(really, that’s their “site plan” — how informative!!)

It’s in the news, Concerned River Valley Citizens’ suit against LS Power, Lent Township and Chisago County had a hearing last week.   Short version:

Judge Hoffman said he wanted to be armed with sufficient information to make a decision. He asked for just one thing – a written transcript of the legislative discussion that preceded the adoption of the legislation regarding the tax exemption in 2009, specifically subdivision 92 pertaining to the obtaining of the development agreement.

He asked the attorneys to write a letter to the court when it is provided and then he will make his decision.

The judge believed this information is important and he can’t be obligated to make a decision until he knows what the legislation said about approval of a development agreement “before” the start of construction.

Most committee meetings now are available online, and the legislative library provides tapes.  One problem is that the legislative intent is rarely conveyed in the committee meetings, and all the behind the scenes doings aren’t going to see the light of day.

The statutory section at issue – Minn. Stat. 272.02, Subd. 92.

Here’s the Summons and Complaint from last June:

CRVC -Summons and Complaint

For more info, go to

From ECM Post Review:

Judge asks for one thing in power plant civil case

Wednesday, 06 October 2010

By MaryHelen Swanson

In courtroom 202, Tenth Judicial District Judge John C. Hoffman heard from attorney Douglas Sauter of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., representing the CRVC and Carlson, and three attorneys representing Chisago County, Lent Township and LS Power (Sunrise River Energy) respectively.

The CRVC and Carlson have filed a civil lawsuit against the three entities named above in connection with the siting of an electric generating power plant in Lent Township.

The attorney for Chisago County, separately retained, explained to the judge the proposal by LS Power and the coalition’s argument that there is no pre-emption to county zoning ordinance. The county’s attorney says there is pre-emption.

The attorney showed the judge the legislation enacted in 2009 that required a development agreement and host agreement before tax exempt status is granted.

The attorney said in his opinion, the county, as well as Lent Township, did nothing wrong, it was what they needed to do.

The CRVC and attorney believe that the cart has been put before the horse and argues that the sequence of events is wrong.

Attorney Sauter provided Judge Hoffman with background on the proposal, which has LS Power constructing a 780 MW natural gas-fired electric generating plant on 40 acres in Lent Township, property adjacent to the substation off County Road 14.

Giving details of the LS Power proposed project, Sauter told the judge the presence of such a large plant would destroy the nature of the community and Carlson’s ability to sell high end lots in his nearby development.

The process, he stressed, is important.

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It’s nice to win sometimes, even in absentia…

Tonight the Chisago County Board of Commissioners, on a 3-2 vote, voted NOT to approve their proposed Development Agreement with LS Power for an 855MW (give or take a few hundred, depending on their mood, what they ate for lunch, whatever) natural gas electric generating plant.  Like WOW!

Congratulations to Concerned River Valley Citizens for a job well done, and thanks to Tom Dunnwald who filled in for me tonight, but this is no time to let up — the work’s not over — there’s still the matter of the need for an Overlay Essential Services Ordinance that addresses generating plants and whatever other noxious infrastructure somebody might come up with.

This LS Power mess is the PROCEEDING that Concerned River Valley Citizens intervened in, under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, and were shut out by the County Attorney, Janet Reider (bad idea), and we just filed another Notice of Intervention yesterday or today.

There were some interesting comments, like “we’ve done the best we can in the time we had” indicating some sort of train schedule that has now been derailed.  They tried to prevent attorneys from speaking, and the worst of that came from Commissioner Ben Montzka, who is an attorney himself!  He should know better…

In the packet for tonight’s meeting:

Development Agreement

Host Fee Agreement

Host Fee Allocation Agreement

It’s all on video, so we’ll have that soon.  I can’t wait to see the snippets on YouTube!

Here’s from KARE 11:

(it’s not up yet)

More later


From ECM article…

On Monday, citizens of Lent Township organized a Special Meeting, as allowed under statute, and told the Town Board what they thought of LS Power’s Sunrise River Energy Station.  The hands raised you see in the photo is the vote telling the board that they should not approve a development agreement with LS Power.

The people say NO, but the township, the following day, went ahead and approved the Development Agreement:

Power Plant Gets Township Approval

And a view from the trenches:

We the PEOPLE – found in the Fish Lake Karpa

And here’s the report from the Post Review:

Citizens’ vote was to nix power plant

By MaryHelen Swanson

There were a few empty chairs, but if those standing at the back of the room had all wanted to sit, the attendance would still be considered “standing room only.”

lent meeting1.jpgThat was the scene at Lent Town Hall Monday night as a special citizen-petitioned meeting got underway.

The folks were divided by Lent residency and non-residency.

There were separate sign-in sheets and designated seating areas.

Called to order by Lent Township Clerk Laura LeVasseur, it soon became the people’s meeting when they elected Mark Koran moderator.

First order of business was the Pledge of Allegiance.

With the agenda adopted, resident Dave Milles introduced a resolution which was adopted by the people with no audible nays.

Milles went on to read the resolution.

It noted three things that were expected to happen that night:
• openly and publicly review and discuss the final draft of the development agreement by and among Lent Township and Sunrise River Energy, LLC (also known as LS Power) prior to any official vote of the Lent Township board to approve and/or sign the development agreement;

• to present and vote on a resolution requiring a public referendum on the question of approval or disapproval of any development agreement by the township and energy group prior to any official vote of the Lent township board to approve and/or sign the development agreement;

• and to present and vote on a resolution requiring Lent Township board to comply with the results of the referendum when taking any action or vote to approve and or sign the development agreement.

All of the above was accomplished Monday night.
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Oct 19 Chisago County meeting re: LS Power Sunrise River Energy Station

How odd… it’s in both STrib and StPPP today… so comment opportunities abound!

Here’s the story from Dennis Lien:

Skeptics question Chisago power plant

Residents fear water pollution, say plans are too vague

By Dennis Lien
Updated: 11/01/2009 11:22:19 PM CST

At first blush, a proposal for a large power plant in rural Chisago County would seem to have a lot going for it, including apparent need and general support from clean-energy interests.

But that doesn’t mean LS Power’s natural gas-fired project is racing along. Far from it. Many county residents, skeptical of the company’s assertions and irked by what they consider a secretive approach, don’t like it one bit.

“Whether they are for it or against it, people in this area have a right to know what this is about,” said Joyce Marienfeld, a member of an opposition group called Friends of the Sunrise River. “This has been real slippery — just not right.”

County residents have been on edge since earlier this year when the East Coast power plant builder offered what residents viewed as a vague proposal to build a 780-megawatt power plant on a 40-acre site northwest of Lindstrom, 30 miles north of St. Paul. The plant, expected to cost $300 million to $500 million, would use low-polluting natural gas to supplement the state’s growing wind industry by operating when wind power isn’t available or during periods of peak demand.

The Legislature quickly approved tax breaks similar to those given to other plants, provided local governments follow suit. If that happens, the project would be free to seek various air and water permits and Public Utilities Commission approval.

Critics soon objected, especially over plans to use 2 million gallons of groundwater a
day and to discharge that water into the nearby Sunrise River, which empties into the nationally protected St. Croix River.

Earlier this month, the company backed off that approach, opting instead to use treated water from two area wastewater treatment plants.

Opponents, however, continue to maintain the proposal is heavy on general concepts and light on specifics.

“It’s kind of common sense to judge what they are actually planning on doing, instead of vague things on paper,” said state Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-Lindstrom. “We can’t do that.”

Blake Wheatley, LS Power’s assistant vice president, promised more detail will follow, once lingering property tax issues are addressed locally.

“In order for us to be comfortable spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars doing studies, we really need some level of comfort that we can put that economic albatross at bay,” he said.

But critics have other concerns about what could be the largest natural-gas plant in the state.

They say it doesn’t fit into the rural, agricultural landscape and is just a half-mile from the popular Carlos Avery State Wildlife Management Area. Moreover, they fear increased truck traffic, annoying plant lights and, despite company denials, new power lines. Pollution, they said, could filter through the sandy soil into the Mt. Simon-Hinckley aquifer or get to the Sunrise River.

Building in an already zoned industrial park would be more appropriate, according to Marienfeld, who lives three miles from the proposed site.

Wheatley said the company wants to build the plant to fill a demand for electrical power in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. He said a “great portion” of the power would be sold in Minnesota, with some going to other states.

LS Power has been talking to state utilities about buying the power but hasn’t reached any agreements, he said. “If we can’t identify markets, we are not going forward with it,” he said, adding that discussions with Minnesota utilities “have been very, very positive.”

Placing the plant near the existing Chisago County power substation eliminates the need for additional transmission lines, according to Wheatley. “That substation is one of the biggest, if not the largest, in the state of Minnesota,” he said.

The plant, he said, would not be as visually intrusive as many people fear. “The rural way of life they are used to will continue,” he said.

If everything goes according to plan, Wheatley said, construction would start in 2011, and the plant would open a couple of years later.

Without addressing the proposal’s specifics, St. Paul-based Fresh Energy said it likes the idea of natural gas being used to fill gaps in wind power.

“It’s important for Minnesota to add a modest amount of new high-efficiency, low-emission natural gas power stations to be available when renewable energy sources like solar and wind need a bit of help,” said Michael Noble, its executive director. “Remember that Minnesota is on course to add $10 billion in wind power this next decade.”

Earlier this month, the state Office of Energy Security released a study that said the state needs more natural gas-fired power plants over the next 15 years to provide intermittent and peak power upon demand.

Asked about the LS Power proposal, Energy Security director Bill Glahn said, “It would definitely be most welcome to help us meet our needs for power in the coming years.”

“That report is so far off it’s scary,” responded Carol Overland, an attorney for opposition group Concerned River Valley Citizens. “They are using outdated information.”

Before the Public Utilities Commission takes up the proposal, the Lent Township and Chisago County boards must approve development agreements. Kalin recently urged them to include six conditions, such as a ban on groundwater use and new transmission lines.

“None of them have flagged their intentions,” County Administrator John Moosey said of the five county commissioners. “This is just a great microcosm of local government. Both sides have very strong points, and there are benefits to each.”

And from the STrib’s Tom Meersman:

Protected aquifer feared at risk

By TOM MEERSMAN, Star Tribune

It’s about appropriate land use

Many of us who live near the proposed LS Power Plant are not against power plants in general or the jobs that building them create. We are … read more against a New Jersey-based private equity investment firm, taking our natural resources, spoiling our rural way of life, and getting a $8-9 Million/year tax break to boot. The power is not needed locally. This is not just a peaker plant to offset wind power, when the wind isn’t blowing. It’s a huge (855MW)albatross stuck in the middle of a residential, agricultural area – in direct opposition to the Township and County Comprehansive Land Use plans. Go to LS Power’s website and take a look at what an equivalent plnat looks like. Build the power plant where it belongs – in an industrial area

Pooling underneath the Twin Cities area is drinking water so old and pristine that it’s protected by state law.

It can’t be used for industrial purposes in the seven-county metro area.

But the rules that protect the 900-foot-deep Mount Simon-Hinckley aquifer in the metro don’t apply to Chisago County, where LS Power wants to build a $300 million to $500 million power plant.

The New Jersey-based company’s proposal to use groundwater from the aquifer has intensified opposition to the plant and has raised interest in changing the law to put the water off-limits.

“It is certainly a last-resort aquifer,” said Chris Elvrum, manager of water supply planning for the Metropolitan Council. “It is used by some municipalities when there’s no readily available other source, and only for potable use.”

Elvrum said age-dated samples show that the water ranges from 1,000 to 35,000 years old. Depending on where it is withdrawn, it can take hundreds of years to recharge.

Since the 1989 law forbidding its use for industrial purposes in the metro area, that region has expanded: the U.S. Census Bureau now defines the metropolitan statistical area as 13 counties, including Chisago and several others not part of the original seven-county list.

A change in plans

LS Power knew of Mount Simon’s importance, said D. Blake Wheatley, lead project developer for the company. But he said it proposed last summer to use the deeper water anyway, for fear of competing with any city and private wells that draw water from shallower aquifers. The proposal called for the plant to use water from one or two nearby sewage treatment plants and, if necessary, to supplement that with as much as 2 million gallons of groundwater per day, including some from Mount Simon.

However, the company recently abruptly changed direction; Wheatley said it will not use any groundwater.

“We’re going to make do with the water that we have” from the North Branch and Chisago Lakes joint sewage treatment plants, he said.

The company also abandoned plans to discharge 1 million gallons of water a day from the plant into a tributary of the Sunrise River, said Wheatley, and will develop a “zero-discharge liquid system.”

The decision stems from a change in the design of the natural-gas-fired plant, he said, not from citizen concerns.

Plant meeting draws 500

About 500 people attended a meeting last week to debate the proposal. Some said they supported the plant because it would generate tax revenue and construction jobs.

Others expressed doubts about the company’s change of mind on groundwater use.

Rob Kravitz lives about 2 miles from the site and opposes the plant, period.

“They’ve made concessions, at least on paper, regarding the water use issues,” he said. “My fear is that, after it’s built, they they’ll apply for groundwater permits anyway.”

Kravitz and others are also concerned that the 780-megawatt plant would require more high-voltage power lines in the area. The company denies that.

The proposed 40-acre site is less than a mile from a large electrical substation and within 5 miles of two interstate natural gas pipelines.

Friends of the Sunrise River, a citizens’ group opposed to the project, contends that it will lower property values, increase noise and traffic and conflict with the rural character of the county.

“If the truth were known, it would have more negatives than positives,” said Larry Baker, chairman of the group.

LS Power is only at the beginning of the project, Wheatley said, and hasn’t submitted a formal plan to regulators.

It is seeking a development agreement with the township board and Chisago County commissioners that pertains mainly to property tax exemptions that require local approval. Those decisions likely will be made in December, after which the company would begin pursuing required permits and approvals from state agencies.

Whatever happens next with the project, Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-Lindstrom, said that he is determined to close the loophole that allows the Mount Simon aquifer to be tapped for multiple uses. Kalin said that he and Sen. Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris, who also represents the area, will introduce a bill next year to extend protection of the aquifer beyond the seven-county metro area.

“It takes dozens or hundreds of years for that water to filter down and to be pure and drinkable,” Kalin said. “We’re not going to just use it for cooling a power plant.”


Blake Wheatley promotes his vaporware project (from Chisago County Press, fair use)

Here’s the latest from the Chisago County Press:

10/22/2009 8:38:00 AM

Hundreds attend LS Power information meeting sponsored by county and Lent Township


Monday night’s informational meeting on the LS Power electric station project began civilly-enough; but as the session stretched into its second hour, peoples’ patience thinned and audience members felt compelled to hoot at some speakers or applaud mightily for others.

Lent Township Hall, an airplane hangar-sized building, was filled to standing room only. Posters were carried by people declaring “stop the power plant” and “we need jobs now.”

The panel of state and local officials walked everybody through the various processes each panel member had regulatory authority over. The public microphone was then opened up for statements, speeches, questions and concerns in the second half of the meeting.

There is no design or site plan available yet for the electric station, which is proposed for an area near County Road 14 and 15, next to the Xcel electric substation.

The Public Utilities Commission has been told to expect a permit application from LS Power in late 2009 or early 2010, according to PUC representative Bob Cupit.

Those attending the meeting were also informed state authorities have “pre-empted” from local authority, the permitting for the LS Power electric station project.

Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter explained state laws basically require state control over projects needing state permits. The county is a “subdivision” of the state and Reiter added, the county relinquishes siting and permitting tasks for a project like this.

Later in public comment, an anti-power plant organizer Shellene Johnson seemed to support local authorities taking back oversight. She asked Bob Cupit, the Public Utilities Commission official, to expound on ways statutes do indeed allow for a “local siting” procedure.

Cupit said the facility must be operated ONLY as a peaking plant and must use a single source of fuel, for it to qualify under local siting. He was under the preliminary impression the LS Power project did not qualify for this. LS Power proposes a combined fuel plant of natural gas and fuel oil.

Cupit also assured the audience the PUC analysis and review of this plan will be “top end.” Due to the public interest and implications of the project, “no short shrift” will be given to this state review by any PUC regulators, Cupit stressed. LS Power has to demonstrate need for the plant capacity (futures contracts sales, etc.) and show the PUC the project, “is in the interests of Minnesota energy consumers.”

The PUC permitting process can take anywhere from six months to one year, depending on what PUC Board members pursue as a review process. Cupit said law allows for a citizen task force. He anticipates citizens will be asked to contribute during development of the permit evaluations.

If citizens feel the system still failed to consider issues, the decision of the PUC can be appealed to the state Court of Appeals.
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