MISO bars access to planning meetings

From the public meeting materials, here’s what they’re looking at, above.  These are significant additions to the transmission grid in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Look at the number of double circuits they want to add, and look at the new transmission planned for Minnesota and WIsconsin.  And note how, as with CapX 2020, it’s starting in the coal fields of the Dakotas.

MISO’s Economic Planning Users Group is planning a “Regional Transmission Overlay Study” and they’re having another meeting tomorrow, May 25, 2017 down in Metatairie, Louisiana.

Here’s the call in info:

WebEx Information
Event Number: 966 575 350
WebEx Password: Ts824634

Participant Dial-In Number: 1-800-689-9374
Participant Code: 823713

Meeting Materials from the MISO site:

Here’s the problem — they close the meeting, and people like me aren’t allowed to attend.  First I was told, back in January when I tried to register:

Thank you for registering for the Economic Planning Users Group (EPUG) on Jan 31.  The afternoon portion of this meeting will be held in CLOSED session and reserved from MISO Members or Market Participants only.  Please feel free to attend the morning session from 11:00 am to 12:45 pm ET / 10:00 am to 11:45 CT.

I filled out their “CEII – Non-Disclosure Agreement” form and fired it off.  But noooooo…

So next I went to the PUC’s Quarterly MISO update, where I was assured that we could make arrangements so that I could attend.  I resent the “CEII – Non-Disclosure Agreement” and went back and forth and it came to this (click for larger version).  Note this “explanation” of options to be able to attend:

The reason that you were not permitted to attend the closed session is because the meeting involved discussion of Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) and CEII access requests by Non-Member Individuals requires FERC clearance.  Another access option is to be included on Appendix A of a MISO member or Market Participant.

So that says there are two ways to gain access, 1) get “FERC clearance” or 2) “Another access option is to be included on Appendix A of a MISO member or Market Participant.”  One or the other. Emphasis added.  Here’s the email (click for larger version) laying out those two options:

Oh, I says to myself, off to FERC.  I sent in the requisite paperwork to FERC, and got “FERC clearance” and they shipped me the CEII information, including but not limited to the map.  I let MISO know I’d obtained “FERC clearance,” and here’s the response (click for larger version):

ARRRRGH, they have my CEII NDA on file, have had it since January 23, 2017.  I resent it to the writer of these emails on March 4, 2017, and I sent it again today, and objected to yet another change in their “rules” (click for larger version):

So the plot thickens — from MISO (click or larger version):

And from moi (click for larger version):

Xmsn Overlay coming soon to a backyard near you!

It’s early, so now’s the time to get agitated, get activated!

As if CapX 2020 wasn’t enough, and during the CapX 2020 Certificate of Need proceeding, word of the “JCSP” overlay came out.  And we know that Xcel, in its e21 Initiative, is whining about the grid only being 55% utilized (DOH! Because CapX and other transmission expansion wasn’t needed, was built, and now they’re trying to make us pay for it!).

And as if Obama’s RRTT wasn’t enough, now there’s this, check out Executive Order 13766:

Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects

And so now the rest of the story — here’s what they’re planning:

Here’s the list, in a spreadsheet:

20170131 EPUG Preliminary Overlay Ideas List

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has scheduled the MISO Utilities Quarterly Update Meeting for the Second Quarter of 2017 for Friday, March 3, 2017 from 10:00 AM to Noon in the Commission’s Large Hearing Room, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101.

MISO Q letter 03-10-2014.bh.-1

Note this part, to be discussed at this meeting:

Laying the ground work now for this, a huge build-out that isn’t needed, an overlay on top of transmission that wasn’t needed either.  NO!

CapX 2020 — It’s over, it’s done, all but the cost recovery

20140512_161838_resized

CapX 2020 at Highway 61 south of Wabasha

Monday, they had their CapX 2020 Love Fest at the Hampton substation, and I didn’t even get an engraved invitation.  It’s a depressing point in time — 12 years on this project — and they got all they wanted, in some places not where they wanted it, but it’s up, and so many people affected.  Having it routed somewhere, anywhere, is what they cared about, and supposedly it’s now “in-service,” though I wonder.  Is it time to have a big bonfire of all the boxes of files?

This was about the Minnesota portions, but South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin is permitted as well, the superhighway from the coal fields of the Dakotas to Madison and beyond.  Yeah, I could have camped out and crashed the party, but I had another commitment, so couldn’t spend the day hanging out waiting, watching.  Maybe I should have…

capx_hrl_energized_20160926_113428-medLeft-to-right: Mark Kotschevar, Rochester Public Utilities; Dave Geschwind, Southern MN Municipal Power Agency; Teresa Mogensen, Xcel Energy; Chris Kunkle, Wind on the Wires; Ben Porath, Dairyland Power Cooperative; Priti Patel, MISO; Tim Noeldner, WPPI Energy. From CapX Press Release

How much was “Wind on the Wires” (f/k/a Izaak Walton League) (and many other orgs?) paid for their promotion of transmission?

In the press:

STrib (is it really $2.1 billion?  Any recent reports?):

Last Minnesota leg of $2.1 billion electricity mega-project done

From WKBT (video here):

CapX2020 transmission line completed

And Wisconsin Public Radio:

Collaborative Utility Project Connects Electric Transmission From South Dakota To Wisconsin

Rochester Post-Bulletin:

Drone patrols the power line

It’s up and running — get out those gauss meters and check it out.

20140512_161913_1_resized

CapX 2020 at Hwy. 61 looking towards the Mississippi

Put on your waders — CapX 2020 Report!

CapXCap1

It’s out, the report from U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs about CapX 2020, headlining it as a “Model for addressing climate change.

Transmission Planning and CapX 2020: Building Trust to Build Regional Transmission Systems

Oh, please, this is all about coal, and you know it.  This is all about enabling marketing of electricity.  In fact, Xcel’s Tim Carlsbad testified most honestly that CapX 2020 was not for wind!  That’s because electrical energy isn’t ID’d by generation source, as Jimbo Alders also testified, and under FERC, discrimination in generation sources is not allowed, transmission must serve whatever is there.  And the report early on, p. 4, notes:

Both North and South Dakota have strong wind resources and North Dakota also has low-BTU lignite
coal resources that it wants to continue to use. New high-voltage transmission lines are needed to
support the Dakotas’ ability to export electricity to neighboring states.

See also: ICF-Independent Assessment MISO Benefits

Anyway, here it is, and it’s much like Phyllis Reha’s puff piece promoting CapX 2020 years ago while she was on the Public Utilities Commission, that this is the model other states should use:

MN PUC Commissioner Reha’s Feb 15 2006 presentation promoting CapX 2020

So put on your waders and reading glasses and have at it. Here’s the word on the 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell – Chapter 97 – Revisor of Statutes that gave Xcel and Co. just what they wanted, transmission as a revenue stream:

CapX_Xmsn2005

And note how opposition is addressed, countered by an organization that received how much to promote transmission.  This is SO condescending:

HumphreyCapXReport

… and opposition discounted because it’s so technical, what with load flow studies, energy consumption trends, how could we possibly understand.  We couldn’t possibly understand… nevermind that the decreased demand we warned of, and which demonstrated lack of need, was the reality that we were entering in 2008.

XcelPeakDemand2000-2015

And remember Steve Rakow’s chart of demand, entered at the very end of the Certificate of Need hearing when demand was at issue???  In addition to NO identification of axis values, the trend he promoted, and which was adopted by the ALJ and Commission, has NOT happened, and instead Xcel is adjusting to the “new normal” and whining that the grid is only 55% utilized in its e21 and rate case filings.  Here’s Steve Rakow’s chart:

rakownapkindemand

Reality peak demand trajectory was lower than Rakow’s “slow growth” line, in fact, it’s the opposite from 2007 to present.  Suffice it to say:

ManureSpreader

Xcel’s bogus demand forecast basis for CapX

arrowdownRemember Xcel’s CapX 2020 peak demand projections of 2.49% annual increase?  How wrong can they be?  And how unjustified was their basis for a Certificate of Need for CapX 2020?  And how are they held accountable for those gross misrepresentations?  But now it’s time to pay, and who will pay?  This is why the rate case in progress, PUC Docket 15-826, is so important.

On the other hand, I love it when this happens… Xcel Peak Demand is again DOWN!  There’s a trend, and it’s called decreased demand.  Demand has yet to exceed the 2007 peak, and now it’s 8 years…

XcelPeakDemand2000-2015

Here’s the Xcel Energy SEC 10-K filed a couple days ago:

2015 – Xcel Energy 10-K

Is it any wonder they want to get away from a cost based rate a la their “e21 Initiative” scheme?  Particularly now that the bill for CapX 2020 is coming due and their newest rate case (PUC Docket GR-15-826) is now underway?

And the specifics, and note how they inexplicably forecast a 2016 peak of 9,327, which is based on a “normal weather conditions” assumption:

2015-Xcel Peak Demand Chart

Dedication of CapX 2020?

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on May 4, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

WHAT?!?!  The dedication ceremony for the CapX 2020 Brookings – Hampton and Fargo – St. Cloud – Monticello projects, and I didn’t get a gold engraved invitation?  And of course there’s Beth Soholt, “Wind on the Wires” (f/k/a a program of the Izaak Walton League) toadying for these projects — how much did Wind on the Wires get in grants to promote transmission?  Minnesota Department of Commerce represented as well, though it’s the Commissioner!  Why wouldn’t they send Beth’s old boss, Bill Grant, particularly given that he’s now Deputy Commissioner of Commerce!  It’s all connected, don’t cha know.

They say these are energized.  Wonder if/when they’re going to put transformers in?  Anyone know?

CapX Dedication Ceremony

How’s this for a quote, from the Forum:

The power buzzing in the transformers come from another power line that stretches west to the coal power plants in Center, N.D.

And the full article here: Xcel energizes new Fargo to St. Cloud powerline

Here’s the poop from KNSI News:

CapX2020 transmission lines celebrated

May 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) – A dedication ceremony was held today in St. Cloud to commemorate the completion of two high-voltage electric transmission lines — part of CapX2020. 

The CapX2020 Brookings County-Hampton and Fargo-St. Cloud-Monticello projects complete $1.3 billion worth of electric grid investment in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Will Kaul is chairman of CapX2020, a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin

“It’s just in time when the concern about the grid and the security and the resilience of the grid is very high … a time when the resource mix that is coming into play is in transition and new resources are coming online,” Kaul said.

The two projects took 11 years and were completed on time and without going over budget to provide reliable, affordable service to Minnesota and the surrounding region, while also expanding access to renewable energy, according to Teresa Mogensen of Xcel Energy.

“We compare our CapX2020 lines to another big project – the Vikings stadium – that’s a $1 billion investment, too,” said Mogensen, who provided some perspective.

The CapX2020 projects include four 345 kV transmission lines and one 230 kV line — the largest development of new transmission in the Upper Midwest in almost four decades.

One way the CapX2020 projects help keep prices low is by alleviating congestion on the system. When more electricity is needed in an area than the area’s transmission system can provide, electricity is dispatched from a different generation source that can serve the area, but at a higher cost.

 

 

Response from Xcel about Info Requests

xcel-logo

Recently, well, October 10, 2012, I sent a request to Xcel Energy for their contracts referenced in their latest Compliance Filing, specifically for each project the

Correspondence to Xcel Energy and MN Dept of Commerce Oct 10, 2012

Correspondence to Public Utilities Commission October 10, 2012

What was I asking for?  I asked Xcel Energy and the Dept. of Commerce to:

Please provide any and all New, Amended and/or Restated Project Participation Agreements, Construction Management Agreements, Transmission Capacity Exchange Agreements, and Operation and Maintenance Agreements for all segments of the CapX 2020 transmission project covered under the above-numbered Certificate of Need docket, including but not limited to Brookings –Hampton; Fargo – St. Cloud; St. Cloud – Monticello; and Hampton – Rochester – La Crosse. Please do not include those agreements filed in Appendix B of the original Certificate of Need application.

I got a response from Commerce that they had no such agreements, and it was good to get that confirmation of what I’d suspected.

More interesting, though, is that Xcel Energy, using way too many words, refuses to disclose, saying that it is “untimely and seeks confidential trade secret information that is not necessary for review of Xcel Energy’s compliance filings in this docket.”   They have made other compliance filings, and, well, it’s true, I just did this now, because a few thoughts occurred to me reading their most recent compliance filing, and if you recall, folks, I’m just one person here with office assistants without opposable thumbs, three CapX appeals, an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court, Goodhue Wind, and a hospice dog who needs help to get up the stairs, outside, and requires regular baths.  Sometimes it takes a while to get to things, sometimes it takes a while for something to sink in.  I do it when I can, and I did it.  And they don’t like it.  Oh well, guess that means I’m going to have to dig a little deeper.

Here’s their response:

Xcel Energy Response to Information Request

And it seems their collective memory needs to be refreshed:

Finally, to the extent CETF seeks to propound discovery, such request is improper because CETF is not a party in this docket.

HELLO?!?!

CETF Intervention Petition

Pre-Hearing Order – Granting CETF & MISO Petitions to Intervene – PUC Docket 06-1115

Citizens Energy Task Force is indeed a party to this docket.  So here we go again, once more with feeling:

No CapX 2020, U-CAN and CETF Comment – October 24, 2012

From the resistance, looks like Xcel Energy realizes the importance of these documents!  Onward!

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.

Fargo-St. Cloud-Monticello – landowners speak out!

Filed under:Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on November 9, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

There has been a flood of public comments in response to, and because a comment period opened about, Xcel’s request for permit amendments.  The lion’s share of them are regarding the short stretch of E-5 and AS-1, from landowners near the Quarry substation.  Because that substation was selected in the St. Cloud-Monticello routing docket, that’s the terminus for the Fargo-St. Cloud line, which is why I didn’t think the Fargo-Monticello route should have been split up.

To check out the flurry of comments, go to www.puc.state.mn.us, click “Search eDockets” and search for docket 09-1056.

… and further south, problems brewing as landowners are faced with condemnation, or worse, shifting it just off their land so they get the impacts and no compensation.  From an article in the St. Cloud Times, it seems landowners were approached about easements, and then suddenly, the alignment shifted:

The Walshes say they would have taken the “Buy the Farm” option and others were considering it.

“We think they realized, ‘We’re going to have to compensate all seven of these people. Let’s get it out of here,’ ” Belinda Walsh said.

CapX spokesman Tim Carlsgaard said the utilities are trying to keep the transmission line as far away from houses as they can.

“Our goal was to stay off their property to have as least impact as possible,” he said. However, Carlsgaard said, “There hasn’t been any deliberate effort to say, ‘We’re going to keep it off your property so we don’t have to pay you.’ ”

Uh-huh… right…

Here’s the full article:

CapX 2020 power line worries neighbors who aren’t part of compensation deal


11:41 PM, Nov. 7, 2011

Written by Kirsti Marohn

ST. JOSEPH — When the CapX 2020 transmission line is built along Stearns County Road 2 south of St. Joseph, Scott and Belinda Walsh and their four children will get a front-row seat — but not much else.

The Walshes worry that the power line will loom across the skyline in front of the two-story, gray house where they have lived for six years, lower their home’s value and possibly affect the health of their children.

But because the power line won’t actually touch their land, the Walshes — along with their six neighbors — won’t get any financial compensation, the power to negotiate for damages or the option of having the utility companies buy their property. It’s put the residents in the unique position of wishing the power line would be built closer to their homes, rather than across the road.

“Legally we don’t have any rights with it just off our property,” Belinda Walsh said.
(more…)

Buy the Farm cases on St. Cloud to Monticello line

Filed under:Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on October 26, 2011 @ 9:04 am

Remember not too long ago that landowners challenged the utilities’ attempt to limit their compensation if they chose the Buy the Farm option?  Buy the Farm is Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4:

Subd. 4. Contiguous land.

When private real property that is an agricultural or nonagricultural homestead, nonhomestead agricultural land, rental residential property, and both commercial and noncommercial seasonal residential recreational property, as those terms are defined in section 273.13 is proposed to be acquired for the construction of a site or route for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more by eminent domain proceedings, the fee owner, or when applicable, the fee owner with the written consent of the contract for deed vendee, or the contract for deed vendee with the written consent of the fee owner, shall have the option to require the utility to condemn a fee interest in any amount of contiguous, commercially viable land which the owner or vendee wholly owns or has contracted to own in undivided fee and elects in writing to transfer to the utility within 60 days after receipt of the notice of the objects of the petition filed pursuant to section 117.055. Commercial viability shall be determined without regard to the presence of the utility route or site. The owner or, when applicable, the contract vendee shall have only one such option and may not expand or otherwise modify an election without the consent of the utility. The required acquisition of land pursuant to this subdivision shall be considered an acquisition for a public purpose and for use in the utility’s business, for purposes of chapter 117 and section 500.24, respectively; provided that a utility shall divest itself completely of all such lands used for farming or capable of being used for farming not later than the time it can receive the market value paid at the time of acquisition of lands less any diminution in value by reason of the presence of the utility route or site. Upon the owner’s election made under this subdivision, the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee, sought in the condemnation petition for a right-of-way for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more shall automatically be converted into a fee taking.

AND LANDOWNERS WON!!!!  The court’s opinion is at this link:

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

So now that Xcel’s been slapped down by the court, the landowners are challenging the offers and Commissioners have been appointed by the Court to determine compensation (that’s how eminent domain works under Minn. Stat. ch. 117).

From the St. Cloud Times:

CapX hearings over land payment begin in Stearns

11:17 PM, Oct. 24, 2011

Written by David Unze

The first contested hearings on compensation for property owners whose land was taken for the CapX 2020 high-voltage transmission lines begin today in Stearns County.

Cases will go before a panel of commissioners who will decide what the landowners should get, and two of them will use for the first time a Minnesota statute that was created after the bitter power-line disputes of the 1970s.

The “Buy the Farm” statute was created in response to the controversy that resulted when farmers were served with condemnation notices in preparation for a power line that was to be built through Central Minnesota.

That high-voltage power line was the most controversial energy project in state history and was built despite political, legal and physical challenges from nearby farmers.

The Buy the Farm statute allows certain landowners to force a power company to purchase the landowner’s entire home or farm rather than buy an easement over the property.

Because the law is specific to high-voltage, power-line land takings, and because there haven’t been any such takings since the law was enacted, this is the first chance for a landowner to use the statute, said James E. Dorsey, the attorney who represents Xcel Energy, one of the energy companies behind the CapX project.

There are about 34 contested cases in Wright and Stearns counties from the condemnation cases involving the Monticello-to-St. Cloud segment of the CapX line.

A handful of those involve the Buy the Farm statute.

There are more condemnation cases expected to be filed soon involving the segment that runs from St. Cloud to Alexandria.

Contested hearings on compensation go to a three-person panel appointed by a district court judge. Those panel members meet with the property owners, view the parcels of land and set a value based on the market.

The utility and the landowner have the right to appeal the commissioners’ decision back to the district court judge.

If no resolution is reached, the case could go to trial.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace