It was 20 years ago today…

October 22nd, 2022



Well, a bit more than 20 years ago… January 15, 2002, just after the start of the legislative session, I was at an energy committee meeting, Senate? House? I think Senate was first, then heard again at House, and the following year they got their legislation through as a part of the 2003 Prairie Island bill.

Anyway, there was a presentation back in 2002 about the greatest thing since sliced bread (NOT!), a coal gasification project proposed for “somewhere” on the Range. Here’s what they presented:

Note the parts about “brownfield” and “existing infrastructure.” LIES, it’s that simple. Here’s what their site looked like, this was at the DOE and locals site visit in 2005:

Marching through the woods, a tour of the brownfield site with infrastructure
Another site tour, Itasca County officials on site!
And another time, in November, 2006, the project developer was trespassing on land owned by one of our members during hunting season. There was no access to the proposed project site!

Starting in 2005, I was representing “mncoalgasplant,” landowners and residents near the proposed project, joined in tandem by Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP) (site circa 2013 with live links, thanks waybackmachine!). We had such active folks, every hearing was PACKED, and eventually the project faded, never formally declared dead, but piece by piece, it went away.

HOWEVER, Excelsior Energy did manage to get an save passed by the legislature for a natural gas plant:

Week before last, I picked up files from a cohort who shall remain unnamed, and am scanning in boxes of files, to post here, and recycle hard copies for biomass (UGH, but that’s what Red Wing does. Thanks, Xcel Energy!). I’ll be posting them, some interesting stuff if you’re into energy and political and capital intrigue, some purely inside baseball that no one will care about.

MONEY TRACKING – Spreadsheets and invoices to IRRB for reimbursement

Various Contractor Invoices (some redacted)

What a pain in the patoot that was — TWO ENTIRE WASTEBASKET OF SCANNING!


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!


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

A little birdie has been looking around at Mesaba — but first…

Here’s a report of an obvious problem with IGCC from John Blair, Valley Watch— the pipedream is just that, and the truth that those of us in the midst of coal gasification know too well is finally coming out publicly:

Carbon capture plans failing – IEA

2010-06-14 18:22

London – The world is failing to meet goals to develop carbon capture technology, the energy watchdog to industrialised economies said on Monday as it reported back to G8 countries on their past promises.

At a summit in Japan two years ago, eight of the world’s leading economies backed an International Energy Agency goal to launch 20 large-scale projects to demonstrate carbon capture and storage technology by 2010.

In fact there were only five such projects in operation, all commissioned before the 2008 summit, said the energy adviser to 28 developed countries ahead of next week’s G8 summit in Canada.

None of those existing projects tested the full chain of CCS processes, which involves trapping and then piping and storing underground carbon emissions from coal and gas power plants.

“(The 2010 goal) remains a challenge and will require that governments and industry work in concert,” the IEA said in a report to the Canada G8 summit.

Large projects

One new Australian project had launched, however, and was proceeding to construction to test the full CCS process.

Also on a positive note, the IEA estimated that governments had committed over the past two years to provide over $26bn in funding support for demonstration projects. That compares with an annual funding need of between $5bn and $6.5bn over the next decade.

The IEA argues that CCS is a vital technology to fight climate change because it could allow developing countries to continue to burn supplies of cheap coal and still curb carbon emissions, as they try to grow their economies. Developing countries are now the main global source of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The IEA estimates that about 100 CCS large-scale projects are needed worldwide by 2020, about half in developing countries, to stay within safer limits of climate change.

The report calculated that governments are committed to support between 19 and 43 large projects by 2020, and cited other estimates of about 80 projects at various stages of development.

“Much greater effort will be needed to meet future deployment levels,” it said.

– Reuters

Meanwhile, the little birdie…  We’ve been in this odd and unenviable place, a big horrible coal gasification plant, the Mesaba Project, promoted by Excelsior Energy, a shell corp with nada for assets, which demanded a Power Purchase Agreement then denied by the PUC, and yet inexplicably granted a siting permit for not just “one” but TWO projects totalling over 1,000MW of IGCC!  OH… MY… DOG!  So it’s in limbo land, and we’re wondering how on earth this thing stays on life support as it rots away…

The little birdie had this report:

Excelsior Energy was supposed to have filed a new air permit, and the MPCA was supposed to have reviewed the 2006 air permit application “to assure that the protocol was acceptable to federal land managers.”  Well, that didn’t happen, the “review” by MPCA OR the filing of the new air permit, which was supposed to have been filed last week.

2006 Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project Air Permit

… and the little birdie while looking around found this in their “Frequently Asked Questions” on their site, then scroll down to “View common transmission misconceptions” to p. 2:

Myth: The Mesaba Project will force wind energy off from the transmission grid.

Fact: Mesaba will make upgrades to the transmission grid so that the electricity from the Mesaba Project does not interfere with any existing or planned wind energy.

This myth stems from a misinterpretation of the Mesaba Unit One G477 and G519 System Impact Reports. In preparing the reports, the engineers determined that their base case was unrealistic. Therefore, they used their engineering judgment to make some assumptions so the reports could provide meaningful results. Although those assumptions were made only for the purposes of the report, an internet “blogger” misinterpreted the assumptions to mean that the Mesaba Project would force wind energy off from the transmission grid. In fact, the transmission upgrades associated with the Mesaba Project will ensure that it will not interfere with any “network resources” such as wind farms.


And this “Myth” section is a lot like their letter to Commerce regarding EIS Scoping Comments:

Excelsior Energy Response to EIS Scoping Comments 11-7-06

Anyway, I’d like to see this blog posting they’re referring to!  Misinterpreted?  Naaaaaaah, it’s all the interpretations of those presenting and reviewing at the MAPP meeting.  Their claims are sorta like the matter of using a site with existing infrastructure:


I wonder what it was that blew their dress up… could it be:

So now it’s deliverable??? SWAG! January 9th, 2007

They caaalll Mesaaaba liiiars… November 25th, 2006

It’s all about this study — READ IT FOR YOURSELF:

Deliverability Study Report G-519 12-15-06

Anyway, their air permit application was submitted, and it is a mess. The rules have changed.  We’re waiting for the next Air Permit application, which will be… when???


Yes, Tom Micheletti and Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project had another rough time at the Public Utilities Commission yesterday.  The PUC was deciding on Excelsior’s Motions for Reconsideration in “Phase II” of the proceedings:

Excelsior’s Motion to Suspend, for Reconsideration etc etc etc

Staff Briefing Papers – 5-28-09

It was fast, the tone seemed to say that the PUC had had enough of it, and wanted to be done.  Deny, deny, deny, the end.

So, now what?  I don’t know, because Charlotte Neigh, of Citizens Against the Mesaba Project, had inquired with Richard Hargis, of the DOE, as to the status of the EIS in the siting docket, scheduled to be released in June (yeah, right, as if…).  He said:

Ms. Neigh,

I don’t think this affects the issuance of the FEIS.

Richard Hargis

Huh… so now what?  Haven’t a clue.  My client,, was an intervenor in this case, beginning nearly five years ago.  Will this thing end some time in my lifetime?  I’m starting to wonder…