Very odd, but it is Sunday, the day they update the website.  Special thanks to the little birdie who brought this to my attention.


The Public Utilities Commission website at shows this and only this:


Very strange…



This is a VERY interesting discussion, if you have some knitting or furniture refinishing to do, this is good background:

August 8, 2013 PUC deliberation on Xcel Rate Case

The link will be live for about 90 days.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has issued its Request for Comments on its procedural rules, Minn. R. Ch. 7829:

Notice – Request for Comments

This is the rulemaking where I wasn’t even given notice, nevermind that I’d submitted a rulemaking petition March 14, 2011:

Overland Petition for Rulemaking-7829

The meeting last Thursday was interesting, particularly Commissioner O’Brien’s comments on the Rule 11 like language, where there’s at long last language regarding truthfulness in pleadings and arguments before the Commission, ’bout time.  The bottom issue is important because if staff recommends something that’s not even been discussed in the proceeding, we, intervenors and the public, need the chance to discuss it, to put in our perspective, and more so, we need the ability to vet their proposal.  So check out this webcast, it’ll be posted for ~ 90 days.

PUC WEBCAST of Aug 1 2013 Agenda Meeting HERE

Here’s the meat of it:

Topics Open for Comment:

• Any issue arising from the draft of possible amendments filed in the Commission’s electronic filing system in this docket as an attachment to Staff Briefing Papers on July 25, 2013—with emphasis on the following possible revisions:

• What should the Commission consider when deciding whether to include language that discusses possible sanctions for violations of the proposed Commission rule governing representations of fact or law to the Commission (Part 7829.0250)?

• Assuming that the Commission were to decide that a sanctions provision is appropriate, the Commission seeks comment on the following proposed language:

Subp. 2. Sanctions. If, after notice and an opportunity for comment and reply, the commission determines that subpart 1 has been violated, the commission may impose a sanction on any party or participant who violated subpart 1 or is responsible for the violation. A sanction imposed under this rule must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. An order imposing a sanction must describe the sanctioned conduct and explain the basis for the sanction.

• What should the Commission consider when deciding whether to amend rule part 7829.2600 to read “If commission staff recommend action not advocated by any party, at the request of any party and to the extent practicable, all parties must be granted an opportunity to comment.”?

To file Comments: E-file using the Commission’s electronic filing system (info on registration at this link too), or email to Persons without e-mail access may send by U.S. mail to Christopher Moseng, Staff Attorney, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul MN 55101-2147. Please include the Commission’s docket number in all communications – U-999/R-13-24.



Today the Goodhue County Board voted to extend the silica sand mining moratorium for another six months.  A very disturbing point learned in their deliberations was that the County Board had NOT been informed of the Save the Bluffs’ Application for Zoning Ordinance Amendment before the meeting, staff had not told them.  Can you believe!?!?!?!

It was standing room only in the big former courtroom.  Before the meeting started:


There was great testimony, people have a good handle on the facts, and laid out the reasons.  For my part, I hammered on simple procedural realities:

  • The Mining Study Committee has two more issues to address
  • The state must develop standards and criteria, is on a compressed schedule and also working on four mandated rulemakings

Each person testifying was urging the County to extend the moratorium.  The state, on Friday, sent a clear message to extend the moratorium so state could get its legislatively mandated work done (note not all of the County Board members bothered to show up for the state agency meeting here last Friday).


Comm. Siefert gave a most uninformed lecture about how we need energy, “remember lining up at the gas pumps?”  Hard to stomach… he demonstrated he knows nothing about the natural gas market, even MPR noted that “demand for the sand used for hydraulic fracturing has slowed in recent months.”  He also seems to not connect the explosion in Lac Megantic last month with the sort of cars that go through downtown Red Wing daily.  He represents the 5th District, not up for re-election until 2017… that’s our old one in Red Wing, and I’m both glad and sad, because it’d be a lot easier to work to elect someone reasonable if we were still in his district.  He’s got to go.

I also strongly disagreed with County Attorney Betcher’s discussion of state mandates and implications and applications to county permitting. The county should not open the doors to applications before the state standards and criteria are complete, expected October 1, 2013, and the FOUR rulemaking proceedings, one each at DNR and MPCA and two at EQB. That will take a long time, and the County better show up for that.

It was clear from Comm. Rechtzigel’s preamble that he was doing a set up for a lesser time than one year, and they voted down the one year, and it was only a matter of seconds, up pops the 90 day option, which Comm. Allen turned into a friendly amended 6 month moratorium and after they got Comm. Samuelson caught up, it was approved. A little birdie suggested that the 90 day had been agreed to, and that Comm. Allen raised them and pulled it off — I’m inclined to agree — it was clear another motion would follow, that much I was betting on.  Better than nothing, but not adequate. I predict we’ll all be back after 6 months because the state will not have its rulemaking completed.

MPR – Goodhue Co. extends frac sand moratorium

Part of their story was off base:

Some Goodhue County residents have said more studies are needed to assess the affect of mining on roads, safety and quality of life.

The County assigned tasks to the Mining Study Committee, and they did not complete the work, as was discussed at the hearing.  There is also the Save the Bluffs application pending:

Save the Bluffs’ Application for Zoning Ordinance Amendment

KARE 11:


After the hearing, I wrote them a quick missive:

County Board Members:

I was stunned to learn at the hearing today that the County Board had not been advised of the Save the Bluff’s Application for Zoning Ordinance Amendment. That something so relevant to today’s decision was withheld from you by county staff is very disturbing.

That said, I’m grateful for today’s decision, which was indeed much like a “good” divorce settlement where everyone walks away not happy.

I do wonder where the others were who are walking away equally unhappy. How are the mining interests exerting their influence? They’re obviously not showing up at meetings. I’ll be pursuing this going forward.

Thank you for this decision which gives the County some time to complete the assignment to the MCS, to address where silica mining does and does not belong, and to address the District Overlay Application (attached).

Attached also is the CASM Comments August 2, 2013 to the EQB and other agencies regarding standards and criteria and rulemaking for those of you not present at Friday’s meeting. I hope the County will take full advantage of participation options, and would request the agencies form an Advisory Committee for increased input prior to the draft rules are released — the crucial time in rulemaking.


Carol A. Overland
as an individual and not in the course of representing any party

From the Rochester Post Bulletin:

Goodhue County extends silica moratorium


Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 5:05 pm

Brett Boese,

RED WING ­ The Goodhue County Board bucked recommendations from two lesser entities on Tuesday and voted unanimously to extend its moratorium on silica sand mining by an additional 180 days. The interim ordinance has been in place since 2011 and was scheduled to expire Sept. 6.

The vote came after more than two hours of coordinated public comment, largely from the Save the Bluffs opposition group. The county board rejected a one-year extension of the moratorium ­ a decision that drew boos and jeers from the crowd of about 75.
Many expected the county board to simply let the moratorium expire. The board’s mining study group and planning commission previously recommended that course. However, board chairman Dan Rechtzigel credited a persistent campaign from the opposition group with changing his mind.

“The grassroots efforts over the weekend was one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen,” said Rechtzigel, noting the moratorium would have “awkwardly” ended before the state convened its technical review panel on the issue Oct. 1.

“Politics is the art of compromise (and) six months makes everyone equally unhappy. Some people will say it’s too long, and some people will say it’s too short. I guess this is the porridge that’s just right for Goldilocks.”

Silica sand mining has become a statewide issue since Windsor Permian purchased 155 acres of land near Red Wing in early 2011. The sand is highly sought after for use in the hydraulic fracturing process, which is used to extract natural gas and oil from deep within the earth. Most counties in southeastern Minnesota are dealing with the silica sand mining issue in some manner, and the issue prompted Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing to push legislation during the last session.

Numerous state agencies are currently examining silica sand mining issues in hopes of creating universal guidelines that can be useful at the local level. The issues range from health and environmental effects to road and water impacts.

Goodhue County has updated its mining ordinance twice since 2011, but many feel that it remains unfit to be tested. The Red Wing City Council, Red Wing School Board and the Lake City Tourism Bureau were among those who urged the county board to extend its moratorium in order to make additional changes.

“With all due respect to the people who put this together, every page looks like this,” Lake City Tourism Bureau Director Greg Schreck said as he showed the crowd a heavily marked-up version of the county’s mining ordinance. “I worked for one of the largest construction companies in the world, or at least the United States. I wrote multimillion dollar contracts for the people who built the Sears Tower and the people who are building the new World Trade Center. It’s not so much what’s in here as what’s not in here.”

Schreck became involved in the silica saind in June, but he’s since become Save the Bluffs’ most outspoken advocate for protecting the multi-million dollar tourism industry along the Mississippi River. Amy Nelson, of Save the Bluffs, called his expertise “huge, huge, huge” to the group’s cause.

“He’s become much more involved, and it’s really been key,” said Nelson, who was “pleased” by the moratorium extension.

It remains to be seen what the county’s next step will be. Save the Bluffs would like to see an economic impact study done, but Rechtzigel said he is opposed to dealing in costly hypotheticals. Commissioner Richard Samuelson may push for a cap on silica mines in the county, similar to a limit adopted in Fillmore County, and the comprehensive plan could be amended to protect recreational uses.

Save the Bluffs has also submitted paperwork to the county requesting an overlay district that would ban silica mining in certain parts of the county, such as along the river. It will be discussed by the planning commission on Aug. 19 and could take months to resolve.

Goodhue County may pursue a different path, though. Rechtzigel intends to petition the state to volunteer as a guinea pig to test the state and local rules and process in hopes of identifying issues through a mock application.

“This is an issue that will continue to be studied and researched for years to come,” Rechtzigel said.


Yesterday two meetings were held by the the Environmental Quality Board, Dept. of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Dept. of Health, and Dept. of Transportation, and the Gov.’s Ellen Anderson, joined by a large crew of agency staff and a good sampling of county, city and township officials — good to see a crew from Red Wing and Goodhue County.   The MPCA’s Stine has been on Alan’s list for some time, and we’ve been dealing with him a lot lately, the EQB and Ellen Anderson too, and I think it helps to be able to have some history with them and get right to business.

A good time was had by all.  The agency reps appeared more engaged and tracking than they usually are, and you could dance to it — I’ll give it a 98.  But come on… not even coffee… granted I was up at “too early o’clock” to finish my handout, but… zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Notice of these meetings was a problem, or rather, lack of notice, because this was a stage where public participation is crucial — they need to know we care and can contribute.  They wanted it kept to “local governments,” but that doesn’t cut it, this is a public meeting about an immediate and high-profile issue.  It must be open.  There’s no excuse for keeping it under wraps.

The most important thing I heard was repeated comments by Jon Linc Stine, MPCA, in particular, was whether local governments had taken advantage of the new legislative option to extend a moratorium.  At the Red Wing meeting, Goodhue County had Lisa Hanni responding for the county.  Hanni was dodging and weaving on that moratorium question, stating that they acted based on the law as it was, that they had to get their work done on the timeline of their moratorium.  I’d sure have appreciated the addition of a simple statement that the County would take that suggestion of extending the moritorium under advisement!!!  State agency officials have a typically hands off approach to local units of government, there are turf issues here, but the repeated questions and statements encouraging extension of the moratorium are as close to a direct statement as I’ve ever seen.  There was encouragement to check with attorneys about extension, and encouragement for local governments to participate in this state process — they’re looking for input — so let’s give it to them!!!

Prior to the meeting, I drafted a letter and proposed standards and criteria, off the cuff suggestions to get the ball rolling.  In the letter, there were two important requests:

  • Appointment of a rulemaking Advisory Committee.
  • No state permitting of silica sand mines until Standards & Criteria AND rules are completed.

Here are the Comments of Winona County Citizens Concerned About Silica Mining:

CASM Comments August 2, 2013

At the Red Wing meeting, I was particularly encouraged to note that Richard Peterson from a township in Le Sueur County was there to discuss what it’s like to live with a mine next door.  Specific points were that despite a provision for an “annual review,” the community received no notification that the annual review was happening!  Blasting was an issue because they are blasting constantly.  Reclamation is not keeping up, and they’re piling up large piles, 600 FOOT PILES, and not capping it, so the wind is blowing it all around.  I’m glad someone near the Minnesota River mines was here, and hope the state will schedule meetings there, and also near the St. Croix mines.  It’s not just SE Minnesota, folks, this is a far broader problem (map from StPPP)

James Riddle spoke at the Winona meeting.  He’s from Winona, and has recently been appointed to the MPCA Citizens Board, and had quite a back and forth regarding trout streams, protected areas, and groundwater.

One thing they’ll be doing is providing notice to local governments, AND I HOPE THE PUBLIC, of pre-application meetings with the agencies so that local governments will have a heads up.  That’s important because if there is an application to a local government, there’s only a 60 day window to act, and that’s just not enough time for permit review of something with potential for such extensive impacts.

Something that came up repeatedly was counties ability to work together on road issues, to jointly institute road impact fees, and the DOT will be digging up more information about this.  That’s good because road impacts is an issue mandated for Standards and Criteria development.

Also, reclamation was a recurring issue, and the importance of reclamation standards and requirements to keep up with destruction, and also to address dormancy, if the mine just sits, how long can it sit before reclamation kicks in.

It was a great relief to have the DOT COMMISSIONER there, that’s Charles Zelle.  The DOT isn’t directly involved in rulemaking mandated in the statute, but transportation is such an important issue here with potential for major impacts.  And the Commissioner is a better choice to represent the agency.  At past meetings we’ve seen that awful Dave Christian, who was a frac sand mining toady, actively advocating for sand mining (he said he has family or friends involved in mining … own land?  An inappropriate role as he wears his DOT hat.  Perhaps, as with Dennis Egan, he should be fired.).  Zelle was up on some issues, and others he needs to do some research, and particularly he should take a drive through Winona on the haul routes, look at the piles, and head down Highway 76 between Houston and Caledonia during hauling times!


Here’s the write up of the meetings in the Roch PB:

State enters silica sand fracas

John Weiss, | Posted: Friday, August 2, 2013 9:30 pm

RED WING ­ Louy Stambaugh wants state agencies to help stop many trucks loaded with silica sand from pounding past her Lake City home.

Jeanne Pietig, a member of the Wabasha County Planning and Zoning Commission, wants help from the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to fight legal battles with large silica-sand mining or processing companies.

Kevin Krause, Wabasha County zoning administrator, wants state help in monitoring levels of crystalline silica in the air.

All three, and many more county, city and township officials, and the public, told several top state officials what they want from them as part of a new process that is offering expertise of agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Transportation, to local governments. They met Friday morning in Red Wing and Friday afternoon in Winona, both hotbeds for silica sand issues, and they heard a lot about what the state can, or should, do.

The 2013 Minnesota Legislature allocated money not to regulate the growing industry to mine, move and process the sand used in fracking for oil and natural gas, but to offer state expertise.

The meetings were a first big step in having top state officials hear from local people what’s needed, said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. He said after the Red Wing meeting that he heard a lot of issues he expected, as well as two he hadn’t heard before ­ the need for legal help and for monitoring for pollution.

MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said he also heard a great idea ­ hold a “tabletop” exercise before any major silica sand mines are proposed, to find out which township, city, county and state agencies would do what, how they might overlap and where there would be gaps.

Stambaugh was a voice for quiet. She said she lives along U.S. 61 in Lake City where a big increase in silica mining, moving or processing would mean more trucks and less peace for her and neighbors. Or it could mean more trains coming a few blocks behind her house and the local high school, she said.

While she applauded new state rules that protect trout, she said the state also has to look out for her. Companies have a right to mine, but not at the expense of others’ health, she said.

“We need more help, we need some more leverage because we’re small,” she said.

Pietig said big companies can threaten to sue small governments, and those governments need state legal help. “They don’t have the money to fund the lawyers to oppose major corporations,” she said. Big companies can also just ignore rules and pay small fines, she said. “Those issues are bigger than teensy little cities or counties,” she said.

Krause said the county can have great regulations and equipment to keep an eye on silica in the air, but often don’t have people to monitor it.

Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel suggested that state help would be great in protecting ground water. If a major mine comes in, it could deplete ground water resources in a large area, possibly across county lines, he said. Or it could pollute ground water in more than one county, he said.

At the end of the meeting, state agency heads said they will take the information, and suggestions, back to St. Paul to try find what the state can or can’t do.

One of the first concrete things local governments will see is a draft model ordinance for local governments. It will be available soon and will be the subject of a Minnesota Environmental Quality Board meeting Sept. 18.

Tthe EQB is made up mostly of heads of the agencies, including those at the Friday meetings.

A public hearing on whether to extent the Goodhue County silica sand mining moratorium is on the county board’s agenda for its meeting that begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The county’s planning advisory committee unanimously voted to recommend the county board not extend its moratorium, which is set to expire Sept. 6. That vote echoes a July 8 recommendation from the county’s silica sand study committee, which has been meeting for most of the two-year interim ordinance.