelines while providing jobs, local property tax revenue and on-going economic benefits to the Cohasset and Grand Rapids area.

The Mesaba Energy project will do the same for the Taconite and Grand Rapids areas. However, the ad neglects to inform us that, concerning emissions, the proposed coal gasification process at Mesaba Energy is much cleaner then the coal burning process used at the Clay Boswell plant. In fact the $200 million environmental upgrade proposed by ALLETE at Clay Boswell may still not attain as low a level of emissions as the coal gasification process at Mesaba Energy.

If the Grand Itasca MDs are so concerned about the health risks of coal power plants, where are the health risk warnings regarding Clay Boswell? Were there advertised warnings in local papers or other news media? Are there health risk warnings or disclaimers for patients and employees at the new $60 million Grand Itasca Hospital and Clinic located about five or six miles down wind from Clay Boswell?

Many of these same physicians live with their families within six miles of Clay Boswell. Why would they place the health of themselves and their families at risk? In addition, the population in a six mile radius of Clay Boswell is at least three times the population located in a similar radius of the proposed Mesaba Energy site. It appears the health risk of Clay Boswell, with greater emissions and larger population, is many times more serious than the risks we are warned of with Mesaba Energy.

Maybe medical schools should consider training future doctors not only in the “Hippocratic” oath as to medical ethics, but also in the “hypocritic” oath as to consistent and fair representation of sources of health risks and costs.

John Sloan


This LTE is from Mandy — GO MANDY GO!!! YEA MANDY!

Write your elected officials with your views

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 02:09:50 PM


Let’s all wake up and smell the sulfur.

Senator Norm Coleman had to “work hard” to get legislation changed in a Tax Relief and Health Care Act that includes a provision by Coleman that allows Excelsior Energy to qualify for federal clean coal tax incentives. Why? If the Mesaba Energy Project (MEP) is supposed to be so “clean,” why did Coleman have to insert in a Tax Relief and Health Care Bill special legislation? Could it be that this so called “clean coal” project really isn’t so clean after all? A special provision had to be tailored for the MEP because it wouldn’t meet its proclaimed emission reductions, so Coleman had to have the wording changed so that Excelsior Energy’s MEP would meet the emission standards. Smell anything yet?

Governor Pawlenty wants a more aggressive, more “green” energy policy for Minnesota, right? So why does the Mesaba Energy Project have to be “grandfathered in?â? You don’t suppose its because the MEP won’t meet the emission standards for Pawlenty’s new energy policy do you? Tom Micheletti from Excelsior Energy wouldn’t have lied to us would he have? We’ve all been told this project was supposed to be an “innovative clean coal technology” project. Well it looks like even Governor Pawlenty is admitting that there is no such thing as “clean coal” just by his actions.

Its time for all of us to start writing our elected officials, all of them, and let them know just what we think of this boondoggle.

Amanda Nesheim


Opponents of Mesaba Energy Project yelling ‘Fire, Fire!’

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 02:09:00 PM


As I read letters to the editor from opponents of this project, view the â??Got Mercury?â? ad and see the ad signed by members of the local medical community, I am reminded of persons who might be smelling cigarette smoke on the clothes of someone sitting next to them in the theater and yelling, “fire, fire, run for your lives!” The tone of some letters and the ads border on hysterical.

The â??Got Mercury?â? ad shows a hypothetical pattern of mercury distribution based, perhaps, on some historical record of wind direction and speed and stack height. What really bothers me is that right there on the left edge of the darkest blob sits Clay Boswell, Minnesota Power’s largest coal-fired plant, spewing out many more times the amount of mercury than the Mesaba Energy plant might. All the health care professionals and all the opponents of the Mesaba Energy project are silent about that. You need electricity, right? Clay Boswell is providing it. Better not bite the hand that keeps the lights and heat on?

The big splash signed by members of the medical community cites emission numbers that sound big. Cost figures like lost work time, premature deaths, and the rest of the hypothetical incidents are just that – hypothetical.

The Minnesota Mercury Emissions Act of 2006, when fully implemented in 2014, will theoretically reduce annual mercury emissions from the state’s three largest coal-fired power plants, including Clay Boswell, by 90 percent — from 1,350 pounds to approximately 150 pounds. Yet that 1,200 pound reduction represents just 70 percent of all mercury emissions from the in-state electric power industry. At least 500 pounds will still be emitted after that. Don’t forget the mercury that comes into the state via the weather patterns. Ninety percent of all mercury landing on Minnesota soil is from out-of-state. (1)

A 2006 brochure (2) from Minnesota Power allows calculations to be done showing emission figures for the year ending Dec. 31, 2005:

24,800 tons of nitrogen oxides

26,685 tons of sulfur dioxide

1,670 tons of particulate matter

597 pounds of mercury

Where is the outrage from those opposing the Mesaba project, especially the medical community, when Clay Boswell is a stone’s throw from our fine medical facility? These numbers have to represent untold numbers of premature deaths, lung disease, etc.

My intent is to keep the hysteria about the Mesaba Energy project in perspective. My challenge to the project’s opponents is to come up with a substitute project for stimulating the local economy if this project is lost. Can you do it? Mesaba is a real project with real job opportunities that will pay well.

Dave Johnson

Grand Rapids

Sources: ( 1)

(2) “Your Electricity, Your Choice – Fuel Sources, Air Emissions” from Minnesota Power, EDB06 2006.pdf

Charlotte Neigh in BusinessNorth

December 26th, 2006

Stolen “Fair Use” from the GRHR – Charlotte Neigh speaking at the CAMP presentation at ICC two weeks ago

Here’s Charlotte’s letter in BusinessNorth. Sometimes I wonder if those writing these articles were at the same meeting. Here’s the ORIGINAL BUSINESSNORTH ARTICLE, at least at “$2 billion” they almost got the price right, and here’re the corrections:

Letters To The Editor

Charlotte Neigh, Co-chair Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP)

12/24/2006 1:18:04 PM

To the Editor:
I’m glad that you covered the public hearing regarding Excelsior Energy’s attempt to force Xcel Energy to purchase the output of Mesaba I – the coal-gasification, 600 MW power plant proposed to be built in Itasca County. However, some corrections and additions are required.
There were at least 200 people present for the 5:00 p.m. session at Taconite; contrary to what was stated in the report, there were even more people present for the 1:00 p.m. session, reflecting the high level of concern among local residents.
The article referred to as a “Web site”. It is that, but its role in this proceeding is as an intervening party, submitting evidence and argument to be considered by
the judges and the PUC.

No one is arguing that the Itasca County site is “pristine”, however its trees and more than 300 acres of wetlands are closer to being pristine than to being the brownfield site abandoned by LTV near Hoyt Lakes that was cited by Excelsior in 2003 when it received special privileges from the legislature.
The 2006 bonding bill provided $11 million (not $55 million as reported) for Itasca County infrastructure to be used for either Mesaba Energy or Minnesota Steel or both. $55 million is the amount that Mesaba was seeking from the legislature for its infrastructure needs.
If Tom Micheletti actually said that his project won’t die if the PUC doesn’t approve the power purchase agreement with Xcel, that is big news and deserves to be explored. Until now Excelsior’s stated position has been that if this PPA is not approved, not one shovelful of earth will be turned. If the PUC rejects the proposed PPA as either too expensive or not in the public interest, what other entity would be interested in
purchasing the power from Excelsior?
Charlotte Neigh, Co-Chair
CAMP (Citizens Against the Mesaba Project)