Comments are due September 1, and Reply Comments are due September 15.

New law allows much of Minnesota’s biomass industry to be shut down

And it’s happening, and that’s a good thing — these plants that spew toxins and which have routinely violated their air permits should not have been built, permitted, and subsidized.  Shut down is going to happen:

Xcel, Benson agree on plan to mitigate power plant closure – MPR News

But is what they’ve agreed to in the public interest? Who all was a party to the negotiation? Are there other ways to deal with this?

Xcel Energy has asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve its request to terminate the Power Purchase Agreement for the Benson turkey shit burner.

Xcel_Initial+Filing+Benson+063017+NSP+PUBLIC

To review the full docket, E-002/M-17-530, go HERE, and search for “17” (year) and “530” (docket).

What’s at issue?

I need to find the older dockets, they’re not listed here…

 

That’s the HERC garbage burner, known to some as the “Hennepin Energy Recovery Center.” It’s right next to the new baseball field, so I made a “HERC Hanky” as schnozz cover in the stands.

Xcel now wants to revise the HERC Power Purchase Agreement and lower the price it pays HERC for electricity.

HERC+PPA+Petition+PUBLIC

Hmmmmm, changing the rules in the middle of the game. Burning garbage has never been an economically winning proposition. Cut the rate?  What will that mean for Hennepin County?  As of a few minutes ago, the Public Utilities Commission announced a comment period on this change:

17-532+NOTICE+OF+COMMENT+PERIOD+HERC+PPA

Comments?  About what?

Initial Comments are due by 4:30 p.m. on September 11, 2017.  eFiling is preferred.  To eFile comments, go HERE TO REGISTER.  It’s simple and fast.  When you file, file under docket number 17 – 532 (that’s 17 for “year” and 532 for “docket number”)

Note the Commission asks, “Are there other project-related issues or concerns?”  Well, what’s wrong with HERC and burning?  For a long time this has been an issue for Neighbors Organizing for Change, Neighbors Against the Burner, Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air (wayback version), and the Sierra Club and the push to increase tonnage burned was successfully brought to a screeching halt by these groups and the folks of Minneapolis!   You can find some general information at Alan Muller’s site.  Alan reports that the HERC air permit expired something like 8 years ago, not uncommon.  Most Minnesota air permits are expired and the MPCA isn’t doing much about it.

Some specifics on the tonnage burning increase request that was foiled:

Muller – Comment – Spreadsheet of Pollutants

Comment-Eureka Recycling, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Linden Hills Power & Light, Women’s Environmental Initiative, Will Steger Foundation

Remember this?  “The Burning Question” way back in 2013? Let’s get real, burning garbage isn’t a question!!!

Tuesday 9/17 – Dr. Paul Connett at Mayflower Church

Who is paying attention to this now?

Against the Machine

August 21st, 2017

I picked up this book as an afterthought at a garage sale last week — Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, by Lee Siegel.  You can get a CHEAP copy at abebooks (love those independent booksellers!).

This book has a lot to say that resonates today, resonates?  Well, it hums so loudly!  Particularly about truth and falsehood.  Quoting Wired’s Kevin Kelly, p. 24-25, Siegel writes:

What will entertainment technology look like in 20 years? Let’s listen to what technology says. First, technology has no preference between real and simulations — (so) neither will our stories. The current distinction between biological actors and virtual actors will cease, just as the distinction between real locations and virtual locations has almost gone.  The choice will simply come down to what is less expensive.  The blur between real and simulated will continue to blur the line between documentary and fiction.  As straight documentaries continue to surge in popularity in the next 20 years, so will hybrids between fiction and non-fiction. We’ll see more reality shows that are scripted, scripted shows that run out of control, documentaries that use actors, actors that are robotic creations, news that is staged, stores that become news and the total collision and marriage between fantasy and the found.

Hey, that’s all about FAKE NEWS!  Seigel takes off from there…

Yet in his feverish devotion to “technology,” he sees nothing wrong with fake documentaries, deceitful “reality” shows, and “news that is staged.” If technology decides that truth and falsehood shall be blurred, then for Kelly their “total collision and marriage” — whatever that means, exactly — is as historically determined, inevitable, and necessary as the Marxist belief in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Despite the fact that Kelly cheerily predicts the imminent extinction of “old” media, nearly the entire journalistic establishment has embraced, in various degrees, his exuberant view of a dystopic future.  For it is dystopic.  What sane person wants a culture in which the border between truthfulness and lying is constantly being eroded? Nothing affects our values and perceptions, our thoughts and feelings, like the shows we watch, the movies we see, the books we read — and we watch far more than we read; Americans spend a large amount, if not a majority, of their leisure time being entertained…

We know where we stand on a politician’s lies; we know how to respond when we feel, for example, that the government’s deceptions and lies led us into the Iraq war. But no one is making a cogent connection between the rise of the Internet and the accelerating blur of truth and falsity in culture — even though culture’s subtle effects on our minds are a lot more profound in the long run than a politician’s lies, which usually get discovered and exposed sooner or later.  Instead of crying out against the manipulation of truth by “entertainment technology,” as Kelly chillingly calls what used to be described as “having fun,” we watch the general mendacity get turned into a joke — the comedian Stephen Colbert’s celebrated quip about “truthiness” — and turn back to our various screens with a laugh.

It’s FAKE NEWS!!

Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain – POLITICO Magazine

Donald Trump just keeps lying – CNNPolitics

Back to “Against the Machine,” p. 79

Exaggeration, intensification, magnification of proven success, become highly effective means to success.  The loudest, most outrageous, or most extreme voices sway the crowd of voices this way; the cutest, most self-effacing, most ridiculous, or most transparently fraudulent voices sway the crowd of voices that way. A friend of mine calls this “mega-democracy,” mean democracy about to tip through perversion of its principles into its opposite.  I call it democracy’s fatal turn.

Transparently fraudulent voices… does that remind you of anyone?  And Siegel goes on…

What cultured, thinking people have been suspicious about since the advent of the written word is the herd thinking that commerce encourages.  They fear that the supplanting of independent thought will result in the victory of prejudice and bias and of the stereotypes that they produce.  That it will result in the rule of the mob.  p. 93.

And in blasting the blogosphere:

Writers distributing their thoughts to great numbers of people without botherin to care about the truth or accuracy of what they were writing…

This is a primary issue I have with facebook, and those who use it, that there’s no concern for the truth, and I’ve been unfriended by a few after I’ve pointed out that what they’re saying is flat out false. Earth to Mars, with freedom of speech comes responsibility of speech. And that some people don’t care whether something is true or false, and when gently exposed as writing demonstrably false information, get hostile rather than correct their errors, that they have no sense of ethics or moral behavior, is so disturbing, rhetorically sauntering into the wilderness slinging about toxic garbage! How did we as a culture get to the point where someone regards this as acceptable?

And back to Siegel:

To put it another way: knowledge means you understand a subject, its causes and consequences, its history and development, its relationship to some fundamental aspect of life. But you can possess a lot of information about something with out understanding it.  An excess of information can even disable knowledge; it can unmoor the mind from its surroundings by breaking up its surroundings into meaningless data. Distraction has the obvious effect of driving out reflection, but because we are reading or watching the “news” rather than enjoying a diversion, we feel serious and undistracted. Never mind that the news has often been more diverting than the most absorbing diversions, and now more than ever.  The more we concentrate on the news, the more distracted we are…

… As for more substantial news, you could have disclosures of political corruption or social injustice being broadcast throughout the day, yet if you lacked the ethical and historical bearings to make sens of them, they would have no beneficial effect on your life or anyone else’s.  Many Germans had information about the slave labor and the concentration camps during the 1940s, but because the entire society had lost its ethical and historical bearings, such terrible revelations roused no serious protest.  Americans throughout the country had information about blacks being tortured and killed in the American South or decades after Reconstruction.  But it wasn’t until brave leaders and writers changed the nation’s ethical and historical framework that the era of civil rights began.  It is knowledge that gives us our ethical and historical ballast, and knowledge also brings the critical detachment necessary to arrive at that humane stability.  Critical detachment, not the multiple diversions and distractions of information, is the guarantor of a free society.

In 2017, it appears we have again lost our ethical and historical bearings.

What happens when the language of argument and the language of ridicule become the same?

So much of our societal ills comes down to ethics, and our sense of responsibility. The lies, lack of knowledge and self-awareness, and the culture of irresponsibility must be challenged at every turn.  For each of us, within our circles of influence, we have a lot of work to do!

Today was the hearing on Xcel Energy’s Minot Load Serving Transmission Project, or McHenry-Magic City 230 kV Transmission Line Project.

PSC hears NSP’s plan to upgrade transmission line to Minot

I got a Google Alert on this project, and it’s just a short jaunt from the Ft. Stevenson State Park (no relation to Xcel’s Grant Stevenson, I believe), so it seemed a lot more exciting than a tour of the Garrison Dam (I mean, yawn, we toured the Ft. Peck Dam last year and a dam’s a dam!). Last night was a rough night in the ol’ campground, highest winds I’ve ever experienced, and I thought the roof might collapse.  Not a drop of rain, but the wind was so high, and lightning and thunder just a bit to the north.  Everything blew around and I had to get up and get out and get everything in. Whew, it’s tired out…

Here’s the project:

The Route Application, at issue in this hearing:

Consolidated Application for Certificate of Corridor Compatibility, Route Permit, Waiver

And the CPCN Application, which has been issued:

Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity

This hearing yesterday was about  not just Xcel’s application, but also its request for a waiver, wanting to rush it through.  That was the major point that made no sense.  This project was the result of a study that is Appendix A in the above Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and a Supplement that is Appendix B.  It was dated 3/27, 2015, which is 2.5 years ago!  Why the hurry?  It’s also in MISO’s MTEP 15.  The CPCN application wasn’t filed until September, 2016, by Pam Rasmussen.  Again, what’s the hurry?  That wasn’t answered. Xcel’s Tom Hilstrom said that he was responsible for the application, and that there were things that changed, but ???  Granted, “Hilly” probably wasn’t at Xcel for some of the time in question, Pam Rasmussen could have filed it, anyone could have, but it wasn’t. So it’s not really so urgent, eh?

The “need” for this project, and this project alone, wasn’t established.  Commissioner Fedorchak had a number of questions about need, acknowledging that the CPCN proceeding came before, was already decided, but she wanted more info on need.  However, when I raised issues about “what’s the hurry” and “need” and urged them to consider generation in Minot, such as natural gas generation, solar installed on the excess 40 acres of substation land purchased that isn’t necessary for the substation, and that all the recommendations of the study should be addressed, not just this one.  I also asked that they take into consideration the unspecified GRE project connected (after all, this is transmission, it’s all connected, and another Commissioner had questions about Xcel’s agreements with the other transmission owners, particularly GRE, owner of the McHenry substation).  Fedorchak apparently wasn’t too happy and wanted to make sure I knew need had already been decided.  Ummmmm, raising issues similar to the ones she raised… hmmmmm.  And she very pointed asked, “And what’s YOU’RE interest in this project?”  I’d disclosed that at the beginning, no dog in the fight, camping nearby, got notice, and so looked into it.  That’s called public participation.

What’s more odd is that there were only two of us who commented on the project.  The other speaker was from the North Prairie Town Board, which had worked out an agreement with Xcel to follow quarter section lines rather than cut cross country diagonally, as the existing line does.  Kudos to the town board!!!

The study has a number of changes recommended, and the transformer at McHenry substation is the limiting factor.  Also, given that this is two lines on one structure, that’s regarded by NERC as one element, not two, and therefore not technically a reliability boost!

And about that McHenry transformer… where’s that? And it seems that the “rebuild both Ward County-Souris 115kV lines should be a top priority.

The good news?  North Dakota has some interesting notions, like that those testifying should be reminded of “perjury” and that they swear or affirm that their testimony is true, both utility witnesses and the public (there was no staff testimony).  Second is that the Commissioners go to the hearings!  What a concept!  Commissioner Christmann, responding to my testimony, wanted me to note how exceptional it is that the Commissioners were there, but it’s not ONLY North Dakota.  That’s how it works in Wisconsin too, except in WI, it’s only the public hearings, and not the evidentiary hearings, although there is usually one commissioner present, and/or commissioners’ staff, to monitor. I had a short chat with Commissioner Kroshus, who came up and introduced himself, in a break, prior to my testimony,and I was clear, FULL DISCLOSURE, no dog in the fight, not representing anyone in this, and we talked some about differences in procedure, the ups and downs of our respective states.

Meanwhile… the office today, a perfect day in the shade at the Marina!

 

 

As someone said:

The statues will be installed at other sites, such as Civil War cemeteries.

Confederate monuments taken down in Baltimore overnight

Meanwhile, Confederate flags were given out as prizes at the Dakota County Fair. The spin of this article is off, but at least it made the paper (and no comments allowed):

Dakota County Fair visitors upset by confederate flags

Midway prize angers some fairgoers; game booth pulls “symbol of hatred.”
Yet some still try to claim that racism is a Southern thing:

Southern culture is spring from which racism erupts