US EPA Comment on Mesaba

March 14th, 2008


This is just to good to believe. Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project is not faring well under the eye of federal agencies, hard to believe, but there it is, in black and white as found in their DEIS Comments. And what’s also too good to believe is that we’ve caught the DOE and Minnesota’s Green Chameleon Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s agency hiding important documents from the public.

First, once more with feeling, the US Army Corps of Engineers:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Letter January 31, 2008 and attachments

Now, let’s move on to the Comment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Can this be? They’re gettin’ DOWN! Like WOW!

US EPA Comment on Mesaba DEIS

Here’s the poop in short:

Based on the information provided in the DEIS, EPA has assigned a rating of “EO-2.” The “EO” indicates that we have environmental objections to the proposed project. The “2” indicates that additional information needs to be provided to support the impact analysis documented in the DEIS.

The EPA gives it a thumbs down. There are a number of issues, but in tandem with the USACE, there’s a “project purpose” problem identified and the alternatives scenario is flat out rejected:

The selection of alternatives is etermined in part by the project’s purpose…

This project has four stated purposes, which are to : 1) demonstrate the commercial viability of IGCC technology on a utility-scale application, 2) help satisfy Minnesota’s baseload power needs, 3) implement Mnnesota’s energy poloikcies, 4) and utilize state and federal incentives under the Innovative Energy Project initiative. These four stated purposes are actually a combination of two project purposes and a set of modifiers that specify the applicant’s desired conditions and benefits for the project. The demonstration of the commercial viability of IGCC technology on a utility-scale application (1) is one project purpose that can be accomplished anywhere in the United States, not just in Minnesota. The need to provide additional baseload power in Minnesota (2) is another project purpose, which can be accomplished using a number of different technologies, fuels, and locations within the State. It does not require the use of IGCC technology. The purpose to implement Minnesota’s energy policies (3) is actually a desired benefit from the second project purpose. This benefit cannot be considered as a project purpose because it isn’t associated with an actual project. Lastly, the purpose to utilize staet and federal incentives (4) is a desired condition by the applicant that cannot be considered a project purpose. The economic savings and development benefits associated with these incentives do not define an actual project either.

… therefore, we would, in reviewing the CWA Section 404 permit, reject the project purposes as stated by the applicant and the resulting alternatives analysis up on which it is based.

This Comment was withheld by the DOE and Minnesota’s Department of Commerce. Can you believe???

Just for the record, “purpose” jumped out at me too, and here’s what I said in the MCGP DEIS Comment January 11 2008:

6) The DEIS, in Section 1.4, p. 1-6 to 1-9, improperly shifts the purpose of the project, from that of public need, as framed in the DoC scoping document, to one focusing on project proposer need. EIS must address the public need for the project and eliminate discussion of “project proponent need.”

7) The DEIS, in section, provides a narrative regarding the DOE purpose, and it does not include “demonstrate” in line one where the purpose of the DOE’s action is explained. This is a “demonstration” project, mentioned elsewhere, and that is a material term in the purpose of this project.

8) In section 1.4.14 of the DEIS, the State Purpose is addressed. One important omission that must be corrected is the state’s need to provide for public participation opportunities under the Power Plant Siting Act and in the PPA docket.

So now what… how dare they hide documents that are so important… how dare they. The DOE and Minnesota Department of Commerce are in deep, deep shit…


(This is changing and shifting quickly, but I’ll keep adding as it develops, and I think I’ll have a separate post soon for the EPA Comments, they’re that good.)

The nightmare of IGCC – coal gasification takes an interesting twist… very interesting… there’s Comments and correspondence flying around to the DOE and Minnesota’s Department of Commerce about Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project. Hot off the press is a MONTH OLD letter to Richard Hargis of the DOE, the one in charge of the Mesaba Project Environmental Impact Statement at DOE. The Department of Commerce was copied on this, as was Bob Cupit from the PUC. But the public? Hey, we don’t exist, why would we want to know about this…

Let’s look and see what they’ve done on the Commerce project site — why, it’s now been published on the site, but it’s hidden in the January 11, 2008 comments, way down at the bottom, scroll down and look in Agency Comments, see for yourself:

MN Commerce Project Docket for Mesaba

There’s also a big long list of EIS Comments on the PUC’s eDockets “Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project Siting Docket” for the Mesaba Project. Click HERE and then search for docket 06-668.

Now, let’s check out the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE filed Comments on the Mesaba EIS on February 21, 2007. Look for US Army Corps of Engineer Comments. Find it? Right… they’re not there. The USACE sent a letter on January 31, 2008, about it, a LENGHTY letter with attachments of Comments of 2/21/07 and others — look for it in the docket. Find it? Right, it’s not there… Well, it will show up because I finally filed it myself in disgust. Oh, and the EPA, the EPA filed Comments in a letter dated January 11, 2008. See it on the MN Commerce Project Docket or the PUC siting docket? Find it? Right.. it’s not there… Do you notice a trend?

Remember the Mesaba Project joke of a siting hearing, held January 29 and 30? And what date was this sent, January 31, the day after it ended??? And it pops up, from a little birdie, a MONTH later? And it’s not published anywhere on the official sites? How dare they… and thanks to the little birdie:


Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the comments, essentially, they’re saying that the MN Dept. of Commerce and the DOE did a piss poor job of the EIS and that it’s not adequate. Yup, they’re saying it sucks. Really sucks!

Here’s their January 31, 2008 letter

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Letter January 31, 2008 and attachments

This is good stuff. There’s the letter, which notes IN BOLD that an appendix attached to the DEIS, appendix F1, but a different version than the one they’d reviewed, and contains information that “had previously been removed at our request.” Oh, great… and it ends on this happy note:

The Corps also believes that there continue to be several NEPA deficiencies in the DEIS. These are 1) not addressing the alternative of a stand alone Phase I project; 2) not all direct actions are disclosed (e.g., not all wetland impacts appear to be disclosed in the impact tables); 3) not all impacts of connected actions are disclosed (e.g. need for additional high voltage transmission lines beyond the nearest substation); 4) not all impacts due to plant operations are disclosed (e.g., no evaluation of train and truck emissions over the 20 year life of the plant); and 5) an unresolved issue regarding the DOE’s ability to evaluate alternatives to the applicant’s proposed project.

 Mesaba DEIS for your reference

Here are some more choice snippets in the packet that was sent with the letter:

3. Page S-4 second paragraph.  The Corps has requested in prior comments that a “Phase I project only” be evaluated in the EIS.  The DOE had informed the Corps that a phase I only project would not be considered because it isn’t being considered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission [SAY WHAT?!?].  However, CEQ 40 questions specifically state that “An alternative that is outside the legal jurisdiction of the lead agency must still be analyzed in the EIS if it is reasonable.”  CEQ 40 questions also states that “In determining the scope of alternatives to be considered, the emphasis is on what is “reasonable” rather than on whether the proponent or applicant likes or is teself capable of carrying out a particular alternative.  In this case, a phase I only project is not outside the legal jurisdiction of the DOE, and can be carried out by the applicant.  Whether the applicant desires a phase I only project, and whether the state is considering this option, are not sufficient to determine this alternative is not reasonable under NEPA.

Yeah, you tell ’em!  “…not being considered by the PUC?”  And they can get away with that as long as that kind of response is not public.

And here’s a hilarious one, coming after Chair Koppendrayer’s famous “Nobody needs it, nobody wants it, and we’re not going to force this on anyone!”

8. Page 1-6 discusses the need for additional baseload power and references documentation in Appendix F1.  Because a reasonable review of the project need is an important part of our public interest review, and several utility companies have prepared and submitted new 2007-2008 resource plans, this information should be updated to reflect current projections.

Now THAT’s funny!  And what a coincidence, it just so happened that I challenged their need statement and attached a link to NSP’s Notice of Changed Circumstance to my DEIS comment — great minds…  see P. 3.

 MCGP DEIS Comment

And then there’s transmission:

12. Page 2-30 Section Infrastructure requirements.  The discussion on the MISO studies is from DOE’s response to our February 07 comments.  What is the current status of the MISO studies?  This information should be updated and reflected in the FEIS.

… and it gets better:

13. Page 2-30-31 Section Includes discussion of the network upgrades that would be necessary (Boswell to Riverton, and full power deliverability to the Twin Cities).  It does not appear that impacts resulting from these actions are discussed or evaluated.

Yup, and that’s a fact!  SNORT!

What’s most interesting about this is the cover letter, which lays out the timeline of various letters and meetings where the Corps has tried to bring the EIS in line with federal requirements, and it’s just not happening, and the frustration is evident in the letter and in the Comments.  It’s also good to see the evolution, with heightened stress on cumulative impacts, and the careful attention to wetlands.

I’ll pick out some more choice snippets, but in the meantime, dig this, just in, the response to my FOIA request!

US EPA Comment on Mesaba DEIS

Yes, the EPA Comment deserves a separate post… I cannot believe… this is Bush’s EPA saying this! Again, I’ll pick out some snippets, but it’s worth reading the whole damn thing. And it’s worth sending an email to Bill Storm and Richard Hargis and asking why they’re hiding this!

meanwhile, the doggies want to go out, and it’s a beautiful day…

Eating his words…

March 13th, 2008

Stolen from AP

Steve Mendell, president of Westland/Hallmark, the meatpacker disclosed as flagrantly violating health regulations by pushing downer cows to slaughter… How dense can they be? Methinks he’s suffering from neurological impacts of eating too much of his own beef:

The panel’s chairman, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., asked Mendell whether it was logical to conclude from the video that at least two downer cows entered the nation’s food supply.

“That would be logical, yes, sir,” Mendell said.

“Has your company ever illegally slaughtered, processed, or sold a downer cow?” Stupak asked.

“I didn’t think we had, sir,” Mendell said.

Reminding him that he was appearing under oath, lawmakers asked him why he had claimed in written testimony that the abused cows where headed to be euthanized, not for the food supply.

“I had not seen what I saw here today,” Mendell said. He said the Agriculture Department had refused to allow him to see some of the undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States.

Stupak pointed out that the video has been posted on the Humane Society Web site.

There’s an interesting difference in the AP article in the Delaware News Journal and the one in the Mpls. Star Tribune.

Delaware News Journal:

Mendell noted that no illnesses have been reported from the recalled beef and the Agriculture Department has found no evidence of problems with it. Some 50 million pounds of the beef went to federal nutrition programs, mostly school lunches.

Mpls. STrib:

No illnesses have been reported, and Agriculture Department officials have insisted there is minimal risk. But Stupak noted that the incubation period for mad cow disease can be a dozen years or more.

Nowhere does the Delaware article mention the incubation period of mad cow disease. Given that incubation period, any statement that “No illnesses have been reported” is patently absurd.  That none have been “reported” may be true, but it’s misleading.  Mad cow wouldn’t be evident for quite a while…

I went to this weird meeting yesterday, sponsored by DNREC, regarding Delaware’s participation in the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” or RGGI. Here’s the:

RGGI Document List.

The purpose of the meeting, one of a series, was to address “The Allocation Issue” and “The Revenue Issue.” The “Allocation Issue” is DNREC wanting to figure out how to GIVE all the credits to the utilities, and “The Revenue Issue” is wanting to shift any revenue if any are auctioned rather than given, to Delaware’s “Sustainable Energy Utility” which is supposed to be the state entity to handle conservation and efficiency. But even the chair, David Small of DNREC, was frustrated because this meeting, as with the others, was all going around and around and around. To me, that indicates two things, that there is not enough information in the possession of the ’rounders to see clearly, and two, that there is not agreement with the agenda of those pushing for “consensus.” Then, with “consensus,” they’d put a bill together and march it through the legislature.

What was weird about it was that among those present, other than utilities and politicians with a vested interest, they didn’t seem to know enough about the system and valuation of CO2 to make a decision. There was some speculation, but it wasn’t even based on market rates in the markets already in existence:

Click here for CCX and ECX

It wasn’t based on the cost estimates made in other jurisdictions. The one chart showing “Potential Auction Revenue per year” had values of $2-5/ton, but as we saw in Minnesota, expect $9-30/ton.

Here’s a Motion for Reconsideration in the Big Stone II case that has a wide range of values, going far higher than the $2-5 that DNREC predicts:

Big Stone II – Application for Reconsideration II

Here’s the Minnesota PUC Order:

PUC’s CO2 valuation

I’m tempted to say it was like the blind leading the blind, but it was more like the ones with an interest leading those without sufficient information trying to force a decision. This is a job that the legislature should assign to the PSC, the ones with the expertise to address these policy issues.

Oh, and the “gotcha” part was the utilities, which in Delaware are not regulated, crying and begging and whining for this gift of credits. Ummmmmm… you’re unregulated, you’ve been enjoying the benefits to utilities of unfettered profit-taking, and now you want the state to GIVE utilities CO2 credits? Ummmm… hello, the market is working and it’s time you pony up! I love it when “free marketers” cry for regulation. And that brings up the bottom line in Delaware — it’s time to repeal deregulation.


… or is it Bitch & Kvetch… Google Analytics, it’s a wonderful thing, it leads me places I have no clue existed and asking questions that leaves me wondering just exactly how many people are spending way too much time on their computer. The tracking shows searches, what someone was digging around about before they landed on my site, and some are inexplicable, like the regular searches for Andrew Borene, who cares, or the constant searches for “shit” or Krispy Kreme.” Others are more understandable, like “coal gasification” and “Outland transmission line” and “Big Stone combustion waste – where does it go?” and “certificate of need corrupt.” Then there’s the ones by people I figure I must know and if I don’t, I should, like “Ken Lay is not dead” and “rip their eyes out Greg Davids” (remember him???!!! eeeeuw), or “Lenka Dusilova + credits” or bust a gut ones like “what are the positive aspects of coal?” and… and … and others send me right to google, where I figure something’s up that I should know about, like “technological leprosy” and “warrick project flour india” and “use of sludge as pozzalan in concrete,” and today’s favorite: “can’t sell my Black & Veatch stock.”

Turns out that Black & Veatch, if you believe what you read on the internet, has an employee stock ownership plan. Which then got me thinking about whether, with all these plants going down, if the conslutants take it in the shorts if a project doesn’t go forward for one reason or another. Many of the folks working on Mesaba are doing it on spec. What about the biggies, do they get paid, get paid a percentage, how does it work? With so many coal plants going down, and if they had to take a hit on each, maybe that’s connected with the query? If that’s you out there, let me know what’s up!!!

Anyway, when I was googling around, I found this week’s “Energy Strategies Report,” which is looking at financial picture of the electric industry. Watching all these plants go down, watching stocks downgraded, watching the industry, and the coal sector in particular, coal plants specifically, watching these downgraded as investments, oh, it makes my day. So here’s another of the gloom and doom reports, and it’s very well written, meaning that it’s easy to read and understand, and it’s taking from my favorite sources, like NERC, lots of good little gems to be found:

NERC 2007 Reliability Assessment

Here’s the report that made my week, already, in just a quick scan:

Energy Strategies – Black & Veatch – March 3, 2008

My favorite quote? Ya gotta love it:

To put it less charitably than Moody’s, the invester-owned sector now teeters on the cusp of non-investment grade (junk) status.

Hee hee hee hee hee hee, it’s pretty hard to hide the economics of these hare-brained schemes. And they’re getting smacked upside the head with it. ‘Bout time… more comments later after I’ve had a chance to really read it.