Great, just great. “About” a million gallons of Minnesota Power’s Boswell coal plant’s coal ash wastewater dumped into Blackwater Lake (appropriate name!), a pond connected to the Mississippi River, a pond where the plant’s cooling water is drawn from, and also a pond where people fish!

The good news is that MP didn’t do an Xcel and wait for MONTHS to disclose. It appears that MP got on the horn almost instantly after the spill was discovered and reported it.

There’s supposedly a press release, but it’s not posted on their “Press Release” page, so I asked about it. MP did get back to me and shared its statement — THANK YOU!

has to say:

One million gallons of coal ash wastewater spill at Minnesota Power coal plant

The Duluth-based electric utility said an unknown amount of polluted water had reached a nearby lake after a pipe leaked. 

By Walker Orenstein and Chloe Johnson Star Tribune

July 17, 2024 — 9:39am

Minnesota Power said about 1 million gallons of coal ash wastewater spilled at its large coal plant in Cohasset, Minn., pouring out over land with at least some reaching nearby Blackwater Lake.

The Duluth-based electric utility said in a news release that a pipeline leaked on Tuesday at the Boswell Energy Center that transfers wastewater from a pond containing the byproducts of coal combustion to the plant where it is used as process water.

Minnesota Power said the leak has been contained and the company is monitoring for potential impacts to water and wildlife, and also notified the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency.

MPCA is investigating the spill, spokeswoman Andrea Cournoyer said in a statement.

According to a report to the State Duty Officer, the spill was originally discovered at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday. The report was made 15 minutes later, and Minnesota Power said a “loss of pump pressure” caused the spill.

Coal ash contains pollutants including mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which can pollute water and air if not properly managed, according to the EPA.

The 674-acre Blackwater Lake is a reservoir on the Mississippi River, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Lake levels are controlled by the Pokegama Dam operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It’s still unclear how far the material may have spread, or how long the pipeline was leaking. Walter Shadley, Cohasset’s public works and utility supervisor, said the town does not draw its drinking water from the Mississippi.

Minnesota Power draws water from the lake to cool its plant and releases heated water. The DNR describes the lake as “essentially a flooded river channel.” A bay where the DNR said the coal plant discharges heated water attracts fish and is popular with anglers, according to the agency.

The Boswell plant is Minnesota Power’s largest electricity source. Its two operating coal-fired units are capable of producing 932 megawatts of electricity. One unit at the plant is scheduled to retire in 2030, and the second is slated to close in 2035 as the utility transitions to carbon-free power to meet its climate goals and state regulations for a carbon-free grid by 2040.

Sand – UNEP’s report

May 7th, 2019

Here in Red Wing, and throughout southeast Minnesota, and along the other side of the river in Wisconsin, sand has been a major issue. Many communities were dragged into this issue when an epidemic of silica sand mines, processing, and transloading facilities sprang up to support fracking for oil. Sand interests got Red Wing’s Mayor ejected when he was both Mayor and Executive Director of sand mining industry’s Minnesota Industrial Sand Council:

Mayor Egan Resigns

Sand was also an issue as Minnesota attempt at, though I’d say avoided, developing sand mining rules:

Someone explain rulemaking to the MPCA

As to sand as a resource, that’s not really been a part of the discussion in these parts. And on that note, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has released a report:

And in the STrib: UN environment agency warns of effects of rising sand use

Check it out!

Yesterday, Freeborn Wind, the Applicant, had its wind project permit tabled by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.  How’d that happen!?!  SNORT!  I heard there was an audible gasp from that side of the room when it happened.

This latest round started with a bizarrely attempt to get more than what they got:

20191-148986-02_Freeborn Wind’s Request4Clarification

Yeah, it sure got them more!!  Great idea, disclosing an “agreement” with Commerce and MPCA after being granted a permit by PUC after the ALJ Recommendation that the permit be denied (and in the alternative, that they be granted time to demonstrate that they COULD comply):

So what did Freeborn say in its Request4Clarification?

Freeborn Wind requests the Commission clarify its Site Permit to adopt Section 7.4, as
proposed by Freeborn Wind and agreed to by the Department and MPCA, in place of the current Sections 7.4.1 and 7.4.2, to both ensure consistency with the Order and avoid ambiguity in permit compliance.

Freeborn Wind’s September 19, 2018, Late-Filed proposal for Special Conditions Related
to Noise outlines the agreement reached between Freeborn Wind, the Department and the MPCA on this issue.[fn omitted] The letter indicated that Freeborn Wind had carefully reviewed the proposed Sections 7.4.1 and 7.4.2 from the Staff Briefing Papers, and was concerned they “create[d] ambiguity and would lead to significant compliance challenges.” [fn omitted] Instead, Freeborn Wind offered “proposed alternative language addressing pre-construction noise modeling and postconstruction noise monitoring special conditions” which is “specific to this case” and would “achieve a similar level of noise regulation, but in a manner that can actually be measured following the applicable rules and standards.”

p. 1-2, 20191-148986-02_Freeborn Wind’s Request4Clarification (emphasis added).

SNORT!  Really, they said that!  It was good to see confirmation of the orchestration I’d observed at the September 20 PUC agenda meeting, being in the middle of the full court press of  Freeborn Wind, Commerce and MPCA (why exactly was MPCA there, they have no jurisdiction).  Oh, about MPCA’s jurisdiction, the letter of Kohlasch explains that well:

Exhibit M_Kohlasch_Letter_20189-146351-01

So we responded to that Freeborn Wind Motion:


I’d sent Data Practices Act Requests to MPCA and Commerce:

MPCA-Agreement_Data Practices Act Request

Exhibit C_Commerce-Agreement_Data Practices Act Request

And on receiving Data Practices Act Requests from MPCA, which showed some of the behind-the-scenes going on, filed this:

20192-150272-01-1_AFCL Motion to Remand to ALJ

And the moment I filed it, and went to email to check filing status, get confirmation, and I see an email from Wachtler, Commerce-EERA, which is included in this, filed the following day:

AFCL_Motion-Addendum to Remand to ALJ_FINAL FULL PACKET

They produced NON-O-T-H-I-N-G!  Nothing at all!

So off we went to the PUC, and the meeting was bizarre.  The Commission did not take up the Many Motions, Motions to Strike, Motions for Reconsideration, Motions for Remand, Motion after Motion, it was dizzying.  Admissions of “confusion” were heard, and can’t have Commissioner confusion.  Methinks that there was confusion at the September 20, 2018 meeting, which was why the permit was approved with the conditions offered and haggled over just a bit.  The video, do check it out, scroll down to #3 at link, starting at 16:43:

TABLED!  We have 14 days to provide language for the permit conditions, 7.4; 7.4.1; 7.4.2.  Then another Agenda meeting date will be set, ostensibly to deal with Motions, language, etc.

Freeborn Wind at the PUC tomorrow.

Watch on line HERE: Live Webcast

ANOTHER LATE FILING!!!  This last minute flurry is indicative of their desperation!  So I guess it’s a good thing, but hey, I’ve got to get ready for the Wind Rulemaking docket that I’ve been trying to get before the Commission for how many years?  Oh well… one thing at a time…

Freeborn Wind’s “Late Filed — Proposed Special Conditions Related to Noise _20189-146486-01

And our response just filed:

AFCL’s Late Filing2_Reply2Freeborn

Oh yeah, we’re going to have fun at the PUC tomorrow.  Watch on line HERE: Live Webcast

And background, yesterday and day before:

AFCL reply to Freeborn Wind’s Motion to Exclude

Freeborn Wind files Motion to Exclude!!

Whew, quick response to Freeborn Wind’s Motion:

Association of Freeborn County Landowners_FINAL Reply

Here’s their Motion:

20189-146448-02_Motion to Exclude Untimely Filing of Frank Kohlasch

From here, it looks like they’re trying to weasel their way into a 1 dBA “wiggle room” to add onto the state’s 50 dBA limit.  Ummmmmm, no!  No way is that supported by the record, and really, there’s already a 3 dBA “margin of error” built in, supposedly, well, so says Freeborn Wind’s expert Hankard!

Here’s the MPCA letter they’re so up in arms about, but wait, it’s nothing new!!!!

Letter 9/11/2018 Frank Kohlasch MPCA_20189-146351-01

Freeborn, you know all about ambient sound noise modeling, we discussed it for how many hours in the hearing?  Good grief…

Here are the MPCA’s noise standards:

NOISE STANDARDS  Minn. R. 7030.0040