Bob Cupit, Energy Facilities Supervisor, is retiring from the Public Utilities Commission today… leaving me to wonder how… rephrase…  he CAN’T be replaced…  so what will happen now at the PUC?

Bob Cupit and Mike Casper are tied for “Most Influential” in subtle and not so subtle direction that helped get me to where I am today.  I began wrangling with him at the very end of 1994 in Nuclear Waste Daze, so it’s been a long time, and as Bret Ekness said, “a long strange trip.”

From my perspective, Bob has always provided a voice of sanity in a process that isn’t working, and I hate to see him leave because I can’t imagine them finding someone who recognizes or attempts to fix the problems that he had on his plate.

Here’s the PUC Staff Organizational Chart, soon to have a big hole.

The most difficult thing I’ve encountered in dealing with the Commission, other than some obviously utterly dreadful “decisions,” is that siting and routing is now handled by the Dept. of Commerce, which has no charge to protect the environment, and which is not representing the public interest.  The “work” by Commerce has been dreadful, process has been perverted, DEIS and EIS consistently leave out important information, and the public and the environment is left in the lurch.  Over and over and over again, they’re bumbling along, or intentionally screwing it up (Which is it?  I think it’s BOTH.).  They’re doing the “staff” work on these permits and then present it to the Commission, presenting only part of the story, and leaving the Commission exposed, making decisions on inadequate or inaccurate information, without “the rest of the story.”  I could go on and on (and I do elsewhere in this blog and at, search for more).

Years ago, when things were not going well, Kristen Eide-Tollefsen and I repeatedly riffed on obvious problems at public meetings and Cupit regularly responded with a measured lecture on the importance of all the aspects of permitting, the Certificate of Need, the Siting/Routing permit, and Environmental Review, that it was a three legged stool.  As an editorial comment, at one point, we presented him with a gold-painted strap-on one-legged milk stool.


Yes, the system was NOT working then… and for other reasons, it’s NOT working now.

Despite that, Kristen and I knew that as he retired, we had to give him one with THREE legs.  However, I had to give a disclaimer, that this is NOT to say that the system is working, because it isn’t.

Kate O’Connell, manager of energy regulation and planning for the Minnesota Department of Commerce (oh, I didn’t know that!), who worked in tandem with Bob, made comments from her “on the ground” perspective, heartfelt — and I wasn’t taking notes, so sorry, no specifics… but for sure over and over noted he will be missed.

Even LeRoy Kooppendrayer, former Commissioner and House Rep., and brother of current Commissioner and former Senator Betsy Wergin, came back to say goodbye:


Bill Grant, formerly of the Waltons, and now the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Energy Facilities Permitting, was there but thankfully didn’t get up to say anything — I’d forgotten to bring rotten tomatoes.

And the “Not Ready For Rate Base Singers” were on hand:


The room was packed, Bob said he was “overwhelmed” and so it appeared… and I am too… it’s a sad day for Minnesota, we’re losing too many MB’s of collective/institutional memory that we can’t replace.

Last night in Mazeppa

October 28th, 2009


Last night, Rep. Steve Drazkowski and Rep. Tim Kelly (who wasn’t there!) hosted a meeting about CapX 2o2o.

drazkowski_2 timkelly

But Rep. Randy Demmer, 29A was.


As one person said, he had a “deer in the headlights” look as he sat in the front of the room.  Did he have any idea what he’d be in for?  I’d talked with him a bit when he came in, and he said he hadn’t heard from many constituents about CapX… oh… OK, well, we can do something about that!  And it’s good he showed up to find out what was going on and hear the word on the streets and in the fields.

Short version of the meeting:

  • Bill Glahn gets roasted for MOES “Minnesota_Resource_Assessment” report, which is utter crap, the report, that is… the roasting was well-deserved.
  • PUC, Commerce, and DOT show up en mass and toady for process and project.
  • Rep. Drazkowski utters words of placation, but did not promote Nov. 4 joint committee hearing on repeal of Minn. Stat. 117.19.  HE’S ON ONE OF THE COMMITTEES, EARTH TO MARS!!!
  • Affected landowners don’t buy it,  they get that fundamentally CapX 2020 is not needed and are pissed-off at the crap (see above).
  • CapX said they were not going through or around Rochester.

There were two things I let slide, can’t take on everything:

1.Their statements about Big Stone were odd, theywell knows that Big Stone could not interconnect without CapX, and I have the electrical studies which prove it, which after trying 5 times to make it work with a line to nowhere (Granite Falls) then assumed CapX in try #6…   But I also wonder whether CapX Brookings (hence all of CapX) can go forward without Big Stone.

2. They kept saying “this is all about local load” and denying the LaX to Mad line, and kept talking about Rochester as the driver, yet they did not note, of course, the new gas plant at West Side sub or the four 161kV lines that are planned.

Overland’s Scorecard (concept stolen from Deb!):

CapX:     0
PUC:     -5
DOT:       1
Commerce:   -4
The People: +1

Longer version, bigger photo:

The people did a good job of expressing their displeasure and disbelief.

Bill Glahn brought up the Minnesota Resource Assessment Survey!  Bad move…  He  got one of my awards for that Minnesota Resource Assessment Survey, and here’s Maccabee – Presentation to LEC 10/23/09 , another voice saying it’s outrageous.  Last night  Alan Muller got him good about it, told him” it was  an unsatisfactory report, basically just a regurgitation of the business plans of MN… no independent thinking and not in the interests of the citizens of Minnesota …”  Alan does have a way with words.  When asked for a response Glahn looked abashed and admitted that he knows many people are unhappy with it.  AS WELL HE SHOULD!  I mean really… to use as an example that phony “chart” of Steve Rakow’s on p. 6:


… with no ID of meaning of X or Y axis, it’s deceitful, but they pulled that in CapX when faced with decreased demand, entering this chart, then citing its entry in the CapX 2020 Certificate of need record as if it means something.  Oh, pleeeeeeeeze…  We’re way below the 2004 actuals, and this forecast, for the Blue Lake expansion, it’s CapX 2020 era forecasts, we’re about 1,500MW down and growing, down 15% so far, down 2.5% in 1&2Q 2009, SEC 3Q filing and investor call due any second now will take it down further:


After last night’s meeting, Bill Glahn is certainly under fire, but I also got the feeling due to the cadre of state employees stumping for CapX, that it’s their perception that it’s in trouble.  It could be something as simple as they have no financing to do it, that demand is so far down that it makes no sense even to PUC and applicants to build it, or …  The DOT was distancing itself, there’s been a lot of pressure on DOT.  The DOT has its “Policy of Accomodation” (at issue in Chisago Transmission Project III, or IV, the last round, where Xcel stuck poles, BIG poles, right in the middle of the new plan for US Hwy. 8, in one example, right next to and over a business), and here it is:

DOT Policy on Utility Accomodation

…and I don’t think they’re going to change that anytime soon.  At the Legislative Energy Commission meeting in September, there was mention of an October 13 meeting with the DOT, but Dave Sykora, DOT, mentioned that was cancelled, and instead they met last week.  There were no specifics disclosed, but the feeling I got from what was said was that it didn’t go the way legislators wanted it to, DOT didn’t cave.  Legislators are looking, from Rep. Drazkowski’s statements last night, and from Rep. Westrom’s comments at the LEC meeting, for a way to do the project with minimal landowner pain.  I don’t think that’s doable, and it’s sure not desirable.   CapX 2020 is a project that shouldn’t be built, and if it is, it will cause considerable pain, for landowners, applicants and legislators!

Also noteworthy last night was the general failure to accept “need” and a high level of understanding, and for the most part, people are getting the broader picture.  (there was an odd comment by Burl Haar that if there were questions about the appeal of the CapX decision, that they post most things on the docket, and to check with him!).  So is the PUC’s argument that this belongs at the District Court, and not the Appellate Court (despite what Cupit says) on display in the docket for the world to see?  I doubt it, but I’ll check.

Last night, Drazkowski kept referring to efforts to alter the eminent domain law, but he was evasive and didn’t disclose important info, like the upcoming November 4 hearing before Energy & Civil Justice (he’s on Civil Justice!) (Upcoming hearing on repeal of eminent domain exemptions), and he didn’t advise on how to advocate for change, dropped the ball, wouldn’t even pick it up.

Here’s the info on the hearing:

WEDNESDAY, November 4, 2009
10:00 AM
Joint Meeting of the Energy Finance & Policy Division and Civil Justice Committee
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Bill Hilty, Rep. Joe Mullery
Agenda: Informational hearing on HF1182 (Bly) Public service corporation exemptions repealed.

Anyone wishing to testify should contact Andy Pomroy at andy.pomroy [at]
Last night’s meeting in Mazeppa on CapX 2020  follows on the heels of one last Monday night in Chisago, about an 855MW gas plant proposed by LS Power, the Sunrise River Energy Station.  Click here for  Report on Monday Chisago meeting.  They’ve  proposed at least three gas plants before at that site, and they didn’t go far, this is the biggest, and most public, and will need mega transmission, BUT LS Power’s Blake Wheatley admitted at the Chisago meeting that they don’t have a plan, don’t have a PPA, don’t have anything but a tax exemption (est. $9-10 million) from legislators who should have known better than to sell out their constituents for nothing, and then after being caught, for a very small “Host Fee.”  At that meeting, Mike Bull said Xcel won’t need any power for a long time, 2016-2017 (and if he’ll admit that at long last, we know it’s really a lot further out).  As with last night’s meeting, at the Chisago meeting there was, despite heavy lobbying and presence of unions like IBEW and Building & Trades, a clear understanding that the LS Power plant is not needed, and that peak demand is down.  Granted LS Power made the mistake of walking into an energy educated community, but even Bob Cupit was surpirsed by the turnout, said he’d never seen such a large crowd, ~500, standing room only in a hockey rink sized room (Also, FYI, Bob stated to the audience that “If citizens feel the system still failed to consider issues, the decision of the PUC can be appealed to the state Court of Appeals.“)

There is a theme.  Minnesota doesn’t need more transmission, and we won’t, in the words of Xcel’s Mikey Bull, need an generation anytime soon.  Am I paraphrasing correctly, Mike? (Duck & cover — the You Tube of that is forthcoming!!!)  The MOES Minnesota_Resource_Assessment is a crock.

Here are the LEC members — it’d be good to contact all of them, and let them know what you think about “need” for generation and transmission, decreasing demand, and CapX 2020 in particular:
Here’s Senate member info:
Here’s House member info:

And about CapX and eminent domain, contact:

rep.steve.drazkowski [at]

rep.tim.kelly [at]

rep. randy.demmer [at]

Once more with feeling — Get thee to the House Energy and Judiciary Committee meeting:

WEDNESDAY, November 4, 2009
10:00 AM
Joint Meeting of the Energy Finance & Policy Division and Civil Justice Committee
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Bill Hilty, Rep. Joe Mullery
Agenda: Informational hearing on HF1182 (Bly) Public service corporation exemptions repealed.