CETF and SOUL file Petition to Reopen

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on January 9, 2014 @ 10:07 pm


CapX Substation – photo stolen from CapX 2020

Today Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and SOUL of Wisconsin filed a Petition to Reopen Based on New Information, followed by a Cover letter and three documents for the footnote links (fn 10, 12, & 22) weren’t working:

FILED_CETF-SOUL Request to Reopen

Jan 10 Cover Letter & fn 10 – MN PUC Order

Fn 12 – ICF’s Independent Assessment of MISO Operational Benefits, February 27, 2007 (my all-time favorite of studies)

Fn 22 – ATC’s Answer to Xcel, FERC Docket 12-28-000

Here are links to media coverage, will update as more are published:

Citizens groups ask PSC to reopen CapX 2020 decision

CAPX2020 opponents say electricity demand down

Business Briefs 01/10/14

SOUL and CETF Request the Reopening of the CAPX2020 Case

CAPX2020 Protests – Winona Radio Portal

Xcel wants transmission only company

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on December 6, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

It’s been a decade since Xcel Energy was beaten back on their attempt to start a transmission only company, TRANSLink.  For that docket, go to PUC DOCKET SEARCH and look for Docket 02-2152.  There’s a lot of interesting information there, like:


And now they’re wanting to do it again, and since the 2005 transmission bill, they can, it was authorized by the Minnesota legislature in 2005.Here’s their presentation to “investors” from Dec. 4th:

Transmission Leadership Dec 2013

Recently in the STrib:

Xcel has plans to create its own transmission company

The Minneapolis-based utility joins other major power companies in seeking to create a subsidiary that could develop power line projects serving areas beyond its eight-state customer region.

Xcel Energy Inc. plans to create a transmission subsidiary to build some new high-voltage lines, executives told analysts at an investor conference investor in New York on Wednesday.

Stand-alone transmission companies are becoming more common in the electric utility industry because the federal government has encouraged them as a way to boost competition and reduce costs on big multistate power line projects.

“The main purpose is to give us some financial flexibility,” said Teresa Mogensen, Xcel’s vice president for transmission.

Xcel, based in Minneapolis, traditionally has built power lines on its own or in partnership with other utilities. But it plans to create a stand-alone transmission company in 2014 as a potential vehicle to develop $650 million in power lines in and near its Texas and New Mexico service areas.

Xcel projected overall 2014 capital expenditures of $2.9 billion and five-year capital expenditures of $14.1 billion. Transmission investments are expected to be nearly $1 billion in each of the next three years, Mogensen said.

Regulated by federal government

Electric utilities like Xcel that deliver power to homes and businesses are local monopolies whose investments and rates are closely regulated by state utility commissions.

But a new class of utility — focused solely on transmission lines — has emerged to compete for multi-state transmission projects. The financial terms of these projects typically are regulated by a federal agency rather than state utility commissions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has promoted more competition in multi-state transmission projects, has for several years allowed utilities higher rates of return compared with levels typically approved by state regulators for such investments. That’s one reason creating a stand-alone transmission company can be an attractive business proposition for utilities.

In 2002, American Transmission Co., based in Waukesha, Wis., was created as the nation’s first stand-alone transmission company, and now has $3.3 billion in assets. It is owned mostly by Wisconsin utilities, including municipal and cooperative power companies; Duluth-based Allete Inc., parent of Minnesota Power, has an 8 percent stake.

Some of the nation’s largest utilities, including Duke Energy and American Electric Power, also have created separate transmission ventures, which are known in the industry as “transcos.”

Xcel CEO Ben Fowke told analysts that his company needs to do likewise.

“If we are going to be in the game, a transco is something you need to have, so you are on an even keel,” Fowke said. “We don’t want to not have that vehicle if it turns out to be a competitive advantage.”

Jim Fama, vice president of energy delivery for the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, said regional grid operators such as MISO, the grid operator for 15 states including Minnesota, are seeing various proposals from such transmission companies for power line projects.

“Regardless of the builder, getting transmission projects built continues to be risky and long-term, and companies need a return on equity that is commensurate with the risk,” Fama said in an e-mail.

Mogensen said in an interview that Xcel’s transmission company will mainly be a vehicle for developing and financing projects, and will rely on existing Xcel Energy employees, whose work for the unit would be charged back to it. The two initial projects being considered under the new entity are transmission lines serving new oil and gas fields in Texas and New Mexico.

She said it’s unclear whether Xcel’s new transmission subsidiary will try to build power lines elsewhere. State laws in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, three of the eight states where Xcel operates, discourage competitive transmission projects. Xcel supported passage of those competition-limiting measures.

PUC Rulemaking Drafts & Meeting

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on September 30, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

Update – Minnesota Rules for Certificate of Need!  This applies to power plants and transmission lines.

Yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptake here, but the minutes from the last Public Utilities Commission Rulemaking Committee and the latest rule draft update came out what, a month ago???  Naaaah, more like three weeks, but still…  And the next Committee meeting is Wednesday.  THIS Wednesday…

Who cares about the rules?  Who cares about Minn. R. Ch. 7849?  Well, we all should because it’s the way the Commission determines, in this case, whether a particular proposed power plant or transmission line is “needed” or not.  It lays out what the applicant must put into an application, it sets the parameters of initial notice for the project generally and the different types of notice as the project moves through the morass that is regulation.

Certificate of Need is the “IF” stage, IF a project will go forward, and not “WHERE” which comes after it’s determined that it’s needed (rightly or wrongly).  If a project gets a Certificate of Need, then the next question is WHERE.  These rules address forecasts and what types are necessary and how current,  if an applicant should be exempted from any of the rules based on the type of project or situation, the (nominal) environmental review in an “Environmental Report,” what avenues are open for public participation such as meetings and public hearings, whether you can question witnesses at the hearings, blah blah… it’s arcane, it might be boring, but it’s what we’ve got to deal with.  You can find really painful examples of how the rules do and don’t work here and at www.nocapx2020.info.  Please weigh in!

Join us:

Rulemaking Advisory Committee

9-11 a.m. — Wednesday, October 2, 2013

PUC Building Basement (follow signs)

121 East 7th Place

St. Paul, Minnesota  55101

This is about Minn. R. Ch. 7849, the rules covering Certificate of Need.

From the PUC:

August 28 Synopsis

September 10 Draft

We’re getting pretty far along, so this would be a good time to get comments in on the September 10 Draft — QUICK before they issue a formal draft and it’s set in stone.

1 worker killed & 1 injured

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on August 14, 2013 @ 10:56 am

xcel_logoAs Xcel said in a billboard near the capital, beware, powerlines kill.  That was a safety reminder for people climbing on their roofs, but now it’s a terrible fact for a construction worker on the CapX 2020 transmission project.

KARE 11 – with film clip of site:

Worker dies after construction mishap near New Prague

In the STrib:

One man was killed and at least one other was injured Wednesday morning while working on the CapX2020 power line construction project near New Prague in Scott County, authorities said.

Randy Fordice, a spokesman for Great River Energy, said crews were digging a hole about 50 feet deep for the foundation of a power pole. The workers were on the ground outside the hole and were attached to a harness with straps attached to a very large piece of concrete when the accident happened. They were part of the crew preparing for concrete to be poured into the hole.

A piece of the safety gear broke, Fordice said, and the two men fell into the hole.

“We’re trying to figure out what happened, what piece of equipment failed and why,” he said late Wednesday morning.

The surviving worker had injuries to his extremeties and was taken by helicopter to a local hospital. The other man died at the scene.

The accident happened at 8:50 a.m. along County Road 2 between Drexel Avenue and Hwy. 21. Authorities are still investigating the accident, Fordice said.

On Monday, helicopters began stringing heavy-duty transmission lines on the CapX2020 project, which involves 250 miles of high-voltage line between Brookings County, S.D., and Dakota County. Wednesday’s accident did not involve that portion of the construction.

On KMSP TV with film clip too:

1 killed, 1 injured in New Prague construction hole fall

On KEYC Mankato:

Worker dies on workplace accident near New Prague

Xcel/NSP responds to Oronoco Supreme Court Petition

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on August 12, 2013 @ 9:46 am

Here it is – sorry it took so long to get it posted!  I’d scanned it in, and then lost it.  AAAARGH!

Xcel Response to Oronoco Petition to MN Supreme Court

And here are the others already posted:

Public Utilities Commission Response to Oronoco Petition to Supreme Court

Oronoco Petition to Supreme Court

PUC answers Oronoco’s Petition to MN Supreme Court

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on August 4, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

It’s filed, the Public Utilities Commission’s Answer to Oronoco Township’s Petition to the Supreme Court for review of the routing decision over the White Bridge Road in Oronoco.

Public Utilities Commission Response to Oronoco Petition to Supreme Court

I expect Xcel to file one too, but maybe not.  The possibility of the Supreme Court taking on this case is slim to none because it’s an Administrative decision, and the Appellate Court gives great deference to the agency decision, and the Supreme Court?  It’s not about to act on an administrative case with a unanimous decision.  It just doesn’t happen — and it’s not like the Court of Appeals where they have to take whatever comes its way — the Supreme Court gets to pick and choose.  I’m really surprised Oronoco filed the Petition, but oh well… guess they can afford it…

Here’s Oronoco’s Petition:

Oronoco Petition to Supreme Court

Fargo-Monticello under construction

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on July 9, 2013 @ 9:22 am

We went up to Lake Itasca the last week of June, and driving up 94, just to see the transmission, well, it was depressing to say the least.  There are towers up, foundations up, lay-down yards visible, heartbreaking…


Do you remember anything about these “H” frame structures without the cross-connector piece, maybe “II” frames, eh?  I thought it was all monopoles.

And this, oh my, look how close it is to those turkey barns!  How can that be?


Look how high they are over the tree line, the TALL tree line:




Part of the lay-down yard:



Home sweet home, office sweet office (they have internet in the Itasca campgrounds!)… right across from the lake.  PERFECT weather.




The water level is seriously low, much of the small bays and lakelettes are showing green growth where water was last time we were up there.

Booted out of FERC

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on July 3, 2013 @ 10:45 am


We got the FERC Order earlier this a.m. dismissing our Complaint, it took them 22 pages to do it:

FERC Order Dismission CETF Complaint

Sigh… they recommend we participate in the MISO MTEP process:

We encourage Complainants to work with MISO and other stakeholders in developing transmission plans for the MISO region in the future as part of MISO’s Order Nos. 890- and 1000-compliant transmission planning process.

… stating that:

MISO posts on its website, and notifies interested registered parties through an email exploder list, all stakeholder meetings. MISO’s MTEP is developed with stakeholder involvement through various stakeholder forums, including the Planning Advisory Committee, the Planning Subcommittee and Sub-Regional Planning meetings held in various locations throughout MISO’s regional footprint. Stakeholders have the ability to participate in person or through MISO’s webcasts and teleconferencing of such meetings.

Well, let’s see, that presumes that MISO’s transmission planning process is compliant.  Here’s their organizational chart:

You can sign up for a profile here and register for meeting notifications, etc., which I’ve done, and have also sent an email to Jeff Webb, the PAC Liason.  CLICK HERE TO MAKE PROFILE

CAVEAT: We can only participate as a non-member, non-voting, and this footnote to the “environmental/other stakeholder member groups” members:

The entities comprising these stakeholder groups are not members of MISO; rather, they are representatives of public consumer groups and other stakeholder groups serving on the Advisory Committee, which have been chosen by recognized consumer,environmental and other stakeholder organizations having an interest in the activities of MISO.

These groups are:

1.  Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana
2.  Clean Wisconsin
3.  Environmental Law & Policy Center
4.  Fresh Energy
5.  Great Plains Institute
6.  Izaak Walton League of America
7.  Project for Sustainable FERC Energy Policy
8.  Wind on the Wires

Here’s the membership of their Planning Advisory Committee.

What affects us most in this area is the “Northern Area Study” and here’s the June 2013 Northern Area Study.


Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on June 10, 2013 @ 8:09 am

After all this waiting, it’s out, the appeals of the CapX 2020 Hampton-LaCrosse routing order has been released.  I have scanned and they affirmed both PUC decisions in the areas in question.  Horrible on the Cannon Falls part, and just what was expected for the Zumbro River crossing.

Here it is…

OPA 121607-061013

Frustrating the way they acknowledge arguments and then blow it off… GRRRRRRR

Waiting… waiting…

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on May 20, 2013 @ 12:03 pm


Dog waiting for his owners to come (attribution)

Waiting for the decision of the Appellate Court.  It’s due soon… this month.  While that’s going on, Rochester Post Bulletin seems to have soy ink to spare to write about waiting.  Seems also Oronoco Township spent “a couple hundred thousand dollars” on “fighting the project.”

Below is what the Post Bulletin had to say, yes, it does go on, in search of hope that Oronoco will turn that decision around, and utterly ignoring the failure of the contractor, Barr Engineering, to get the “pre-existing corridor” characterization right, at BOTH dams where they had an interest, and then the Commerce employee in charge of this project, Matt Langan, resigned and went to work for Xcel Energy (on the other hand, the Xcel Energy employee in charge of this project (Tom Hillstrom) quit to work on light rail for the Met Council — does that make it even?  Noooooo!  Not even close.).

The PB has also taken a very narrow look at this and doesn’t know and/or omits basic facts.  From the sidebar:

Planning began in 2006 for the $2.2-billion CapX2020 project that will connect Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota to an improved energy grid by 2015, with South Dakota being added by 2017.

The route of the 345-kilovolt line from the Pine Island area to the Mississippi River has been one of the most controversial aspects of the project. Oronoco Township in Olmsted County has asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to block the approved route across the township and send it back to the Public Utilities Commission for reconsideration.

About that first paragraph: Planning formally began in 2004, released in 2005 in the May 11, 2005 Capx 2020 Technical Update, in Kaul CapX letter – Sept 6 2005 – BSII, and October 2005 CapX Technical Update – Wisc PSC Docket 05-CE-136 entered by No CapX/CETF Item 5, but there are fingerprints in the WRAO Report from 1998 that gathered a the most amazing group of electrical engineers who put together a long laundry list of transmission lines, a transmission planner’s dream.  HELLO, it was APPLIED FOR in Minnesota in 2006 — search for PUC Docket 06-1115.

And that second paragraph: Have they not heard about the Minnesota River crossing on the Brookings line?  Or the Avon Township/St. John’s area on the Fargo line?  Wake up, it’s not all about the monied interests driving the Rochester Post Bulletin.

In this docket, they are ignoring the crossing of the Cannon River near Lake Byllesby, where the contractor, Barr Engineering, conveniently failed to disclose in the EIS that there was a massive transmission corridor along route 1P-003, the same area where that contractor had another contract to work on the Byllesby Regional Park Master Plan.  They’re completely ignoring the issues raised by Cannon Falls landowners and St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church.  And then there’s the route in Wisconsin, through Holmen, next to the school…  “One of the most controversial aspects of this project?”

Appellate Court Briefs of note:

Initial Brief – St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church and Cannon Falls Landowners

Reply Brief – Cannon Falls Landowners and St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church

Laymen for Christ o/o of Woodland Camp (only one – Laymen for Christ is Respondent)

There have been at least one thousand very concerned people across Minnesota who put thousands of hours of time into fighting this CapX 2020 project over the last 9 years.  TAKE OFF THE BLINDERS!

And “pitting neighbor against neighbor” started in this Hampton-La Crosse routing docket when Oronoco Township strongly and specifically stated that it was advocating a “stick it there” strategy and said that the transmission line should go on the North Route, was even quoted as saying so in the Rochester Post Bulletin.  After they threw down the gloves, just before the intervention deadline, the  North Route Group intervened and presented factual, credible testimony and exhibits what were not challenged.  The manner in which the township approached this was disturbing, with witnesses making gross misrepresentations, such as Smith testifying about the impacts on supposedly existing developments, such as Zumbro Sound:

Oronoco witness Smith testified that when he said “developed” he meant they were “completed, construction is completed, ready for occupancy.” After plat maps of several subdivisions were entered into the record, and he was questioned about specifics of each subdivision plat map entered, and he then agreed, contrary to his prior testimony, that there were many vacant lots in the subdivisions. Ex. 86, Plat Maps of Landings at Sandy Pointe, Zumbo Haven, and Zumbro Sound.  Testimony of Smith, Tr. Vol. 2, p. 44-81. Smith testified that in Zumbro Sound subdivision, seven units were constructed, but agreed when questioned, that it was likely that only three homes had been built. Id. Broberg, when questioned about these subdivisions, also agreed there were many vacant lots. Testimony of Broberg, Tr. Vol. 2, p. 133-134. When questioned about the location of the subdivisions, Mr. Smith that the nearest one, Zumbro Haven, is about a quarter mile away from the proposed alignment, and Sandy Point, about one half mile away. Id., p. 82-84. None of these subdivisions is directly affected by the transmission line as proposed.  (See those citations — really, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!!)

And Oronoco witness Jeff Broberg, the guy who testified that Lake Zumbro is the only lake in Olmsted County, how credible can he be?  Well, here’s his “Exhibit 7” representing the boat as pulling up to the landing, when in fact you can’t get there from here, the boat landing at the White Bridge Road is closed and has been for years and has a big ol’ overgrown sand bar in front of it (Barr Engineering had a contract regarding dredging of Lake Zumbro, they should know!):


If you look in the upper right corner over the bridge, you can see the distribution line that crosses White Bridge Road.  More importantly, here’s what that boat landing really looks like, the rest of the story, the true picture, this is not new, it’s been this way for years:


It’d be nice if the Post Bulletin would report the entire story, and not just that of the monied interest in this mess.


Back to the Post Bulletin:

‘Nobody is a winner’ in CapX routing dispute

Elizabeth Nida Obert / enida@postbulletin.com

Substation construction site, 1 mile north of Pine Island along Highway 52, west side of highway.

Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013 10:30 am

Brett Boese, bboese@postbulletin.com

If Lake Zumbro area residents and stakeholders were divided into winners and losers with regard to current CapX 2020 power line plans, David Nelson and his Christian camp would be among the winners.

That said, he’s not happy about it. The executive director at Camp Victory Ministries says it’s “sad” that his camp was able to claim victory only by others having to deal with the power line route approved last year by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

“One of the things I can’t stand about this thing, personally, is that it pits neighbor against neighbor,” said Nelson. The camp hosts 1,200 kids each summer and up to 200 people on weekend retreats.

“Nobody is a winner when they have power lines running through their property. It pits Minnesotan against Minnesotan. I don’t know that there’s a way to avoid that, but it’s disappointing.”


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace