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!


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


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


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

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


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:


$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, 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?


As inevitable as the tide, the Minnesota winter snows, mosquitos, death and taxes…  This is way too predictable!  Charlotte Neigh, of Citizens Against the Mesaba Project, is dead on again with her trajectory of Excelsior Energy’s weaseling out of their financial responsibilities in this Mesaba Project boondoggle.  A deadline is approaching where Excelsior Energy has to make a payment on its financing from the Iron Range Resources Board:

MCGP Exhibit 5023 – IRR & Excelsior Convertible Debenture Agreement


A little birdie just sent this, literally hours after Charlotte had mentioned that the next payment was coming due and wondering what they were going to pull this time to get out of it (it’s ALWAYS something):

Published August 18 2010

Excelsior asks for more time to repay Iron Range loans

Excelsior Energy’s plans to build a coal gasification power plant known as the Mesaba Energy project on the Iron Range have suffered numerous delays.

By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune

The Iron Range Resources Board will consider a request Thursday to give Excelsior Energy more time to pay back nearly $9.5 million in loans.

Excelsior’s plans to build a coal gasification power plant known as the Mesaba Energy project on the Iron Range have suffered numerous delays.

“Development plans originally contemplated that the project would have been under construction prior to 2010 and repayment would have begun,” IRR Commissioner Sandy Layman wrote in a memo to board members requesting the extension of the loan and delay in interest payments. “Sufficient funds are not available to meet repayment requirements under the existing loan terms at this time.”

The IRR has two outstanding loans with Excelsior: one for $1.5 million approved in December 2001 and one for $8 million approved in June 2004. Excelsior has paid back $45,038 of the loans’ principal.

If approved, the new loan agreement will require annual principal payments of $100,000 due Dec. 31 beginning this year and running through 2017. Interest on timely payments will be figured at 5 percent for the preceding 12 months. With IRR approval, Excelsior can repay all outstanding principal before Dec. 31, 2017, at a reduced interest rate.

In exchange, Excelsior would agree to pay the IRR 5 percent of the proceeds from any sale of equity in the Mesaba Energy project in excess of Excelsior’s liabilities from the project.


The joint DOE and MN Dept. of Commerce EIS for Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project has been released.  WTF?  This is SUCH a waste of time.  And I am at a lost to explain how it is that this even was released, why we have to bother with it, when it’s the vampire-vaporware project from hell that is dead but … but…

Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project Environmental Impact Statement

Comments on the “adequacy of the Final EIS or its impact upon the issues” are due on December 2, 2009.  Send Comments to:

steve.mihalchick [at]

or by mail to:

Steve Mihalchick, ALJ

Office of Administrative Hearings

P.O. Box 64620

St. Paul, MN  55164-0620

Here’s the Order establishing that deadline:

4-17-08 Order – Final EIS Comment Deadline Established

Is this weird language or what:

b. Such comments on the “adequacy” of the Final EIS or its “impact” upon the issues in this matter shall be filed with the Administrative Law Judge within ten business days after filing of the Final EIS.

So get cracking on “such comments” and send them in!

And just in, breaking news…

Just last Friday, a MCGPer and his son were out deer hunting on the preferred Excelsior site, guns in hand, on the alert, and what should come bursting through the trees but… BOB EVANS!  Bob Evans and two other Excelsior boys, they were out viewing the site during deer hunting!  That just doesn’t seem to bright.

Give it up!!!   Get a job, Bob!!!

And have they forgotten that other encounter in the woods, almost exactly three years ago?


Meanwhile … the sun is coming up over New York right now…