MTEP 11 steamrolling its way across the Midwest

Here it is, MTEP 11, the Midwest Transmission Expansion Plan for 2011 (CLICK HERE, look on lower right), and it’s in the news too.  The main report and some appendices:

MTEP 11 – Draft Report

MTEP Appendices A B & C

MTEP 11 Appendix A-1_2_3 – Cost Allocation

Page listing all the Appendices

MTEP Appendix e52 Detailed Proposed MVP Portfolio Business Case

Please take note that this includes not only the CapX 2020 Brookings-Hampton line (#2 on map), but also the LaCrosse-Madison line (#5 on map), the one they need to build or they’ve got a lot of system instability goin’ on.

mtep-map

From my perspective, the most important thing to be aware of is that MTEP 11, and the MTEPs that preceded it, are about the shift to economic dispatch and development of the electric market.  At the outset, MISO studied potential benefits of this shift, and found massive economic benefits, of which they speak in their press release.  The economic benefits are realized by optimizing use of lower production cost generation, and in their own words, to “displace natural gas with coal.”  Don’t believe it?  Read this study that ICF did for MISO:

ICF – Midwest ISO Benefits Analysis

This is the worst possible result for those of us who breathe, and means that tens of thousands of landowners will have very high voltage transmission lines on their land, taken from them by eminent domain.  These projects, almost all of the MTEP projects, are not about electric reliability, they’re “need” is to deliver market transactions of electric generation from any “point A” to any “point B,” and this is a private interest, a desire for market profits, and not a public interest.

Another issue looming is “what does MISO ‘approval’ mean?”  Transmission lines are regulated by states, individually, and there is a movement to strip states of their regulatory authority and transfer that to federal entities.  Look no further than Obama’s transmission “fast track” proposal, naming one of the CapX 2020 projects!  States must make their energy regulatory decisions in an open, transparent process and based their decisions on ratepayer and public interest.  That focus is not present in federal top-down edicts.  States’ rights are at issue and we need to keep on our toes so this power shift doesn’t slide through.

And it’s not “just” the ICF report above, that’s it’s all about coal is clear from prior press.  Here’s an important sentence, quoting GRE’s spin-guy Randy Fordice — explaining what we all know, that the MISO effort to get the “benefits” of displacing natural gas with coal:

They now consider the line to be a multi-value project since system reliability- and service to existing substations and existing fossil fuel plants- are also benefited, he said.

Coal with benefits, yesiree…  Gotta hand it to Fordice for being honest!

Here it is in the news:

$730M transmission line to harness South Dakota wind

Wind?  NOT!  Recall that honest quote from Fordice, above!

Power line projects advance, despite opposition

And in the St. PPP:

Power line project to Dakota County clears last hurdle


By Leslie Brooks Suzukamo
lsuzukamo@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 12/08/2011 10:22:15 PM CST

The operators of the Midwest’s power grid on Thursday approved a $730 million high-voltage transmission line from Brookings, S.D., to the town of Hampton in Dakota County.

The transmission line is one of 17 big projects given the green light by Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, better known as MISO, in an initiative designed to strengthen the grid and speed up the development of renewable wind energy.

Called the Brookings Line, the 230-mile project could carry wind energy from the Dakotas and southern and western Minnesota, say a group of regional utilities led by Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, who back the project.

Opponents who live along proposed path of the 345-kilovolt line have questioned the line’s necessity. Some of have expressed concern about their health by living close to such high voltage; others say the line will become a conduit for coal power from the Dakotas instead of a green project carrying wind power.

But the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted to go ahead with the project in April 2009, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld that decision a year later.

The line has received all needed permits from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, said Randy Fordice, a spokesman for CAPX 2020, a consortium of regional utilities. Construction could begin next April, Fordice said. The project is an example of wind transmission projects being drawn up across the Midwest that MISO is trying to accommodate.
These projects are envisioned to help states meet their standards or targets for adding renewable energy such as wind power to their energy mix in order to reduce dependence upon coal-fired power plants that spew emissions that are unhealthy and linked to climate change.

Minnesota has the region’s strongest renewable energy mandate, requiring its utilities generally to provide 25 percent of their energy from renewables by 2025.

The mandate puts a heavier burden upon its largest utility, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, requiring it to derive 30 percent of its power from renewables by 2020.

The unanimous vote by the MISO board in Carmel, Ind., marked the first time the grid operator took into account the policy needs of states, said Beth Soholt, executive director of Wind on the Wires, a St. Paul advocacy group for wind energy.

“I would call it historic,” she said. Before this, MISO primarily focused on the reliability of the grid and not concerned with the kind of power transmitted over it, she said.

MISO’s approval will make it easier for Minnesota to export wind energy in the future, MISO vice president of transmission asset management Clair Moeller said in a press conference.

Although the MISO board’s decision approves 215 projects worth $6.5 billion, the 17 green power projects like the Brookings line account for $5.2 billion of the cost.

Ultimately, ratepayers will pay for all these projects, but so-called multivalue projects like the Brookings Line carry a tariff that spreads the cost across MISO’s 12 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

So, instead of Minnesota being saddled solely with the cost of the Brookings Line, states as far away as Michigan will help shoulder the burden. And vice versa.

The MISO board reasoned that all states benefit from these projects, because they strengthen the grid, shoring up aging infrastructure. They also allow states to add renewable energy and clear out congestion on the lines so states can have better access to cheaper electricity when they need it, which makes the grid more efficient.

“It’s hooking up Midwest power to meet Midwest needs,” Soholt said. The grid MISO operates stretches from the Dakotas to Michigan and Manitoba to Indiana.

The projects “will allow the region to build a robust transmission grid that will bring reliability and economic benefits to the region as well as smoothing the way for the Midwest to tap its considerable wind resources,” said Rob Gramlich of the American Wind Energy Association.

In other states, some projects will next have to undertake lengthy regulatory approval.

Last year, some states in MISO had balked at the new Multi-Value Projects tariff, saying they were too far from Minnesota and the Dakotas to benefit from their wind power on the grid.

But other Midwestern states have already started tapping into the prairie winds. Indiana Power and Light Co. has a purchase agreement with a wind farm in Lakefield in southwest Minnesota.

Update on all CapX dockets

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,Fargo-St Cloud,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,St.Cloud-Monticello,Wisconsin — posted by admin on August 31, 2011 @ 7:02 am

What’s going on?  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…

sleeping-homer

Biggest news was the landowner win on eminent domain and Buy the Farm compensation issues.  THIS IS A MUST READ!

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

Monticello – permit issued, construction beginning with a bang.  BANG! This video is choice!!!

Brookings – permit issued.  Reconsideration denied.

Fargo – permit issued.  No Motion for Reconsideration.

LaCrosse – MN – briefing, due Sept. 19, IF the agency f/k/a MOES gets the FEIS out by August 31… shall we take bets?

LaCrosse – WI – starting up, extension of permit issue deadline to June 30, 2012.  I’d submitted a Petition for Order Allowing Appearance/Pro Hac Vice and it’s not been issued yet.  WTF? That was a MONTH ago…

Tell Obama what you think about transmission!

Here’s your chance!  Obama is coming to Cannon Falls on Monday morning, the press release says a “bus tour” so does that mean down 52 to 19?

obama-progress

If we can’t get in, we can line the route to let him know what we think about taking people’s land for private purpose transmission lines and his utter lack of a coherent energy policy.

11:45 a.m. the shindig starts in Lower Hannah’s Bend Park in Cannon Falls.

Remember when Clinton came to Carleton?  He flew into MSP and then hopped a helicopter to Stanton Airport.  Initially I figured that’d be how they do it this time, just head east instead of west, but considering that “bus” bit, 52 makes the most sense, and then down 52 to Decorah (so the FAA no fly zone VIP announcement says):

President Barack Obama is planning to stop in Minnesota on Monday to begin a three-day bus tour to promote his economic policies. The White House announced Thursday that Air Force One will land in Minneapolis on Monday morning and then the president will host a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park.
Monday, Aug. 15, 2011:

Lower Hannah’s Bend Park (just north and west of downtown)

Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 – 11:45 AM

Tickets required.  Tickets may be picked up at 1 PM on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, at 1 PM at the Cannon Falls City Hal, 918 River Road, Cannon Fallsl.

Only two tickets/person are allowed and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
(Rumor has it only 500 tickets being distributed.)

The bus tour will also include events in Peosta, Iowa, and in western Illinois.

From the White House Press Release:

For security reasons, do not bring bags and limit personal items.  No signs or banners permitted.  All attendees will go through airport-like security.  Due to limited space at the event the White House will only be able to fulfill a limited number of requests for tickets. Tickets are not for sale or re-sale.

Peosta, Iowa???  That’s where Art Hughes died!

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

transmission-sw-mn

Transmission going up in SW Minnesota (Fair Use – from mpr.org)

As Xcel tries to build its CapX 2020 wonderland, and as people are being served with Petitions for condemnation of their land for easements for this transmission buildout, people are starting to stand up and holler:

BUY THE FARM!

Buy the Farm, that little statutory out for landowners who don’t want anything to do with a transmission line, it gives them the option to say to the utilities, “NO, you’re not getting an easement, you’ve got to BUY THE FARM!“  Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4.

Seems a number of landowners on the St. Cloud-Monticello part of the Fargo-Monticello CapX 2020 transmission line were telling Xcel/GRE a/k/a “CapX 2020 Applicants” what to do with their condemnation petitions, and so the utilities started playing hardball.

First, the bad news — the important newsif you want them to BUY THE FARM, you have 60 days, and no more. That’s 60 days when you’re first served with a Petition for Condemnation.  The people who were late were tossed out of court.  Moral to this story?  You snooze, you LOSE!  Please don’t snooze.

When a landowner is faced with condemnation, here’s a typical sample of what they get:

Utility’s Response to Buy the Farm Election by Landowner – March 1, 2011

Look at what they’re “asking” for – what a load:

manurespreader

response-list

So based on this, the landowners response was an eloquent PPPPPFFFFFFBBBBBBBBBBBT!

Respondents Stice and Shores Reply to Petitioner’s Response to Landowner Election of Buy the Farm – April 18, 2011

Oh, we’re ramping up here… now for their Memorandum:

Respondents Stice and Shore Memorandum of Law – April 18, 2011

And the utility attorneys argue that no, they don’t HAVE to move, they don’t get anything…

Utility Memo Arguing No Relocation, that Ch. 117 doesn’t apply

And the Court says…  (…drumroll …):

Wright County Order – July 13, 2011

Short version:

  1. One party’s motion for minimum compensation and relocation benefits granted, Minn. Stat. 117.187 and 117.52 apply to 216E.12.
  2. Another party’s motion relocation assistance, minimum compensation and loss of going concerned DENIED, stating there’s information to determination if their property is commercially viable.
  3. Another party tossed out, you snooze, you LOSE, there’s a 60 day window for Buy the Farm, and no more.  Close doesn’t count.
  4. Fourth party delayed until they have more time for Discovery and have a hearing later this month.

READ THE DECISION, really, this is probably the MUST READ of the year.

Brookings – PUC Denies Reconsideration

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on April 15, 2011 @ 11:11 am

belleplainexing

PUC denies Motion for Reconsideration made on behalf of landowners near Belle Plaine:

PUC Order – Reconsideration Denied

That’s the final Order, issued today, so the 30 day appeal clock starts ticking now.

Brookings Remand – Motion for Reconsideration & Reply

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on March 31, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

Brookings Motion for Reconsideration has been filed.

I just was eServed the CapX Applicants’ Reply to Motion for Reconsideration, but was there a Motion for Reconsideration? So I went to the docket, and sure enough, one was filed.  It didn’t come through eDockets eService notifications that I can see, and it didn’t come via email or mail… hmmmmmmm.

Well, anyway, here are the filings – it’s large:

Wolter – Motion for Reconsideration – Part 1

Wolter – Motion for Reconsideration – Part 2

What notified me of the Motion for Reconsideration was that this Response was filed, just in!

CapX Applicants – Response to Motion for Reconsideration

It looks like the Motion for Reconsideration was mailed to the PUC and stamped “received” on March 18, 2011, and then filed by the PUC on the 21st.  I’ve checked my Inbox and have a few things for 08-1474 going way, way back, but nothing.  Was it served?

I wish they’d have intervened in the Remand… I’d pushed for a reopening of the window for intervention, knowing there were people concerned who had sat out the initial Brookings proceeding, and the deadline for intervention was extended to September 2, 2010:

Prehearing Order 1 – Intervention Deadline September 2, 2010

…oh well… ya can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em intervene.

So is there an appeal in the offing?  Perhaps.  MinnCan Redux?  Perhaps…

MinnCan Pipeline – Unpublished Appellate Case

Two eagles electrocuted in Alaska

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,News coverage — posted by admin on February 12, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

eagleeye

Not one, but TWO electrocuted eagles in Alaska!  See the Kodial Caily Mirror for info on the second, unbanded, eagle.

Here’s an example of what is likely to happen if they build the CapX 2020 transmission line across the Minnesota River — eagle, extra crispy:

Leg band confirms electrocuted Kodiak bald eagle was Alaska’s second-oldest on record


By DAN JOLING , Associated Press

Last update: February 11, 2011 – 10:12 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A Kodiak Island bald eagle survived 25 years of Alaska hazards but met an unfortunate fate last month on the crossbar of a utility pole: electrocution.

A band attached to its leg showed the bird to be the second-oldest bald eagle documented in Alaska and one of the oldest in the country.

“It would be, based on the bird-banding record that I’ve seen, one of the top 10 oldest birds ever recorded,” said Robin Corcoran, a wildlife biologist from the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge.

(more…)

STrib article about PUC’s Brookings decision

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on February 4, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

This just out on the STrib:

Belle Plaine upset by power-line route choice

Residents thought Public Utilities Commission planned to put high-voltage line through Le Sueur. The city could appeal the decision.

By KATIE HUMPHREY, Star Tribune

The decision to stretch a high-voltage power line across the Minnesota River at Belle Plaine has shocked and angered local residents who had hoped the CapX2020 project to expand the state’s transmission grid would pass farther south, near Le Sueur, Minn.

The Public Utilities Commission picked the river route Thursday, completing the intensely debated transmission line route that had been in the works since 2008. The decision can be appealed.

A route that would have brought the 345-kilovolt transmission line across the river at Le Sueur had been labeled as the preferred route since the beginning, only to fall by the wayside when a complaint about possible effects on area eagles — later withdrawn — delayed the approval process in September 2010.

“It was like a bait and switch,” said Vicki Wolter, a Belle Plaine resident who rallied neighbors and attended the commission meeting. “Let’s let the people of Belle Plaine believe this isn’t going to happen and in the end, flip it over and catch them off guard.”

Randy Fordice, a spokesman for the CapX2020 project, said the power companies did as required by state law: identified two distinct routes and assigned preference to one at the time of the application.
(more…)

PUC chooses Belle Plaine crossing

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on @ 10:00 am

Yesterday, the Public Utilities Commission “chose” to route the Minnesota River Crossing at Belle Plaine.  I put that in quotes because once the MnDOT scenic easements became public information it was clear that the LeSueur route was not feasible.  These scenic easements were first raised by the DOT on April 4, 2009, but not public until December, 2009 during the public hearings, and this is something the Applicants knew or should have known, and right after April 30, 2009 at the earliest, they should have been ordered by the PUC to go back to the drawing board and come up with another feasible route so that the application would comply with the state requirement of TWO feasible routes.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Yesterday’s meeting sucked… as one who advocates for regular people affected by utility infrastructure, and who urges people to stand up, to testify, to tell the Commission what they think, I was appalled at Commissioner O’Brien’s actions, he is at best clueless to the impacts of his words, and at worst… well, it won’t help to go there.  But I think it’s time he found something else to do, his actions have hurt the credibility of the Commission.

Here’s the tape of it, see for yourself how O’Brien behaved:

PUC Meeting February 3, 2011

Theresa Ruhland is a landowner who had participated since before the application, going to their pre-application meetings, before any route had been proposed.  In the application, her farm was on the section of route where the “Preferred Route” and the “Alternate Route” overlapped, the only part where there were not TWO distinct options.  She was on the Task Force and proposed specific alternate options that would provide two distinct and separate route possibilities.

ruhland

She attended every public meeting, attended the evidentiary hearings, and every PUC meeting about this project.  She warned them over and over and over, orally, in comments, in testimony, both applicants and MOES, about RES, the fireworks factory next door to her farm, noting that fireworks and electric transmission lines are NOT compatible.  Yet despite this constant and thoughtful participation, at the very end, as hearings were concluding, when they had not acknowledged the RES problems, RES intervened and suddenly MOES and applicants take the fireworks problem seriously, acknowledge that transmission shouldn’t cross over a fireworks factory (!) and then so late in the game they announced they would put it diagonally over her farm!!!  Since then have also been drawing attention to the unfairness of this process in a respectful and factual manner.

Several Belle Plaine people made reference to the Commission giving unfair/unjust weight to the positions of “two individuals” meaning the Ruhlands and Katzenmeyers, who have participated extensively and who submitted “Exceptions” for consideration by the Commission.  I wish that those who were critical had taken the time to review the record and the history of the way in which the Ruhlands’ and Kazenmeyers’ land was targeted so very late in the process, a process that both families had actively participated in from the beginning, and beginning at a time when they were not directly affected!  That they were targeted so late, in both cases it was in December, 2009, during the hearings, it is hard to believe it was anything but payback for their advocacy.  Katzenmeyers didn’t even get formal notice until after the public hearings were over!!!  Both Ruhlands and Katzenmeyers consistently raised problems that neither the applicants nor MOES wanted to consider, and when they couldn’t avoid dealing with those RES and MnDOT problems, the applicants then proposed carving up Ruhlands’ and Katzenmeyers’ land.  It’s MOES primarily that should get hit with the criticism for failing to produce or act on information provided by the various state and federal agency commentors that rendered routes unworkable.

Back to the meeting… First, the remand was framed in an odd way, couched in terms of seeking more information on a USFWS letter of 6/10/10, which was NOT the root of their problems.  What was driving this was that late in the process, a year after the application was submitted, we learned of DOT scenic easements that rendered the LeSueur crossing unworkable — the DOT had raised these issues, the DNR had raised river crossing and eagle issues EIGHT MONTHS PRIOR, but their input was ignored.  That information did not makes its way into the record until the public hearings were underway, and THE APRIL 30, 2009 SCOPING LETTERS OF THE DOT AND DNR RAISING THESE ISSUES AS SCOPING CONCERNS WERE NOT ENTERED INTO THE EVIDENTIARY RECORD EVER!  EVER! USFWS 4/30/09 scoping letter got into the record only through citizen efforts at the public hearing in December 2009!  After it became public in December, Applicants scurried to find a way to make the LeSueur crossing work, but the way was “the Myrick alternative” which was not a legitimate option for the PUC because it had not received any environmental review.  That’s the purple part of the map below.

map-lesueur-myrickroute-300x194

The PUC, however, never admitted this fundamental problem, and remanded it to the OAH as if there were two possible options for crossing the Minnesota River.  That fiction prevailed even through yesterday.  I guess to admit the fiction would mean they would have to start over from the beginning.

In the remand, “Applicants” (we still to not know who owners are) shifted to “prefer” the Belle Plaine crossing, and MOES staff recommended the “Gibbon crossover and Belle Plaine crossing” to the PUC.  Applicants and MOES well know the fiction, and Belle Plaine was clearly screwed.   The ALJ’s remand “recommendation” was yet another “non-recommendation” just like the first, “Pick A, and if not A, Pick B” which was not helpful.  He didn’t recommend one route over another — it may have been difficult for those not used to reading through these ALJ recommendations, but it didn’t ultimately recommend anything.

ALJ Recommendation for Remand – Brookings CapX Transmission

Commissioners Wergin and Reha both commented on it being the only “Recommendation” they could recall that did not come out in favor of one or the other.  My take is that the ALJ’s opinion reflected the infeasibility of either route — this line should not cross the river.  Unfortunately, no one has the gonads to state it directly…

The oral arguments were a rehash of the rehash. The Applicants want it somewhere, just give us a permit, we don’t really care, but Belle Plaine is now our “preferred” crossing, sort of…  I argued infeasibility, that they knew or should have known back in April 2009 at the very latest that the LeSueur route was not feasible, and should have been required to come up with two FEASIBLE routes before proceeding.  I urged that they reject the Segment 4 permit request, without prejudice, and let them come back if and when they had a feasible route.

NoCapX and U-CAN are dismayed with the PUC’s decision, and think the applicants should have been sent away, that it should not have been considered where there were not two valid route possibilities.  It was a stacked deck against Belle Plaine, but that was never acknowledged.  Meanwhile, nobody, no group, no local government, intervened in the Remand (I’d argued and won an opening for intervention as a place-holder for those not present, oh well…).  While NoCapX 2020 and U-CAN argued for rejection of the permit, and object to the decision, we also are grateful that the Ruhlands and katzenmeyers land was avoided after all they’ve been through.  They are two families who had actively participated since before the project was even applied for, and who at the last minute were unfairly targeted by the utilities so late in the process that they had little recourse.  This routing process was series of fundamental process violations, but because the process violations were focused on the Modified Preferred route (because they wanted to ram that through no matter what??) the process violations aren’t regarding the chosen route, so my take is that the aspects begging for legal action are moot.

I think everyone involved will agree that yesterday’s PUC meeting really sucked.   Except for the Applicants who got their routing permit, we’re all losers in this, the Commission, the parties, the participating agencies, the landowners, the ratepayers.  People are affected by these decisions, and as CapX 2020 comes roaring through, the momentum of outrage will start to reverberate through the state.

Brookings – MOES Briefing Papers out!

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on January 28, 2011 @ 10:08 am

Here it is, just downloading, here it is, the MOES Recommendation:

Brookings – MOES Staff Briefing Papers

The PUC meeting to address the Brookings Remand is:

Thursday February 3, 2011

Public Utilities Commission

121 E 7th St., Small Hearing Room

St. Paul, MN  55101

Parties will have time allotted for oral argument.  If you, a member of the public, wish to speak:

  • email PublicComments.puc@state.mn.us; or
  • call 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782, “Option 1″
  • Include your name, phone number and group affiliation, if any.



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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace