Wisconsin – Petition for Judicial Review filed

Filed under:Appeal,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on August 18, 2012 @ 9:29 am

NoCapX and CETF filed a Petition for Judicial Review with the Dane County Circuit Court for review of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Final Order on the CapX 2020 transmission line from Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse:

Appeal Filings August 16, 2012

Right after filing in the District Court, it was personally served on the PSC.  And copies have been mailed to all parties in the proceeding.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

CapX 2020 transmission line opponents file lawsuit in Dane County

Wisconsin is odd, after it’s been filed with the court, there are 30 days to mail to the parties — we could have kept Lisa Agrimonti sitting on the edge of her chair, but I wanted to get this all done.


Something that I found strange and disheartening, but not surprising, is that there are very few appeals of Public Service Commission decisions.  Why?  I think that the Commission’s Intervenor Compensation case-by-case payments and their additional newer annual payouts to specific groups does a lot to limit true resistance and challenge — who is going to rock the boat and risk their PSC gravy train!?!?! Every year, the “usual suspects” get a LOT of money from the PSC.

CUB got $96K and Clean Wisconsin got $36k (plus their annual kicker).  NoCapX got nothing and CETF got $15k, NO money for witnesses, and not enough for expenses.  Our proposal was for $36k for MSB on need and $6 or 9k for an appraiser.  Neither of the others proposed an approach like ours, no one proposed a property valuation expert and CUB’s proposal was distinct from ours.  Yet PSC staff says it’s duplicative.  No it was not!

We were not able to present a Direct case without witnesses, and then the judge tried to limit what we could present in cross, saying in the prehearing order that we had to pre-file hard copies of all cross exhibits, that the hard copies had to be in color if the ERF filed exhibit was in color (cost prohibitive to say the least) and when we filed them, costing over $1,000, they then said that was silly, that CD was OK and we could bring those to the hearing, I spent a day copying on CD and then they said that wasn’t necessary — they were putting up road blocks and then changing their rules after we’d spent considerable time and money complying.  VERY frustrating and procedurally bizarre.

During the hearing, the funded intervenors just sat there quietly during the testimony, no cross examination (check the transcript, it’s astounding), instead just sitting there, taking few notes, checking email and surfing and playing with phones.  CUB’s witness did not challenge need and instead advocated for a low voltage line that isn’t needed.  Clean Wisconsin didn’t even challenge the line and instead presented tedious testimony on tussocks.  I nearly blew a gasket.

The transcript is on line at the PSC site, scroll down and plug in docket 05-CE-136.  It’s appalling.

Oronoco Appeal Dismissed

Filed under:Appeal,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on July 18, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

Seems that last week the Appellate Court dismissed the Oronoco appeal of the CapX 2020 Hampton-LaCrosse decision by the Public Utilities Commission, as well it should:

Order- Dismiss Notice or Stipulated

We weren’t served a copy so I guess it’s a good thing I checked back at the online case file.  Apparently there was a Stipulation to Dismiss, as had been inferred in an earlier email between Oronoco counsel and the PUC’s Asst. A.G.  This means that they agreed that it was not the right time to file an appeal, and that Oronoco can file again when the time is right.

On one hand it was just too early, and on the other it was a day late, so this is a good thing for Oronoco, they’ll get another whack at the apple.

Buy the Farm at MN Appellate Court

Filed under:Appeal,Brookings Routing Docket,Cost Recovery,Fargo-St Cloud,FERC,Nuts & Bolts,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on May 21, 2012 @ 2:50 pm


Last week, Thursday to be precise, the “Buy the Farm” provision under the Power Plant Siting Act and Northern States Power’s challenge to compensation avenues available to landowners electing the “Buy the Farm option under Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4 was at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

This case stems from the St. Cloud to Monticello part of the Fargo to Monticello transmission line, the first to be permitted.  Now they’re trying to take the land.  The focus of the case is the landowners’ right to relocation compensation and other compensation, available both under Minn. Stat. ch. 117 (Minn. Stat.117.187 and 117.152), the Minnesota Uniform Relocation Act and federal law.  I don’t have a copy of the Stearns County District Court Order being appealed, but I do have a similar order that was issued in Wright County, reference in this brief:

Wright County Order – July 13, 2011

Here’s the court’s page for this case.


And here are the briefs, special thanks to a little birdie (and no thanks to our friends at NSP!):

Appellants NSP, et al., Initial Brief

Appellants NSP, et al., Initial Brief – Appendix

Respondents Enos Pudas – Brief

Respondents Hanson Stich – Brief

Appellants NSP, et al., Reply Brief and Supplemental Appendix

This case is in the news, as well it should be, it is THE appellate case of the year:

Landowners seek fair compensation for impact of CapX power line

May. 19, 2012

ROCKVILLE — Ken and Tess Koltes know the power line is coming, and they can’t stop it.

They know it’s not going to matter much whether they agree to the amount of money offered by the utility companies for the right to run the CapX 2020 line across their century dairy farm in St. Joseph Township, or whether they fight until the bitter end for every last dime.

Still, the Kolteses aren’t ready to go away quietly.

They have to live with the high-voltage transmission line scarring their rolling farm for the rest of their lives and the lives of their two sons, who started milking cows with them just two years ago. So they’re choosing to make it as difficult for the power companies as they can.

“We’ve got to do what we can,” Ken Koltes said. “We’re a small cog in the wheel, but we’ve got to try.”

The couple is among scores of Stearns and Wright county landowners caught up in a complicated legal process the CapX utilities are using to secure the land they need to build the 238-mile power line from Monticello to Fargo, N.D.

The condemnation process can be lengthy, expensive and sometimes daunting for landowners. It’s been used countless times to secure land for highways, buildings and pipelines, but rarely for high-voltage transmission lines.

In fact, this is the first time in four decades Stearns County has seen land condemned for a power line. And it’s the first test of a law passed in 1973 that allows landowners to force utility companies to buy their entire property rather than live beneath a high-voltage transmission line — an option known as “Buy the Farm.” That option has sparked legal debate and a case heard last week by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“This is new to almost everybody involved,” said Igor Lenzner, an attorney with Rinke Noonan, a St. Cloud law firm representing dozens of landowners in CapX condemnation cases.

What makes this time different, observers say, is the sheer number of landowners and properties involved and the complexity of the cases, as well as the emotional nature of the cases.

“Nobody wants somebody to come and say, ‘Guess what? We’re buying and you’re selling. You don’t have a choice,’ ” Lenzner said.


CapX2020 Appeal in the news

Filed under:Appeal — posted by admin on June 8, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

It’s in the STrib,  St.PPP and many others too.

Click the story to get to the STrib site and leave a comment or two:

Appeals court lets big power-line project move ahead


The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld regulators’ approval of the $1.7 billion CapX2020 power-line project, shooting down citizen complaints that the enormous project is unnecessary and would harm the environment.

The decision was a big loss for the United Citizens Action Network, NoCapX2020 and Citizens Energy Task Force, who were challenging the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s 2009 approval of the major transmission buildout. The groups argued that since energy demand has been declining the expensive new power lines aren’t needed. They also argued that regulators didn’t adequately address the impacts on wildlife in certain areas such as the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which one of the lines will cross as it goes to Wisconsin.

The Court of Appeals concluded in its 13-page decision that the state Public Utilities Commission didn’t err, and deferred to the PUC’s decisions.

Terry Grove, co-executive director of CapX2020 and manager of transmission for Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, said he was pleased.

“We regard that as a very definitive decision,” Grove said.

Carol Overland, a lawyer for United Citizens Action Network and NoCapX2020, vowed to keep fighting.

“We’re sharpening the toes of lizard cowboy boots,” she said. “We are not giving up.”

Construction of the network of high-voltage transmission lines is to begin this fall. One leg of the project, a 240-mile section running from Brookings, S.D., through prime wind power country to Hampton, Minn., has been delayed due to issues around the tariff for billing the construction costs to users.

Altogether, CapX2020 will add 700 miles of overhead powerlines across Minnesota, touching North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The project is backed by a group of utilities led by Xcel Energy Co. in Minneapolis, and Maple Grove-based Great River Energy.


And here’s St.PPP — gee, how’d that duplicate comment get in there?  Anyway, click on the story below to get directly to their site to leave a comment:

Minnesota Court of Appeals upholds approval of CapX 2020 transmission lines

By Leslie Brooks Suzukamo

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today upheld approval of a $1.7 billion project to build three high-voltage transmission lines across the state.

Opponents of the project failed to show the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission acted improperly when it granted a certificate of need to the project in April last year, the court said in a decision released this morning.

The opponents, who included landowners near the proposed line routes, had argued the high-voltage lines are not needed because electricity demand had dropped in recent years and that proper environmental reviews were not done. A group of regional utilities led by Xcel Energy and Great River Energy say the lines are necessary to stabilize the grid and deliver more wind energy from the Dakotas and western Minnesota to meet the state’s renewable energy mandates.

One of the lines, which runs from Brookings, S.D. to the town of Hampton in southern Dakota County, has been delayed. The CapX 2020 utilities say they need to push back the start date from 2013 to 2015 because they are waiting for approval of a new tariff that will determine how the cost of the line will be shared among power generators, line owners, utilities and other entities.

And MPR:

Appeals court: Big transmission line project may go forward

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio

June 8, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a transmission line project in central and western Minnesota may go forward.

The CapX2020 project would build three 345-kV transmission lines across Minnesota that would connect to the Dakotas and Wisconsin. Eleven utilities, including Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, are building the 600 miles of lines to upgrade and expand the electric transmission grid.

Three groups — the Citizens Energy Task Force, No aCapX2020 and the United Citizens Action Network — appealed a decision by the state Public Utilities Commission to grant certificates of need for the lines.

The groups argued that the lines weren’t needed and that one of the lines along the Mississippi River would disturb migratory birds and other wildlife.

But the three-judge appeals panel said the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission followed state law in scrutinizing the project and making sure it is needed to meet future energy transmission demand.

“Although the relators (the groups challenging the commission’s decision) have pointed to legitimate areas of environmental concern, after a review of the record, we are unable to conclude that the relators have shown that MPUC violated the law, acted beyond its authority, or made any arbitrary or capricious determination,” the judges wrote.


Despite the appeals court’s ruling, one of the CapX2020 transmission lines has been delayed because of uncertainty surrounding how the building costs will be allocated.

The utilities building the lines recently asked the Public Utilities Commission to allow for a delay in the Brookings line, which will run from near Brookings, S.D., to Hampton, Minn., located south of the Twin Cities. Slated completion for that line is now 2015, which is more than a year later that the utilities had originally planned.

The reason for the delay is the uncertainty surrounding who will pay the project costs and how.

The PUC will decide Thursday whether to give itself more than the 45-day limit for approving the utilities’ delay of the Brookings line. Specific route permits for the lines also need to be approved.

But the utilities said last month that they expect all three of the lines to be completed in 2015.

“We are moving ahead,” said Terry Grove, transmission director with Great River Energy and co-executive director of CapX2020. “We’re trying to do so very prudently and not put any customers at risk for additional costs.”

Paula Maccabee, an attorney representing the Citizens Energy Task Force, said the group will continue to oppose the lines. While the appeals court decision was disappointing, she said there are other opportunities for concerned citizens to challenge the project.

Maccabee noted that a federal environmental review process is under way for the line running from Hampton to La Crosse, Wis., and the route permits for the three lines are not yet approved. She also said the delay in the Brookings line should lead state regulators to question the overall project.

“(It) demonstrates that there are certain underlying weaknesses in the vision that they put forth for these very large transmission projects,” Maccabee said.


Court upholds plans for $2B transmission line

Appellate Opinion is out!

Filed under:Appeal — posted by admin on @ 8:04 am

Well this sucks — we lose on every count…

Here it is, read it for yourself:

Appellate Decision

NoCapX 2020 and United Citizen Action Network are weighing appeal on the narrow issue of the standard of review for an Offer of Proof.

From our appellate brief:

NoCapX 2020 submitted an Offer of Proof, which is part of the record of this administrative case. Minn. Stat. §14.62. The standard of review for evidentiary issues, such as this Offer of Proof, is abuse of discretion. See Peterson v. BASF Corp.,  711 N.W. 2d 470, 482-483 (Minn. 2006). “Weight and credit to be accorded conflicting evidence … must be determined by a finder of fact.” See Laska v. Anoka County, 696 N.W. 2d 133, 140 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005).  The standard for review is whether newly discovered evidence would be admissible in the original hearing and whether it would be likely to have an effect on the decision. See Blake v. Denelsbeck, 170 N.W. 2d 337, 340 (Minn. 1969); Turner v. Suggs, 653 N.W. 2d 458, 467 (Minn. App. 2002); Disch v. Helary, 382 N.W. 2d 916, 918 (Minn. App. 1986).

The standard they used is in the first paragraph of the “newly discovered evidence” section:

An administrative agency’s decision may be found to have been arbitrary or capricious if the agency “entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the issue . . . [or] offered an explanation that conflicts with the evidence.” Rostamkhani v. City of St. Paul, 645 N.W.2d 479, 484 (Minn. App. 2002).

Hmmmmmmmmmm, that’s different…

And yet tomorrow, the Certificate of Need is at issue at the PUC with the CapX2020 requested Brookings delay — as if we need more proof that this is NOT needed… years they want to delay, so where’s the need?

My take?  What the court says they are expecting is that we have an expert witness, affidavits with forecasts, and that the utilities’ own SEC filings aren’t sufficient (noting that they ignored Xcel’s own filings and earnings call transcripts).

So, whatever… the PUC will be making a decision on this Xcel-rate-recovery-based Brookings delay Thursday, and there’s that pending issue of a NoCapX 2020 & U-CAN Motion for Order to Show Cause that they should deal with, and the plot thickens.

Back to the Opinion of the Appellate Court — here’s the medium version of the Appellate Opinion:

Allegedly” New Evidence

Nothing at all about the SEC evidence, the only thing they considered was the Wall Street Journal article… EH??? HUH??? SAY WHAT??

Thus, MPUC did not abuse its discretion by declining to reopen the case to receive this type of general evidence.
Finally, we note that legitimate challenges to the construction of future power lines embraced by the Vision Plan are not foreclosed by MPUC’s decision relating to the three power lines at issue now.

Legitimate challenges… well, I sure feel better reading that…

Connected Projects

… sigh… throughout the proceeding, it was stated over and over and over that this was just Minnesota, there were no plans for ND and WI and the minute the record is closed, they announce… TA-DAAAAAA, ND and WI, which we knew all along, which was in the application over and over and the court says:

Because we may consider only the case before us, even though it may be part of a larger project, we can address only the three projects that are the subject of this appeal.

Talk about compartmentalization… the map was in their application, the chart was in their application:

Hearing Ex. 13, Big Picture MapChallenge of Environmental Review (at very beginning)

Again, the big issue is deference to the agency:

Although the relators have pointed to legitimate areas of environmental concern, after a review of the record, we are unable to conclude that the relators have shown that MPUC violated the law, acted beyond its authority, or made any arbitrary or capricious determination. Furthermore, the relators have failed to demonstrate that we may properly ignore the principle of deference that we are bound by law to follow in our review. Thus, we offer brief analyses of the relators’ primary arguments.

Environmental Report

To address this contention, we note first that an environmental report at the need stage, although important, does not address the site-specific environmental details that will necessarily be addressed in route-permit proceedings. Thus, it appears that what the relators claim to be insufficiencies in the environmental report are not insufficiencies for a need-stage report but rather are matters required to be addressed in significant analytical detail at the permit stage. Secondly, as to the relators’ contention that the applicants supplied the information for the report and the department failed to verify the information independently, the relators have failed to show any impropriety in that process or any support for the implication that independent verification would have revealed something other than what the report disclosed. Although we acknowledge that sometimes independent verification of alleged facts can be critical, experts in a particular field undoubtedly, and necessarily, possess a base of knowledge from which they can distinguish matters that are inherently plausible and probable from those that are suspect or possibly biased. Once again, we defer to the expertise of the involved agencies, absent a specific showing as to why such deference is not appropriate. Mere implication is not such a showing.

So we have to appeal each and every routing EIS… great… I’m ready… the Brookings one is a good one to start with.  But that independent verification is not necessary?  If MOES can’t tell the difference between 3,300+ amps, twice that for double circuit, and EIS estimates of EMF based on under 200 amps to 1,000 with the average in 700 amp range, right…

And then this, about linking state and federal review:

The relators’ final argument with regard to the environmental report is that, when there is going to be federal environmental review, including an environmental impact statement (EIS), there is an expectation that state and federal review will be done as a joint effort, and that was not done here. The relators rely on the rule, which states that “[i]f a federal EIS will be or has been prepared for a project,” the state shall use such draft if “the federal EIS addresses the scoped issues and satisfies the standards.” Minn. R. 4410.3900, subp. 3 (2009). However, no federal report has yet been prepared, and the rule also indicates that “[g]overnmental units shall cooperate with federal agencies to the fullest extent possible to reduce duplication” between Minnesota statutes and the National Environmental Policy Act. Id., subp. 1.

The department considered this rule, but ultimately determined that it was not possible to associate the state environmental review with the federal environmental review due to timing and relevance. Further, the department acknowledges that if the circumstances were to change, “when any route applications are filed, the [d]epartment would pursue all opportunities to coordinate the EIS reviews in those proceedings with any relevant federal agency reviews.” It appears that federal agency coordination occurs most appropriately at the permit stage. The department’s efforts were adequate under this rule.

(emphasis added)


Challenge of Environmental Review

Again, the big issue is deference to the agency:

Although the relators have pointed to legitimate areas of environmental concern, after a review of the record, we are unable to conclude that the relators have shown that MPUC violated the law, acted beyond its authority, or made any arbitrary or capricious determination. Furthermore, the relators have failed to demonstrate that we may properly ignore the principle of deference that we are bound by law to follow in our review.

GRRRRRRRRR, OK, fine, we can ramp it up… Brookings routing is a good place to start…

Interference with Fish & Wildlife Refuge

… The ALJ found that no party demonstrated a more reasonable and prudent alternative to the applicants’ proposal.

Because MPUC considered the impact that CapX2020 would have on wildlife and fish refugees, we must defer to its decision.

Upsized Alternative

Although there must be a need shown before MPUC may approve a project, there is no requirement that the need be imminent. Because certificates of need are granted based on future forecasts, it is within MPUC’s authority to approve an upsized alternative when there is a foreseeable need to do so.

Oh my… foreseeable need…


Defer, defer, defer, defer, defer, defer…

OK, time to hunker down and get ready for the next round.   That’s Thursday, just two days from now:

On June 10, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., FIRST ON THE AGENDA, CapX 2020’s Certificate of Need is on the agenda at the Public Utilities Commission.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

Public Utilities Commission

121 – 7th Place East

3rd Floor – Large Hearing Room

St. Paul, Minnesota

The PUC will meet to address whether there will be a variance to the 45 day rule which requires that a decision be made within 45 days of a Notice that the inservice date for a project is delayed.

If you can’t be there, but want to catch the show, go to PUC June 10th Agenda page and click the blue “Watch Webcast” button.


Filed under:Appeal — posted by admin on June 7, 2010 @ 1:41 pm


A little birdie… well… a BIG birdie, told me that the Appellate Court was due to release the CapX 2020 Certificate of Need opinion tomorrow.  Oh, OK, drop te other appeal I’m working on today and hoof it over to the Post Office, and sure enough, there’s the notice.

TOMORROW – 10:00 a.m. we’ll know, just in time for Thursday’s meeting at the PUC!

Motion to Suspend Proceedings!

Filed under:Appeal,Brookings Routing Docket,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on May 20, 2010 @ 8:39 am


We’re tryin’ — the fun never sets…

Today NoCapX 2020 and United Citizens Action Network filed a Motion in two routing dockets — the Brookings-Hampton (PUC Docket 08-1474) and Hampton-Alma (PUC Docket 09-1448) — to suspend the proceedings based on the Xcel and CapX filings Monday:

Motion to Suspend Proceedings – NoCapX & U-CAN

Included as an Attachment to that filing is our other Motion of the day to Intervene at FERC:

Motion to Intervene Out-of-Time – NoCapX & U-CAN

Here’s what Xcel and “CapX” filed Monday, their Request in the Cost Apportionment docket objecting to the Commission’s rejection of their cost apportionment scheme for the Brookings line, and their Notice to all of us in the Certificate of Need docket that the Brookings line would be delayed for more than one year:

Xcel’s Request for Reconsideration or Clarification (!)

CapX Notice of Delay for Brookings In-Service Date

We have 15 days to respond to the CapX Notice of Delay, and there’s about a month until the Appellate Court issues a decision regarding the CapX 2020 Certificate of Need.

To look at these dockets

  • Go to www.puc.state.mn.us
  • Hit “Search eDockets”
  • Search for:

06-1115 – Certificate of Need for CapX 2020 Group I

08-1474 – Brookings-Hampton Routing Docket

09-246 –   St. Cloud-Monticello Routing Docket

09-1056 – Fargo-St. Cloud Routing Docket

09-1448 – Hampton-Alma Routing Docket


Filed under:Appeal,Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on May 19, 2010 @ 9:17 am


This was NOT sent around via email as all other filings have been, gee, I wonder why?  Thanks to Paula Maccabee for the heads up because I’ve not been to the Post Office yet today, they MAILED it out, can you believe it.

It’s based on their cost recovery docket for the CapX project, where the PUC denied cost recovery of their dreams for the Brookings part of the full CapX 2020 Phase I for which they received their Certificate of Need:

Xcel’s Motion for Reconsideration – Rate Recovery Docket

Based on this Order:

PUC Order – April 27, 2010

Here’s their filing that tickles me so, from the Certificate of Need docket:

CapX filing to delay Brookings!

Now, let’s all read this stuff and have at it!  More to follow!

All together now, “OH HAPPY DAY!”

I’ve not read it yet, wanted to tell you all first, so comments soon…  In the meantime, read it for yourself and cheer!

CapX status update

Filed under:Appeal,Brookings Routing Docket,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,RUS EIS — posted by admin on March 30, 2010 @ 11:18 am

OK, now where were we… it’s getting way too confusing!

To look at the official PUC docket for any of these listed below, go to www.puc.state.mn.us and then “Search eDockets” and then search for the docket number, i.e.,  06-1115.


The Appellate Court is on it, oral arguments are over and they’ll come out with a decision in about 90 days.


Briefs are in, and we’re waiting for the ALJ’s Recommendation, after which we have 15 days to submit our exceptions to the ALJ’s Recommendation to the PUC, and from there, the PUC will put it on the agenda 1-2 months later and hold (probably) Oral Arguments (we have to remember to ask for that when we file exceptions) one day and the decision another day.  They could do this the same day if they think there is time, and they might.


This one is scary, there were NO intervenors.  Public Hearing was well attended and handled by active public and landowners.  The “hearing” is over, Comments to ALJ were due a little more than a week ago, and now we’re waiting for the Recommendation, and again, same bit,  and from
there, with no intervenors to file exceptions, the PUC will put it on the agenda 1-2 months later and probably make the decision the same day.


This is a docket I know nothing about!


Right now, like TODAY, task forces are forming.

A good day at the Appellate Court!

Filed under:Appeal — posted by admin on March 17, 2010 @ 2:02 pm


Yes, it was a good day at the Appellate Court.  Myself, Carol Overland representing NoCapX & U-CAN, and Paula Maccabee, representing CETF, had a good time and, well, either they were hearing what we were arguing or they had indigestion.  There were what seemed heartfelt questions, and … well… more questions…

Issues 1 and 3 raised by NoCapX and U-CAN were the focus of questions today:

1. Whether the Commission’s failure to enter and consider evidence of significantly decreased demand in NoCapX’s Offer of Proof, or remand to the Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings regarding need, constitutes an error of law.

3. Whether the Commission’s determination that the Environmental Report prepared by the Department of Commerce was adequate was an error of law.


And the answers provided by the PUC and Applicants didn’t seem satisfying.  But again, maybe it was indigestion, tight shoes, or … or…

We shall see, in about 90 days.  My notes are pretty sketchy.

We all appeared before Judge Schumaker, Judge Klaphake, and Judge Crippen (no photo available).



Here are some examples of questions.  Don’t pay much attention to the “quotes” because these are not verbatim quotes, just the jist of what they were asking.

When Paula was up, she was up first, there were a lot of questions about forecasts, whether CETF or other parties had produced forecasts, and there was some frustration that forecasts are ephemeral.  Paula went over options, that system issues, their failure to prove need, and the Mississippi River crossings (doesn’t the Minnesota River matter?).  She handled the question well about “Doesn’t environmental review happen in routing?” —  maybe that was in rebuttal?

Given that exchange about forecasts, I noted right away that we were asking that it be remanded back to the PUC to be reopened for additional demand information.  And to their questions, we do have concrete new information, from Xcel’s SEC filings, their 10-Ks, which show (and I ran down a few of these):

peakdemandchart… a 1,200MW drop in demand.

Judge Klaphake asked whether we’d produced forecasts, and I said we had not, that we couldn’t afford forecasting, there is no Intervenor Compensation in Minnesota, and that’s the PUC’s job.  He also asked whether there was any specific information in the Offer of Proof in the way of forecasting, and I replied that in the Wall Street Journal article on CEO said that demand was so far down that companies planning infrastructure had better take a closer look, but no, no forecasts specifically.

I noted Respondents were claiming this is just a blip, short term, but that’s not the case, it’s been years and has put this project out at least the three years that demand has dropped, and likely more.

I stressed that decreased demand affects all types of need, local load, regional system reliability, and generation outlet.  When demand goes down, the system isn’t as stressed, the bathtub is below the drain, not overflowing.  And there’s no need for new generation, no need for new generation outlet.

I brought up the Minnesota River, that everything about the Mississippi also applies to the Minnesota, and that it’s crucial to look at Certificate of Need stage inquiry about system analysis because it won’t happen anywhere else.  I also raised RUS review was ongoing and that the Environmental Report should have been done in conjunction with RUS.

The minute Alison Archer, Asst. A.G. from the PUC got up, and started talking about threats of brownouts (really!), Judge Crippen heard about 30 seconds and asked, “We’re going nowhere here, we give deference to agency decision.  How do we handle new evidence?”  She wandered around and didn’t get to the point.

Judge Schumaker (? I think?):  “We’re wanting to know whether it’s a short term decrease in demand or long term… weren’t there statements by folks who generation, saying that demand was going down, an indication that there was a longer term decrease?  Archer’s response noted that the three lines are needed for reasons other than forecast.

Judge Klaphake asked the question that was the theme of the day: “Why would the Commission NOT want to know?”  And Archer stated that the Commission determined that decreased demand was short term and would not impact the long term decision.

Judge Crippen:  Unnecessary delay — is there any evidence of a need to hastily complete this project?  Archer: No, it hasn’t been hasty, this process has been quite detailed, but there’s stress on the system… The Commission determined there was no systematic bias…

Judge Klaphake – “Why is demand low?  Was there inquiry?  Are there other options bringing down need?”

Judge ? to Mike Krikava: What harm is there in taking the time to look at this?  Krikava: Delay…

In rebuttal, Paula hit on some good topics, but I didn’t get my rebuttal time.  What I was ready to address, what I wanted to say, was that:

The NERC report IS in the record, and also the most recent one in the Offer of Proof, noting that the system is fine for local load but the issue is that the system is stressed because of market activity, wholesale transactions not contemplated when the current grid was designed.  The system is NOT as stressed, fewer TLRs, etc., this is NOT only a reliability issue, decreased demand affects all types of need.

Environmental review yet to come, in routing?  NO, Commerce is refusing to do joint review with RUS.

Oh well, maybe next time.  And there will be a next time because we’re arguing the Environmental Review piece in the LaCrosse routing right now — the PUC does not want to order Commerce to do a joint EIS with Rural Utilities Service, and Commerce does not want to do joint EIS with Rural Utilities Service, and if they keep this up, we’ll have to challenge that!

A good time was had by some… and a not so good time was had by others!

We shall see… 90 days?

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace