CapX 2020 marching towards the Mississippi

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,Uncategorized,Wisconsin — posted by admin on September 2, 2014 @ 7:36 am

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Yesterday we went off for a picnic at Alma’s Buena Vista Park, with the beautiful “Buena Vista” overlook, a new picnic table right near the edge of the lookout, the buena vista over… well… over the new CapX 2020 line and the Alma John P. Madgett coal plant owned by Dairyland Power Cooperative.  CapX transmission has made it to the edge of the Mississippi, and no further.

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What can I say… Little Sadie took one look, squatted, and promptly left her editorial and aesthetic opinion.

20140901_LittleSadie

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Here’s the uncropped view:

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And from the other way, looking towards Alma:

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PUC Rulemaking — send Comments on Drafts

Filed under:Buy the Farm,Laws & Rules,Nuts & Bolts,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on September 1, 2014 @ 9:40 am

pilesofiles

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is winding up its rulemaking on the Certificate of Need (Minn. R. Ch. 7849) and Siting/Routing (Minn. R. Ch. 7850) chapters.  My clients Goodhue Wind Truth and North Route Group have been participating all along, and their experience with the Certificate of Need and Routing/Siting process has helped inform this record and we sure hope leads to more sensible and workable rules, AND increased public participation.

Now is the time to download and make your comments on what should be included, what’s included that’s important and needs to go forward, and what needs to be reworded.

August 13 Draft 7849

7850 July 8 draft

August 13 Ch. 7850 comparison

Send Comments to:

  • kate.kahlert@state.mn.us
  • and/or post to the Rulemaking Docket.  To do that go HERE to the eDocket Filing Page, register if you’re not registered (it’s easy and almost instant), and post to Docket 12-1246.

It’s highly likely that the LAST meeting of the PUC’s Rulemaking Advisory Committee will be the one on September 24, 2014 (9:30 a.m. at the PUC, in the basement).

A few things that need work:

  • Ch. 7849 & 7850: Need language mirroring statutory language regarding testimony by members of the public UNDER OATH (ALJs have refused to offer people opportunity to testify under oath, and PUC has stated that it makes a difference, “but were those statements made under oath” and if not, less weight.
  • Ch. 7849: Advisory Task Forces need language of statute, and membership not limited to “local units of government.”
  • Ch. 7849 & 7850: Transcripts available online — need to address this in rules and reporter contracts.
  • Ch. 7849: Scoping and Alternatives — compare with Ch. 7850.  Similar process?
  • Ch. 7849.1450: When is it Commerce EER & DER
  • Ch. 7849 & 7850 – timing should be similar for completeness review, etc.
  • Ch. 7850: Public Meeting separate from Scoping Meeting (Public Meeting is to disseminate information, Scoping Meeting is for intake).
  • Ch. 7850: Power Plant Siting Act includes “Buy the Farm.”  Need rules regarding Buy the Farm.

Now is the time to review the drafts, above, and send in Comments.  There may be, I hope there are, revisions released prior to the next meeting, but usually it happens just before, and there’s no time.  So here’s where we are now, and Comments would be helpful.

It’s official – Withdrawal of Counsel for CETF

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin — posted by admin on August 28, 2014 @ 7:29 am

Pooh_breakfast

Good morning!  I’ve just filed my Withdrawal of Counsel for Citizens Energy Task Force:

CETF Withdrawal of Counsel

Overland is a free agent!

HUH?  Well, you’ll just have to wait for the book…

Book_Borchwriting

Badger Coulee Draft EIS has been released

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on August 25, 2014 @ 9:05 am

last week the Wisconsin Public Service Commission released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement … and it’s a biggie, as ATC’s Anne Spaltholz would say, “Cuddle up with your Kindle and enjoy the read!

The Comment period is open until Friday October 3rd, 2014, and because the PSC’s on-line comment page says that comments made are not part of the record, are only for staff consideration regarding the environmental review, send directly to the Environmental Coordinator for the Badger Coulee Project, Marilyn Weiss: Marilyn.Weiss@wisconsin.gov

CAUTION: PLEASE USE THE PSC’S COMMENT PAGE WITH CAUTION — USE IT WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT PART OF THE RECORD.  On most of the Comments filed in this docket:  NOTE: Public comments are currently being solicited by Commission staff for this docket. These comments will be used by staff in its scoping and analysis of this case, but will not be part of the official record.” Many, many of the comments submitted on the Comment page will not be included in the project record.  If you have filed a comment intending it to be part of the record, please check yours for that notice (theirs is not in red, though it should be!).  The PSC policy on Comments is: Only comments submitted in response the notice of hearing will be included in the record from which the Commission makes its decision.

To be clear, there are two tracks — comments to be considered by staff that are NOT part of the record, and, AFTER the “notice of hearing” comments that WILL be part of the record if filed during that window of time.  That means that once that “notice of hearing” is issued, you’ll need to refile any comments you’ve made earlier and resubmit them during that window after the “notice of hearing” or they will not be part of the record, and will not be considered by the Commission.  This is very important — I’m sure many of you were making comments thinking it was part of the record for the Commission.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t weigh in on environmental review, but it does mean that if you want your Comments to be part of the project record, remember to resubmit during that window.

In the meantime, here’s the DEIS:

Draft EIS Volume 1 pdf graphic (13969KB)
Draft EIS Volume 2 Cover pdf graphic (130KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Index pdf graphic (640KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 01 pdf graphic (6892KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 02 pdf graphic (6550KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 03 pdf graphic (5210KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 04 pdf graphic (4591KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 05 pdf graphic (4917KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 06 pdf graphic (5089KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 07 pdf graphic (4608KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 08 pdf graphic (4579KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 09 pdf graphic (6209KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 10 pdf graphic (9006KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 11 pdf graphic (10054KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 12 pdf graphic (9426KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 13 pdf graphic (5948KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 14 pdf graphic (4841KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 15 pdf graphic (5261KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 16 pdf graphic (5432KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 17 pdf graphic (5237KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 18 pdf graphic (5105KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 19 pdf graphic (5636KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 20 pdf graphic (5097KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 21 pdf graphic (6477KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 22 pdf graphic (5527KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 23 pdf graphic (4994KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 24 pdf graphic (4405KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 25 pdf graphic (4543KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 26 pdf graphic (3959KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 27 pdf graphic (4469KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 28 pdf graphic (5324KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 29 pdf graphic (4425KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 30 pdf graphic (4779KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 31 pdf graphic (4559KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 32 pdf graphic (4057KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 33 pdf graphic (5201KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 34 pdf graphic (5211KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 35 pdf graphic (5941KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 36 pdf graphic (5675KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 37 pdf graphic (5504KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 38 pdf graphic (7227KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 39 pdf graphic (6885KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 40 pdf graphic (4858KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 41 pdf graphic (5035KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 42 pdf graphic (3698KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 43 pdf graphic (3783KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 44 pdf graphic (3920KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 45 pdf graphic (4269KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 46 pdf graphic (4059KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 47 pdf graphic (4280KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-1 – Route Map 48 pdf graphic (4720KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-2 – Proposed route alternatives and existing electric transmission system pdf graphic (1912KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-3 – Ecological regions and elevations in the project area pdf graphic (7568KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-4 – Trout streams and outstanding and exceptional resource waters pdf graphic (8339KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-5 – Depth to bedrock in the project area pdf graphic (9114KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-6 – Important bird areas in the project area pdf graphic (510KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-7 – Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area Partnership properties pdf graphic (5848KB)
Draft EIS Figure Vol. 2-8 through 2-40 – Construction photographs pdf graphic (3782KB)

Some Buy the Farm background

Filed under:Buy the Farm — posted by admin on August 18, 2014 @ 7:52 am

WhiteBridgeRd_Xmsn2

Here are some photos I took yesterday of the CapX 2020 transmission project being constructed at White Bridge Rd. over the Zumbro River — UGLY UGLY UGLY, it’s ugly wherever it goes.

From KAAL-TV, filmed yesterday near Pine Island and Oronoco:

Locals Sound Off on CapX 2020 Project

A long-time energy activist recently called “Buy the Farm,” Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4, MY statute.  And in a way, it is… For at least 15 years now, since the Chisago and Arrowhead Project, its been a constant mantra.  I’ve been raising “Buy the Farm” in the administrative dockets, the courts and the legislature.  If I had a dollar for every “Buy the Farm” flyer I’ve handed out at transmission line meetings and hearings, every mile driven across Minnesota, every hour greeting attendees, every legislator hounded, I’d never have to work again.

Buy_the_Farm Flyer

In 1999, World Organization for Landowner Freedom went to the Appellate Court after Minnesota Power filed for an exemption of its Arrowhead Transmission Project at the Environmental Quality Board and the exemption was granted by the EQB.  Minnesota Power requested this exemption because the line was so short it was exempted from a Certificate of Need, so what the heck, let’s try to get it exempted from Power Plant Siting Act’s Routing requirements as well… and they did.  One “unintended consequence” was that because it was exempted from the Power Plant Siting Act, landowners affected by the project were not able to elect “Buy the Farm” because it is part of the Power Plant Siting Act.  But of course, I don’t think that was “unintended” at all.

What did the court say to our argument that the landowners didn’t receive notice that exemption would mean they couldn’t elect Buy the Farm?  Well, can you spell “raspberries?”

Due process challenge to notice to landowners

In eminent-domain proceedings for projects subject to the siting act, landowners can elect condemnation and compensation for owner’s entire fee interests.   See Minn. Stat.  116C.63, subd. 4 (2000) (take-the-whole-farm option).  WOLF argues that due process requires that notice to landowners should have included notice that if an exemption is granted, the take-the-whole farm option will not be available to them.  The siting act is unambiguous, however, and provides all the notice required that the take-the-whole-farm option does not apply to projects exempted from the act.  MP complied with the specific application-for-exemption notice requirements in the siting act.  See Minn. Stat.  116C.57, subd. 5 (2000).  No one challenged the sufficiency of notice to landowners in the proceedings before the board.  We find WOLF’s argument on this issue meritless.

Ja, tell that to the landowners under the 345 kV line… (and btw, sufficiency of notice WAS raised).

In 2001, when the legislature changed the definition of “High Voltage Transmission Line” to a transmission over 100 kV, utilities realized it would mean lines such as the SE Metro line or the Chisago Transmission Project would be affected, so they went to the legislature to get the threshold for Buy the Farm raised to 200 kV.  There was strong resistance, we stormed the Capitol, showed up and testified, but they won, lined up their toady legislators and got it through.  The result?  Landowners under all of these 69 kV “upgrades” to 115 kV and 161 kV are not able to elect the “Buy the Farm” option, despite it now being categorized as “High Voltage Transmission.”

Then the utilities began their transmission build-out, and massive it is.  Having to comply with “Buy the Farm” would greatly increase their construction costs, though they are required to sell BTF land acquisitions within a few years.  And over a decade later, in the St. Cloud area, with the first of the CapX 2020 projects to wind through the courts for condemnation, Xcel fought kicking and screaming against landowner elections of Buy the Farm and demands for relocation compensation.  Jerry Von Korff led the charge for landowners and No CapX 2020 and United Citizens Action Network filed an Amicus brief.  Xcel lost:

Buy the Farm — A Win For The Home Team!

That decision, for the landowners fighting for their right to elect Buy the Farm and for an award of relocation expenses, was a big slap upside the head for those utilities trying to limit landowner compensation — Xcel fought it through the Appellate Court and all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court — losers again:

Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion – Court File A11-1116

WhiteBridgeRd_Xmsn

Did they learn?  Naaaaaaaaaah… and here they go again, with another great win for landowners in the District Court:

Minar Order_Buy the Farm

This decision establishes yet another point on the “Buy the Farm” line showing that landowners do have rights, and can elect the Buy the Farm option.

What’s particularly important in this case is that the judge recognized that it’s NOT about the substantive issues of EMF, that causation is not at issue in an eminent domain condemnation proceeding (anymore than it is in an administrative permitting proceeding, but see Power Line Task Force v. Public Utilities Commission (2001) for the appellate view on EMF and the PUC’s responsibility for safe electricity), that experts are utterly irrelevant and should be disregarded and really, shouldn’t have been admitted — that framing by Xcel is distraction:

EMF_MinarOrder

If only the Public Utilities Commission and the Administrative Law Judges working these cases would get that message.

The trend continues… Buy the Farm is the law in the state of Minnesota.  Utilities, get used to it.  If you want to take land, pony up.

Will Xcel challenge this District Court decision?  We shall see, and if they do, we’ll have Amicus “pen” in hand to again join the fracas in support of landowners.

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Latest version of PUC draft rules

Filed under:Laws & Rules,Nuts & Bolts — posted by admin on August 17, 2014 @ 7:58 am

We’re working on the revisions of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules for Certificate of Need (Minn. R. Ch. 7849) and for Routing/Siting (Minn. R. Ch. 7850), and it’s OH SO PAINFUL.

Our next meeting is Wednesday, August 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Commission’s Large Hearing Room in the Metro Square Building, located at 121 Seventh Place East, St. Paul, MN 55101. The PUC will provide refreshments.

FINAL MEETING – Wednesday September 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Here are the latest drafts.

August 13 Draft 7849

7850 July 8 draft

August 13 Ch. 7850 comparison

The next meeting is this Wednesday, so not much time for review and comment.  Comments can be sent to kate.kahlert [at] state.mn.us and/or posted in the PUC’s Rulemaking Docket, 12-1246.  To see what all has been filed in that docket, go to PUC SEARCH DOCKETS PAGE and search for 12-1246 (“12″ is the year, “1246″ is the docket number).

Flo & David Minar & Cedar Summit WIN!!!

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,Buy the Farm — posted by admin on August 15, 2014 @ 6:49 am

MinorOrder

That says it all!

Here’s the full decision:

Minar Order_Buy the Farm

This is a big day, a victory for landowners who have a utility condemning their land for transmission.  Over and over, the utilities are losing, and landowners’ rights are affirmed by the court.  Yet because the utilities refuse to recognize their election of Buy the Farm (Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4), landowners end up in a long involved and expensive legal wrangle — at what point will the court start holding utilities accountable for their abuse of process?  Because their objections are so unreasonable, utilities should be required to pay for more than landowners expenses in standing up for their rights, there should be additional damages awarded, say for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” or Rule 11 sanctions, something to wake them up to the abusive nature of their challenges.  The law is what it is, and as landowners have to continue to fight, it will probably become even more focused on landowner rights, session by legislative session, due to the utilities’ actions.

Take a few minutes today to let your state Representative and Senator know how important it is to protect landowner rights in utility condemnations and to uphold the Buy the Farm option!

State Representatives contact info

State Senators contact info

Once more with feeling: CONGRATULATIONS, DAVE AND FLO MINAR!!!!

In the STrib:

Utility must buy the farm its towers stand on, judge rules

In the Roch Post Bulletin:

‘Buy the Farm’ ruling puts Capx 2020 on the hook

And ASAP, take a trip over to Cedar Summit Farm, have a look around, check out their pasture fed organic dairy cows, and give them a big THANK YOU to let the Minar’s know that you support their efforts to preserve landowner rights.  Oh, and then there’s the milk… cheese… ice cream… and more!  They’re located just north of New Prague, on Drexel Ave. (Co. Rd. 15), just past 260th (Co. Rd. 2).

cedar-summit

 

 

 

CapX We certainly haven’t done anything like that!

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,News coverage — posted by admin on August 9, 2014 @ 7:10 am

The next phase of the project, one that Carlsgaard called an “enormous challenge,” will cross the Mississippi. He said it will likely be constructed in February, using barges and helicopters to reach the sites in the river.

“We certainly haven’t done anything like that (before),” he said.

dohAnd this is just the start — what an eyesore it is!

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In the Rochester Post Bulletin:

CapX2020 towers, lines stretch across the area

Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 7:13 am | Updated: 6:03 pm, Fri Aug 8, 2014.

PINE ISLAND – Despite the recent rains, CapX2020 crews continue to make their way across the southeastern part of the state, stretching electric power lines as they go, and expect to be finished with the project on time.

There are about a dozen towers left to be erected between Pine Island and the Mississippi River, and Tim Carlsgaard, a spokesperson for CapX2020, said he expects the foundations for that segment to be finished by the end of the month and the structures and power line stretching to be completed by late October or early November.

ITC Midwest MN/IA – Reply Briefs are in

Filed under:ITC MN & IA 345 kV — posted by admin on August 8, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

ITC MVP Study 3

The Reply Briefs are in on the ITC Midwest MN/IA 345 kV transmission project.   MECA, et al.’s is really a hoot.  A couple of them say “no full party intervenors oppose/disagree” or some such but then there’s the Commerce Reply Brief.  Yup, it ain’t only Overland, errrrr… argument of counsel.  You’ll have a little more trouble dissing Commerce DER with the Commission.  Yes, the Commerce DER Reply Brief takes the cake.

DER specifically disagrees that the record supports:

Untitled

Cool.  I love it when that happens…

Here are the Reply Briefs in the ITC Midwest docket:

CETF NoCapX_Reply Brief CoN

Applicants_Reply Brief_CoN_20148-102143-03

Applicants_Reply Brief_Route_20148-102143-03-1

MCEA_Reply Brief_ CoN20148-102133-01

MISO_Reply Brief_CoN 20148-102132-01

Commerce DER_Reply Brief CoN 20148-102138-02

CommerceEERA_Reply Brief Route_20148-102140-02

 

North Dakota xmsn complete — more coal on the wires!

Filed under:News coverage,Nuts & Bolts,RUS EIS — posted by admin on August 3, 2014 @ 4:55 pm

Hearing Ex. 13, Big Picture Map

See that line up there going through North Dakota?  They’ve just finished it, it’s ready to energize.  And of course, it’s clear that now that Minnesota Power has bought the DC line that’s been used for coal, that now the coal will go over CapX lines off through Minnesota to Wisconsin and points east.  HUH?  Yes, they allude to in a “We’ve completed this new transmission line” article it not-so-subtly:

The reassignment of an existing transmission line also means more transmission facilities are needed.

… and:

“Once built, the bulk flow of electricity moves to the new line, which frees up capacity on the underlying system.”

DOH!

The USDA/RUS documents say it very clearly:

Minnkota has proposed the construction of approximately 260 miles of 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Center to Grand Forks, N.D., to deliver additional energy recently secured from Milton R. Young 2, a 455-megawatt (MW) coal-fi red plant near Center, N.D., owned by Square Butte Electric Cooperative.

… and this:

To bring the energy generated by Young 2 into the Red River Valley, Minnkota will construct a new 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Center to Grand Forks. Building the new transmission line will enablethe existing DC transmission line from theMilton R. Young Station to carry more renewable wind energy.

Here’s that original RUS document:

Scoping Report_Appendix I

There’s still the shifted coal into the Eastern Interconnect and proposed expansions to deal with — those mentioned in the federal opinion tossing out the 2007 “Next Generation Energy Act” saying “no go” under the Commerce Clause:

Very logical, makes a lot of sense.  It’s not like Minnesota Power’s taking that line would make them shut down a coal plant!

So now we have one more transmission line in the superhighway from the Dakotas to Madison and beyond…

250-mile transmission line to Grand Forks completed

Minnkota Power Cooperative’s 345-kilovolt line spans from near Center, N.D., to Grand Forks, where the co-op is based. The $353 million project began construction more than two years ago, according to a news release.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace