Today it’s a meeting or two about a pipeline, but that’s not all… it’s also about a gas plant at the beginning of this pipeline route!

First the pipeline — Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation is the applicant, and it’s PUC Docket 15-8858, a docket for a pipeline route on the west and southern edges of Rochester, Minnesota, starting at the “Westside” substation on the west side of town, along the big gas transmission pipeline that runs parallel with Hwy. 14.  From there it goes a section west, and then south and around to the east.


Meeting Presentation

And lo and behold, last week, Rochester Public Utilities announced its long planned natural gas generating plant for that same location as this pipeline starts, at 19th St. NW and 60th Ave. N. W.  This proposed plant was at issue during the CapX 2020 Transmission Certificate of Need docket, where RPU discussed building a natural gas plant in its RPU_34945_Report_June_2005.  Here’s the 2015_update_rpu_infrastructure_study.  During the CapX 2020 CoN hearing, that notion was pooh-poohed, but we knew better.  And voila, here it is!

First they brought it up at RPU Board meetings over the summer:

PUB- Resolution 4315 – Resolution: West Side Energy Station

Westside Energy Station Epc – Bids in Minnesota

And finally, last week, RPU made it’s plans to add new natural gas generation VERY public:

A New Generating Station for Rochester

Back in that CapX 2020 Certificate of Need proceeding (PUC Docket 06-1115) it was an issue because the “need” used to justify CapX 2020 transmission to Rochester was so very small that it could be met with this RPU planned natural gas plant.  Here’s what I wrote in the 2008 No CapX 2020 Initial Brief:

Most importantly, the need is overstated. In addition to modeling performed with all local generation off line, infrastructure planned was not considered. For example, in Rochester, there are FOUR 161kV lines planned that were not taken into consideration, and which could well serve Rochester’s needs. In addition, RPU, the Rochester utility, has planned for new generation at the West Side substation (Ex. 100, lower left corner), where two of those four lines will be connection to serve Rochester. Ex. 157, Report on the Electric Utility Baseline Strategy for 2005-2030 Electric Infrastructure, June 2005, Summary p. S-21-S-22. Specifically, this report recommends actions that have been taken by RPU, resulting in the Westside Substation and transmission from it to serve the city:

Consider taking options on approximately 100 acres of land within the RPU service territory near a high pressure gas line and transmission facilities under RPU control for installation of future combustion turbine capacity.

…Around 2014, assuming that new generation is required in accordance with the long range plan and that generation has not been installed in connection with the transmission issue, begin the process for installation of approximately 50-100MW of natural gas-fired generation for an inservice date of 2018. The generation should be low capital cost with as low an operating cost as is consistent with expected operating capacity factors.


Local load as a reason for CapX is not supported by the evidence. The need, even if assumed, can be met in other ways, and these small amounts, if assumed in its entirety, cannot justify a project of this size.

And here we are, deja vu all over again.  Guess we need to make sure that phased and connected actions are considered in this pipeline environmental review.

And another thing, this pipeline environmental review — the PUC, despite that Sandpiper case, ordered a “comparative environmental analysis.”

PUC_Order – February 3, 2016, PUC eDockets #20162-117966-01

Nope, that “environmental review lite” is NOT sufficient…


So I was on a couple days’ road trip up north and then south, back home, frazzled, running errands and catching up, and now I have a few minutes to put my feet up and deep breathe, and I’m looking for the books I’m reading, found two, “Mississippi River: Historic Sites and Interesting Places” and Rolvaag’s “Peder Victorious,” but where’s the other one?

I’m pretty anal about book storage, well, not literally, but I keep them in certain spots where I’m sure my ADHD self can find them.  Nope, it’s not around.  Upstairs, downstairs, in my spinner, briefbag, not buried because I spent the day organizing and cleaning my desk, and once over again.  WHERE IS IT!  Looked under every pile in the house, under tables, under the covers, in the dog’s mouth… nowhere.

But then after half an hour of frantic looking, I had a flash… 21st century problem…


Found it…


Yes, up in Clearbrook last night for the DoC EERA’s Public Meeting for Scoping of environmental review (lite) for the Minnkota Clearbrook – West Clearbrook 115 kV Transmission Project.

For the full scoop on this project go to PUC’s Docket SEARCH HERE, and search for docket 14-665, and for the backstory, dig up the Sandpiper dockets, 13-473 and 13-474, a very large undertaking.

Caesar Panit of the PUC and David Birkholz of Commerce hosted last night’s meeting:


Last night’s meeting was quite well attended for such a short transmission line, just 5+ miles, but that’s likely because of its connection to the Sandpiper pipeline project.  It’s an important project to Enbridge, and one that should be closely scrutinized because as of this point, it’s timed exactly backwards, and shouldn’t even be proposed until Sandpiper is permitted and we know where it’s going to go, and whether there will even be a “Clearbrook West” terminal.

Timed backwards?  Yes… This project is way premature, because it’s transmission to power the Sandpiper new “Clearbrook West” terminal and pumping station, one which is just starting back into the intense environmental review of a court ordered EIS (yes, finally Minnesota appellate court agrees that an EIS must be completed prior to issuance of Certificate of Need), and it is not safe to presume that the new “Clearbrook West” terminal is going to be there given the MPCA Comments and proposal of Crookston as a logical alternative:

20148-102081-01_MPCA Comment- Crookston Terminal Location

But that’s not all that’s interesting… in the Application, Minnkota had a brief mention of RUS, the USDA’s Rural Utility Service.  And I had one of those flashes, having dealt with RUS on CapX 2020, and now the Dairyland Q-1 “upgrade” project through Onalaska.  So I asked them about it, on the record, and learned that yes, RUS is financing this project, that yes, there will be environmental review, likely an “environmental report,” and that there might be a public comment period on it if USDA’s RUS chooses, and when I asked whether Dennis Rankin is handling it at RUS, he said, “Yes, that’s the guy!”  It is a very small world, and as we say in transmission, “It’s all connected.”

Minnkota is kind of dodgy about what this project is for, saying repeatedly it’s for “one customer” but given the terminal at the proposed Clearbrook West area where Sandpiper’s new Clearbrook West terminal would go, it’s a DOH!


Here’s the site from Sandpiper’s Application, Appx G.3 Facility Drawings_01.30.13, showing it next to Klongerbo Lake (keeping in mind MPCA’s recommendation of the Crookston alternative):


Other things to note:

Enbridge pushes back timeline for pipeline projects

2015 Biennial Transmission Projects Report-selected

They say they want to avoid wetlands… but in the “cross country” area near the “Clearbrook West” terminal location, it’s all wetlands, and in the terminal area itself, it’s wetlands, not suitable for a pipeline terminal.  What are they thinking?

There’s lots of info to inform the scoping decision, and for sure Commerce and the PUC will get this info!


Updated Onalaska Comp Plan Rocks!

February 21st, 2016


A few weeks ago, nope, time flies when you’re having fun, it was two months ago, that I went down on behalf of No CapX 2020 to ask that the City address transmission lines in their Comprehensive Plan update in progress.  The Plan Commission thought that would be worthwhile, and sent it back to committee.  Here’s the result:

Pages from Plan Commission _2-23-16 _Packet

It’s pretty specific about taking transmission into account:


And check this out, a MAP of transmission infrastructure that they did not have before… YES!


Xcel’s 2015 Peak Demand

February 21st, 2016


Remember Xcel’s CapX 2020 peak demand projections of 2.49% annual increase?  How wrong can they be?  And how unjustified was their basis for a Certificate of Need for CapX 2020?  And how are they held accountable for those gross misrepresentations?  This is why the rate case in progress, PUC Docket 15-826, is so important.

I love it when this happens… Xcel Peak Demand is again DOWN!  There’s a trend, and it’s called decreased demand.  Demand has yet to exceed the 2007 peak, and now it’s 8 years…


Here’s the Xcel Energy SEC 10-K filed a couple days ago:

2015 – Xcel Energy 10-K

Is it any wonder they want to get away from a cost based rate a la their “e21 Initiative” scheme?  Particularly now that the bill for CapX 2020 is coming due and their newest rate case (PUC Docket GR-15-826) is now underway?

And the specifics, and note how they inexplicably forecast a 2016 peak of 9,327:

2015-Xcel Peak Demand Chart