Some have said that the Renewable Development Fund is sacred.  WRONG.  The Renewable Development Fund is profane, not sacred, all the way from its origins to its uses.  It’s now under scrutiny at Minnesota legislature, and institutional memory is nowhere to be found in this discussion.  See HF 235 and SF 214.

The Renewable Development Fund (RDF) came into being in the 1994 Prairie Island bill, and was to be a per cask compensation fund for the Prairie Island Indian Community for storage of nuclear waste next door and extension of Prairie Island nuclear plant life.  That compensation was turned into the RDF in a late night deal by “environmental” groups lobbying, of which Bill Grant (now Deputy Commissioner, Dept. of Commerce, formerly and then Izaak Walton League) was an integral part, Michael Noble (ME3, now “Fresh Energy”), and George Crocker (North American Water Office) too.  Prairie Island Indian Community was supposed to get priority in grants, but that never happened.  The RDF was administered by 3 from Xcel, plus Bill Grant, and one other “environmental” rep.  The composition of the group giving out the grants has changed, and there is now someone from PI on it, but that’s recent. (Full Disclosure: I represented Florence Twp. fighting the “in Goodhue County” alternate site mandate for nuclear waste and the Township worked very mindful of, and often in tandem with, PIIC, where it fiercely refused to acquiesce to Xcel and say “STICK IT THERE” to PIIC.  The working relationship continues and PIIC is now largest private  landowner in Florence Twp.).

1994 Prairie Island bill — Ch. 641, MN Session Laws (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?year=1994&type=0&doctype=Chapter&id=641).

The RDF was a material term of the 2003 Prairie Island bill, where as part of the deal millions of RDF money was to go to the Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project.  Bill Grant was primary again, and when the Mesaba Project was stricken in one House session, a red-faced Tom Micheletti came flying down the hall yelling at Grant “We had a deal, we had a deal!” That deal was later added back in, and Micheletti’s Excelsior Energy coal gasification plant, Mesaba Project, was added to the factors to keep PI open.  “Environmental groups” got massive grants to promote coal gasification.  Micheletti got $10-12 million from RDF for Mesaba (and lots more from IRRB and DOE) and other regulator perks in the 2003 law, like exemption from CoN, and a mandated PPA with Xcel.  (Full Disclosure: I represented MNcoalgasplant.com against Mesaba Project, and with CAMP and help from Xcel, we got the details of coal gasification, that project was killed, and the info killed others nationwide, but Mesaba still has a site permit in Taconite from PUC valid until 2019!)

2003 Prairie Island bill – Ch. 11, MN Session Laws (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?year=2003&type=1&doctype=Chapter&id=11

On Monday, January 23, the Red Wing City Council voted to accept a $2 million grant from RDF to install a garbage grinder, a project they’ve been lobbying for for years, where they’ll take in garbage from the whole county, grind it up, and burn it in Xcel’s garbage burner here, its air permit expired in 2009!  GARBAGE!!!  DOH!  GARBAGE is not clean, it’s toxic!  The purpose of all this is to keep the incinerators open and burning.  (Full Disclosure:  I have been representing clients being screwed by Xcel’s plan for “ash mining” in their incinerator ash landfill in Red Wing, part of which includes a plan to build a Red Wing laydown yard and crusher on a site half of which is designated Water Tower Burial Mounds — yeah, really. That’s been exposed:

My partner, Alan Muller, is an incineration expert and has worked with groups to stop RockTenn; Midtown Burner in Phillips, Rockford City and Township; HERC uprate, etc.  See the Tyler Hills Neighbors Comments: Comment Extension for Lab USA EAW & Xcel & Lab USA Solid Waste)

The RDF has been a slush fund for deals enabling nuclear, promoting coal gasification, and greasing the skids for scams of great financial and environmental magnitude and impact.  It should be shut down and turned over to Prairie Island Indian Community as originally intended.

gasification_schematic

After this election, there are so many things to be concerned about, so many reasons to be utterly horrified… a Muslim database, Trump’s fraud trial to begin November 28th, promise of mass deportations, sharp increase in hate crimes, assaults and threats on the street and in the schools (and online, oh my!).  Trump’s “100 Days” plan was out in October, and has many points, full of words to decode, including a ‘clean coal’ reference, showing he’s clueless, just clueless:

Trump’s Contract with the American voter — the First 100 Days

In the 2nd and 3rd debate, Trump used those two words that have deep meaning to me, “clean coal,” because of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project here in Minnesota, and because of the NRG proposed IGCC plant in Delaware, both of which were defeated after a long protracted fight.  There is no such thing as ‘clean coal.”

mesabaone

Coal gasification is one thing that my coal-plant designing Mechanical Engineer father and I had some bonding moments over, going over EPRI coal gasification reports from the 80s and the Mesaba application…  And I had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside my father’s boss’s son, who is also an engineer, formerly with NSP/Xcel, who knew what a bad idea coal gasification is.  Oh yeah, we who fought these projects have learned a lot about coal gasification, “carbon capture and storage,” and will not go there again (see Legalectric and CAMP – Citizens Against the Mesaba Project sites for more info).  We know it doesn’t work.  And experience with the few projects that did go forward, what a mess, cost overruns beyond the wildest SWAG estimate, inability to get the plant running…  Trump, don’t even think about it:

IGCC – Pipedreams of Green & Clean

IGCC, coal gasification, is nothing new.  And despite its long history, it’s a history of failure, failure to live up to promises, failure to operate as a workable technology, and failure to produce electricity at a marketable cost, failure to produce electricity at all!  On top of that, it’s often touted as being available with “CO2 capture and storage” which it is not.  That’s a flat out lie.  Check this old Legalectric post:

More on Carbon Capture Pipedream

A key to this promotion is massive subsidies from state and federal sources, and selection of locations desperate for economic jump-start, so desperate that they’ll bite on a project this absurd, places like Minnesota’s Iron Range, or southern Indiana, or Mississippi.  The financing scam was put together at Harvard, and this blueprint has been used for all of these IGCC projects:

Harvard I – 3 Party Covenant

That, coupled with massive payments to “environmental” organizations to promote coal gasification, and they were off to the races.

Joyce Foundation PROMOTES coal gasification

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation & IGCC – WHY???

VP-elect Mike Pence should know all about coal gasification, he’s from Indiana.  Indiana is coal generation central, and has had a couple of IGCC projects planned, construction started, and built.  Indiana’s Wabash Valley plant is a perfect example, a small IGCC plant that was built, and after it was “completed,” took 22 on-site engineers to keep it running, now and then, at a greatly reduced capacity.

Wabash River Final Technical Report (it was “routinely” in violation of its water permit for selenium, cyanide and arsenic)

When they tried to sell the Wabash Valley plant recently, of course no one wanted it:

Wabash Valley coal gasification plant closing!

And another Indiana plant, with huge cost overruns that never started operating:

Rockport coal gasification plant dies – Indianapolis Star

Coal News: $2.8B coal gasification plant in Indiana canceled

And then there’s Edwardsport IGCC plant, also in Indiana, what a disaster:

Edwardsport plant not at promised capacity

Settlement won’t be the last word on controversial Indiana coal plant

Duke Energy Edwardsport Plant Settlement Expanded

The original settlement in September was a response to the plant’s rising operating costs while failing to meet performance expectations.

In the new agreement, Duke Energy agrees not to charge customers for $87.5 million of the operating costs of the Edwardsport plant, $2.5 million more than the original agreement.

And note that problems with Edwardsport tie in to similar problems with the Kemper IGCC plant in Mississippi:

Indiana ‘cease fire’ could provide a model for Mississippi regulators

Yes, in Mississippi, the Kemper IGCC plant is proving to be a problem, and yes, folks, note the Obama promotion of IGCC — after all, Obama is from Illinois, a coal state, and had lots of support from coal lobbyists.  Check this detailed NY Times article:

Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model “Clean Coal’ project: Mississippi project, a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan, has been plagued by problems that managers tried to conceal, and by cost overruns and questions of who will pay.

The sense of hope is fading fast, however. The Kemper coal plant is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational.

The plant and its owner, Southern Company, are the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company. Members of Congress have described the project as more boondoggle than boon. The mismanagement is particularly egregious, they say, given the urgent need to rein in the largest source of dangerous emissions around the world: coal plants.

Trump, just don’t.

mesabaone

Remember the Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project (see Legalectric posts and Citizens Against the Mesaba Project’s “Camp Site”), the boondoggle coal gasification plant that almost was, the project that got every legislative perk possible, got financing and grants based on wishful thinking and that “something else” that we just can’t identify (without which, who would think this was a good idea?  That plant that was to be built, according to the special legislation for this project, on a site WITH INFRASTRUCTURE?  This site… dig the infrastructure!

mesabadoesitevisit2

Anyway, it wasn’t built here.  But a similar plant WAS built in Indiana, the Edwardsport plant owned by Duke Energy.  As with the Mesaba Project it was proposed at a reasonable price, legislators were first told $700 million, and then it went upwards of $2.11 billion.  For Edwardsport, same story, and that price kept going up, up, up, and in Indiana, it was so extreme that costs recoverable from ratepayers were capped by the Indiana Public Utility Commission at $2.9 BILLION.  It was allowed to be built, and it started operating, sort of…  Average output has been 41%, when an 80+% capacity factor was promised.  Repairs?  That’s putting it mildly.  Now they’re going to try to get cost recovery for that.

Problems pile up at Edwardsport 06-14-2015

Now, let’s not all forget all the money given by the Joyce Foundation to support this nonsense.

+++++++++++++

Here’s a specific and eloquent comment from Michael Mullet, very involved in opposition to the Edwardsport fiasco:

    You raise what is definitely the “bottom line” question for Edwardsport given the huge subsidy which almost 800,000 Indiana ratepayers have been paying and are continuing to pay to Duke Energy every month for Edwardsport generation.
    Based on what DEI customers had paid to the Company for Edwardsport and the plant’s net generation through March 2014, the cumulative cost since Edwardsport costs (including CWIP charges) began appearing in customer rates in 2009 was approximately 57 cents per kwh and the current cost for only the twelve month period under review in pending Cause No. 43114-IGCC-12&13 was approximately 33 cents per kwh.  See Direct Testimony of Ralph C. Smith, Joint Intervenors Exhibit A, IURC Causes Nos. 43114-IGCC-12&13, filed December 15, 2014, pp. 48-54.
    Complaints by Duke Energy and other Indiana IOUs that the costs of energy efficiency under Energizing Indiana were “excessive'” resulted in the Indiana General Assembly abruptly terminating that program in 2014 even though an impartial third party concluded that its costs were approximately 4 cents per kwh of electricity saved.    Complaints by Duke Energy and other Indiana IOUs that the costs of customer credits for rooftop solar power in the range of 9 to 13 cents per kwh represent an unfair and unaffordable subsidy to approximately 500 net metering customers statewide also resulted in serious legislative consideration of a bill (thankfully not resulting in any enacted legislation to date) to terminate that program as well.
    In this context of sustainable resources being “too costly” at a level of 4 to 13 cents per kwh, it would seem long overdue for Indiana’s regulators (or, alternatively, its legislators and its Governor) either to impose a reasonable “operating cost cap” on Edwardsport charges to customers or, failing that, to shut the plant down as grossly uneconomic and a monumental waste of scarce ratepayer resources in the face of Edwardsport costs for millions of mwh of coal gas generation with no carbon capture let alone sequestration which are multiple orders of magnitude greater than those for end-use efficiency under Energizing Indiana  or rooftop solar under Net Metering.
    This incredible “double standard” to subsidize Indiana’s favorite “crony capitalists” at Duke Energy and Peabody Coal (whose Bear Run mine in southwest Indiana supplies 100% of Ewardsport’s coal) in order to permit them to spew millions of tons of unregulated CO2 annually into the global atmosphere should end ASAP.
                                                                                                        Michael A. Mullet
 

micheletti_1_mpr082216

Doesn’t this guy ever quit?  New legislation with new option, wanting to change the law to allow a “biomass” plant on the Mesaba Project site.  WHAT?  Aren’t they paying attention to the Laurentian Energy Authority’s unworkable “biomass” projects in Hibbing and Virginia, the “biomass” plants that don’t have enough feedstock and so are burning coal?  Did they forget that the MPCA has only issued one woody biomass permit, for Laurentian (Hibbing and Virginia) and that that permit was violated, so extremely that the MPCA issued fines and reworked the permit?

LEGALECTRIC POST: Laurentian “biomass” Air Permit Draft (second time around)

LEGALECTRIC POST: “Biomass” violates air permit – fines likely

DOH!

Thanks to a little birdie for the heads up on this.

littlebirdie3

Here’s the change, hidden in Senate File 2101:

2101Today, say NO to lines 191.4 – 191.19 of Senate File 2101.

IRRRB

Big thanks to Citizens Against the Mesaba Project for the heads up!

Minnesota’s legislative auditor will investigate IRRRB _ Duluth News Tribune

This specifically includes the $9.5 to Excelsior Energy and its Mesaba Project:

snippet

$9.5 was loaned, but as of 2008, with interest, that number was up to over $14 million, per the Legislative Audit report of 2008 (full report below):

Here’s an overview from CAMP:

CAMP UPDATE _ Mesaba Energy Project _ Excelsior Energy

Here’s the 2008 Legislative Auditor Report_IRR Loans to Excelsior Energy

And on this site, also posted in 2008:

Excelsior Energy under the auditor’s microscope

Here are some of the pertinent documents from that round — Read it and see for yourself. Anyway, mncoalgasplant.com wanted to dig around in the IRR’s records, so we started in filing this and that…

Subpoena Request IRR September 7, 2006

Or was it a Data Practices Act request?

IRRB Data Practices Act Request

Letter to IRRRB June 19, 2006

Letter to IRRRB July 26, 2006

All of the above!

We got quite a bit of information, and here’s Ron Gustafson’s spreadsheet, it may not be all inclusive, but some choice tidbits are there:

IRR Receipts – Final Review

The IRRRB’s handling of money, particularly handing it over to Excelsior Energy a/k/a Tom Micheletti and Julie Jorgensen, was appalling, and it’s about time this got another review.  The Mesaba Project was one of the most obvious and disturbing examples of special legislation ever, from the legislatively granted perks like a mandate of Power Purchase Agreement, to eminent domain for a private company, to the Renewable Development Funds to the IRRRB money, pouring money down the rathole.

What were theys thinking?  And what was the pay-off?  The pay-off to Xcel Energy was that they got to keep their Prairie Island nuclear plant going.  What was the pay-off to legislators who agreed to this?  What was the pay-off to the “environmental” groups, particularly Bill Grant, then Izaak Walton League, who Tom Micheletti furiously accosted after the deal was temporarily stopped, yelling, “WE HAD A DEAL!!!  BUT WE HAD A DEAL!!!”  What did Bill Grant’s organization and its supporters get?