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



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…

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!


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, 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:



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.

Fargo-St. Cloud – Public Exceptions Filed

Filed under:Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on May 12, 2011 @ 7:19 am

There are some interesting public exceptions filed in the Fargo-St. Cloud routing docket, with the past coming back to haunt us, again:

Zimmer Letter

Zimmer Land Grant

Public Exceptions – posted today

Public Exceptions – filed May 10

Note that some of the comments raise the problem of siting the Quarry substation in the St. Cloud to Monticello docket (09-246), and I remember how hard it was to get the route out of the Quarry substation towards Monticello into the record, the judge claiming it wasn’t relevant (traversing some of the same terrain?  HUH?).  One end of this line was already established, a factor in routing of this line, and that shouldn’t be… the entire Fargo-Monticello project was granted the Certificate of Need, not parts of it, and it should have all proceeded as one, and not been split up.

Why was it split up?  I can’t help but think that pulling out the St. Cloud-Monticello piece had everything to do with the NAWO (George Crocker) and CETF agreement that this part of the larger line was “needed” in the Certificate of Need proceeding:

NAWO – Direct Testimony of Michaud p 27-29

NAWO – Initial Brief

CETF- Initial Brief p. 44-45

St. Cloud to Monticello is needed?  HUH?  This theory also provides the perfect avenue for additional Monticello uprate generation to get on the grid, perhaps it’s related to the Paynesville wind project?  But it makes no electrical sense with a NW to SE powerflow, no source to the St. Cloud beginning, so why argue that this isolated radial line is “needed” or is any solution to any need claim?  Reading these arguments, it makes no sense.  So why? Whatever reason, separating out the St. Cloud-Monticello was a path of least resistance (expected), a path which shouldn’t have been allowed.

Oh well… and here we are now…

GRE & Xcel hustling for $$$$$


Apparently Great River Energy and Xcel Energy are outlooking for money.  Gee, I wonder why?  I remember the snorts and hoots that broke out in the room way back during the CapX Certificate of Need hearing when they admitted to presenting their CapX 2020 financing dog & pony show to Lehman Brothers.

As for GRE, from Monday’s article in Finance & Commerce:

For example, GRE’s 2009 revenues fell $42.1 million to $787.8 million at the same time the utility was paying to develop a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and helping develop the CapX2020 system of transmission lines with 10 other state utilities.

Xcel just made an SEC filing that shows some creative efforts:

The primary purpose of the Plan is to provide our common and preferred shareholders as well as new investors with a convenient and economical method of purchasing our common stock.  Once enrolled in the Plan, you may reinvest cash dividends and, through optional cash payments, purchase additional shares of common stock from time to time or at regular intervals.  Although we expect the Plan to appeal to many shareholders, it is entirely optional.  A secondary purpose of the Plan is to enable us to raise additional capital by selling newly issued shares of our common stock under the Plan.

“Secondary purpose of the Plan…”  (click the quote for the full filing)  “Secondary purpose…”

Yup, uh-huh…   …WHAT… EVER!

Here’s the full article from Finance & Commerce about GRE’s capital raising efforts:

Great River Energy to sell $450M in mortgage bonds

Posted: 4:35 pm Mon, October 18, 2010

By Bob Geiger

Faced with declining power-usage revenues and rising utility-plant costs, Maple Grove-based Great River Energy (GRE) on Monday issued $450 million in taxable first mortgage bonds to meet costs and pay down debt.

The mortgage bonds are intended to fund capital spending for the utility’s power generation and transmission as well as paying off $325 million of GRE’s $2.4 billion outstanding debt, said Susan Brooks, GRE treasury director.

“It’s part of our long-range plan to meet member costs in the most cost-effective manner,” said Brooks, who expects bond pricing to be set today.

The mortgage bond sale is the second such transaction in 2010 by GRE, which in April announced it would sell $106 million in tax-exempt first mortgage bonds issued by McLean County, N.D.

It’s not unusual for utilities to sell mortgage bonds to help make ends meet at a low cost. Such financing makes sense because GRE is making additions to its system and paying for generation and transmission improvements in the wake of the recession.

For example, GRE’s 2009 revenues fell $42.1 million to $787.8 million at the same time the utility was paying to develop a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and helping develop the CapX2020 system of transmission lines with 10 other state utilities.

Fitch Ratings assigned an A- credit rating to the $450 million mortgage bond sale. Fitch noted that, “while GRE’s debt level remains a concern, (it) has been effective in managing the higher debt loads, even in what has been a difficult operating environment.”

Background information on GRE’s mortgage bond offering from Fitch stated that GRE is working to lessen its debt-load by paring its five-year capital spending plan by $350 million.

GRE serves more than 645,000 residential and small-commercial customers through 28 member cooperatives. The utility maintains 3,647 megawatts of generation capacity, of which 2,751 megawatts is owned by GRE.

Additional capacity is expected to come online in 2012 when Spiritwood Station, a coal-fired plant near Jamestown, N.D., begins operation.

The start-up of Spiritwood, which has a peaking capacity of 99 megawatts, was delayed until early 2012 earlier this year because plans for an ethanol plant to use steam from the nearby coal plant failed to materialize.

Therese LaCanne, GRE spokeswoman, said Spiritwood also will provide steam for a Cargill Malt plant in the industrial park.

Of GRE’s 2009 power generation, 78 percent was coal-fired, with the remaining 22 percent coming from 7 percent renewable energy, 1 percent natural gas and 14 percent other energy sources.

Combined with the planned firing up of Spiritwood and wind energy contracts, GRE projects it will have adequate capacity to meet its member needs beyond 2020.

The utility projects compounded average annual peak load growth of 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to Brooks.

Compliance filing for CoN Order Point 4!

Filed under:St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on September 7, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

Seems that on August 20th, Mike Krikava filed the Compliance Filing for the Certificate of Need Order Point 4 for the Fargo “Phase I” Route, otherwise known as St. Cloud-Monticello (09-246).  I’ve not been following that docket much, so I didn’t find it until this morning when I was looking at the CapX 2020 site to see what’s there.  And for some odd reason I didn’t get notice that it had been filed in 06-1115.   Hmmmmmm…

OK, let’s take a look at this.

First, I see it’s on “CapX 2020” letterhead.  EH?  CapX 2020 doesn’t exist as an organizational entity!  Search for yourself and see:

Secretary of State Business Name Search

Anyway, here’s their compliance filing:

Compliance Filing – CoN Order Point 4 – (St. Cloud to Monticello only)

And right after that, the PUC files their Order this a.m. on the many Motions in the CoN docket regarding Brookings, primarily denying our Motion to Compel and denying hearings:

PUC Order Denying Motion to Compel… Sept 3, 2010

Here’s Order Point 4 from the Certificate of Need, that Order Point that requires they disclose the ownership structure and capacity of the line, that little Order Point that I’ve been harping on for how long now, because DUH, the capacity they testified to in the CoN is a lot different than what they’re saying it is in these routing proceedings and a lot higher than is showing up in the EMF charts in MOES bogus “environmental review.”  Back to Order Point 4:

orderpoint4What I’m mostly concerned about is the capacity, which was straightforwardly declared in the Certificate of Need proceeding (Docket 06-1115) but which has been hidden and misrepresented in the routing dockets. Here’s what their compliance filing says:


Here’s what the claim is in EMF charts for the St. Cloud to Monticello line:


And here’s what I wrote about that:


First up – St. Cloud-Monticello – July 8th at PUC

Filed under:St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on July 1, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

Now, before we get to the Brookings line, don’t forget that July 8th is the CapX 2020 St. Cloud-Monticello routing docket before the PUC.

Tricia DeBleeckere is out until July 21 (how did she manage that?!?!?!) and so if you want to make a Public Comment, her email says to contact Bret Eknes:  bret.eknes@state.mn.us  or  651-201-2236.

There were no intervenors in this docket, NO INTERVENORS, so Public Comment is important.  Once more with feeling:

Contact Bret Eknes:  bret.eknes@state.mn.us  or  651-201-2236.

And  now, for some background:

ALJ’s Recommendation for St. Cloud to Monticello

DOT’s Great River Road Mitigation Language for Permit

Staff Route Permit Comments and Recommendations

Staff Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions and Order

Staff Proposed Route Permit

Staff Route Permit Maps

This is what is before the Commission. And remember that this is where the ALJ also noted in the Recommendation above, that there were problems with EIS procedure, Task Force operations and public participation:

EIS Process

107. Some members of the public commented that they believed the EIS process was flawed. Carlos Lopez, on behalf of the Fish Lake Property Owners Association, stated that the DEIS public meeting was inadequate because there were no sign-in sheets, no maps, no displays, and only two copies of the DEIS for fifty people. He stated that the scoping phase was presented to the public and governmental agencies to gather input and ideas but that it seemed the scope was predetermined and that their comments were largely ignored.  Carlos Lopez, Trans. Mar. 8, afternoon, at 61-63; Ex. 106; Ex. 107.

Task Force Process

108. The ALJ received comments from Sherburne County, the City of Becker, Becker Township, Clear Lake Township and Haven Township expressing
disappointment with the Task Force process and lack of notice provided to local governmental units on the east side of the Mississippi River.  Roger Neils, Trans. Mar. 8, afternoon, at 48; Jeff Schlingmann, Trans. Mar. 8, afternoon, at 67-68; Ex. 110 (Paul Gray); Felix Schmiesing, Trans. Mar. 8, afternoon, at 106-107, and Comment, received Mar.19, 2010; Gary Hammer, Trans. Mar. 8, afternoon, at 114-116; Ex. 120 (City of Becker); Ex. 121 (Becker Township); Ex. 122 (Sherburne County Board of Commissioners); Ex. 123 (City of Becker).   State Senator Lisa Fobbe commented on behalf of her constituents in Sherburne County that the decision by the Advisory Task Force to consider Route D was made without involvement from the residents of Sherburne County.  Comment, Mar. 25, 2010; see also Comment, William Gulbrandson, Mar. 19, 2010.   109. Clear Lake Township commented that no representative of any governmental body in Sherburne County participated in the EIS scoping process before or after the identification of four proposed alternate routes located in Sherburne County.Clear Lake Township believes the Advisory Task Force did not comply with Minn. Stat.§ 216E.08, which requires public participation in the EIS preparation process.  Comment, Roger Neils, Mar. 18, 2010.

Does this sound familiar?

CapX2020 Brookings @ PUC July 13th & 15th

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket,St.Cloud-Monticello,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on June 30, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

Wondering how to celebrate Bastille Day this year?  Come on, let’s storm the PUC!


Now’s the time to start figuring out your Public Comments for the PUC on the Brookings routing docket.




Notice is coming out tomorrow, Bob Cupit was kind enough to let us know that the PUC will hear Public Comments, and also Oral Arguments of the parties (all 2 of us!):

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @ 9:30 a.m.

Public Utilities Commission

121 – 7th Place East, Large Hearing Room

St. Paul, Minnesota

Here’s a memo from Bob Cupit explaining the process:

PUC – Brookings Scheduling Memo

There are some important rules here to be aware of for those of you PUBLIC COMMENTERS — from the memo:

YOU MUST PREREGISTER TO SPEAK.  Call 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782 (“Option 1”) or email PublicComments.puc@state.mn.us — tell them your name, phone number, and group affiliation if any.  CONTACT THEM BY JULY 12 @ 9:30 a.m.

  • Public comment will be taken in the order in which registration was received.
  • Each person will have three to five minutes to speak.
  • Persons who wish to speak are encouraged to provide summary positions on the facts in the case record.
  • Please note that all comments from previous public hearings are in the official record, presented on pages 1-2 through 155 of the Report of the Administrative Law Judge, and reviewed by the PUC Commissioners prior to the meeting.  Because the hearing record is closed, no new evidence can be accepted.  However, commenters may provide written documentation that supports summary positions.  Nine (9) courtesy copies of any written submissions are encouraged but not required. [NoCapX Comment: BRING COPIES – THIS HELPS THEM FOLLOW YOUR COMMENT!]
  • Persons associated with one of the formal parties listed below should expect their positions will be presented during oral argument by the parties.

Get ready… we’ve got about two weeks.

Here’s the ALJ’s Recommendation for a little light reading:

FINAL Recommendation for CapX 2020 Brookings-Hampton route


And don’t forget that the St. Cloud-Monticello routing docket is before the PUC on Thursday, July 8th, at the tail end of the agenda!

ALJ’s Recommendation for St. Cloud to Monticello


Last day for St. Cloud-Monticello Comments

Filed under:St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on March 19, 2010 @ 8:32 am


Today is the LAST day to get your comments in to Judge Heydinger on the St. Cloud to Monticello section of CapX.  These are the Comments directly to the ALJ, not the DEIS comments that were due a couple of weeks ago.


This one has all the usual components, proposals of an unworkable river crossing, DOT corridor sharing and hopping across the highway and through the rest area, don’t they ever learn?

Send Comments, with “CapX Docket TL-09-246  by 4:30 p.m. to:

CapX 2020 St. Cloud-Monticello Route Comment

Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 64620
St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0620

email: routecomments.oah@state.mn.us

FYI, here are my Comments on the DEIS for some clues about issues:

Overland – Comments – Monticello

To see what’s been filed thus far in this docket, go to www.puc.state.mn.us and then “Search eDockets” and search for 09-246.

Quiz of the Day: How many Scenic Byways and how many different rivers are affected by CapX 2020:


Seems to me that all this routing nonsense should screech to a halt until the appellate court decision comes out!

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace