CapX 2020 in North Dakota

Filed under:Laws & Rules,News coverage — posted by admin on January 27, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

Here’s more on the reach of CapX, from the Grand Forks Herald Review, couched in “it’s for wind” propaganda:

State’s wind energy production doubles

… Of course, wind energy isn’t about to replace coal or other energy sources in the state and region any time soon…

… “For a while, utilities were reluctant to build transmission lines because of questions of how they would get their return on the investment,” Nisbet said. “That’s changing.” …

Yup, it’s changing all right, changing to give utilities instant return for transmission expenditures. And that’s because the state of Minnesota, at the encouragement of “environmental” groups contractually beholden to promoting transmission, gave them the ability to recover costs immediately if it’s “for renewable” (as was claimed in the SW MN 345kV line where ~11% at most would be coming off of Buff Ridge). Here’s the 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell. This gave out perks like this:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the
commission may approve a tariff mechanism for the automatic
annual adjustment of charges for the Minnesota jurisdictional
costs of new transmission facilities that have been separately
filed and reviewed and approved by the commission under section
216B.243 or are certified as a priority project or deemed to be
a priority transmission project under section 216B.2425.
(b) Upon filing by a public utility or utilities providing
transmission service, the commission may approve, reject or
modify, after notice and comment, a tariff that:
(1) allows the utility to recover on a timely basis the
costs net of revenues of facilities approved under section
216B.243 or certified or deemed to be certified under section
(2) allows a return on investment at the level approved in
the utility’s last general rate case, unless a different return
is found to be consistent with the public interest;
(3) provides a current return on construction work in
progress, provided that recovery from Minnesota retail customers
for the allowance for funds used during construction is not
sought through any other mechanism;
(4) allows for recovery of other expenses if shown to
promote a least-cost project option or is otherwise in the
public interest;
(5) allocates project costs appropriately between wholesale
and retail customers;
(6) provides a mechanism for recovery above cost, if
necessary to improve the overall economics of the project or
projects or is otherwise in the public interest; and
(7) terminates recovery once costs have been fully
recovered or have otherwise been reflected in the utility’s
general rates.
(c) A public utility may file annual rate adjustments to be
applied to customer bills paid under the tariff approved in
paragraph (b). In its filing, the public utility shall provide:
(1) a description of and context for the facilities
included for recovery;
(2) a schedule for implementation of applicable projects;
(3) the utility’s costs for these projects;
(4) a description of the utility’s efforts to ensure the
lowest costs to ratepayers for the project; and
(5) calculations to establish that the rate adjustment is
consistent with the terms of the tariff established in paragraph
(d) Upon receiving a filing for a rate adjustment pursuant
to the tariff established in paragraph (b), the commission shall
approve the annual rate adjustments provided that, after notice
and comment, the costs included for recovery through the tariff
were or are expected to be prudently incurred and achieve
transmission system improvements at the lowest feasible and
prudent cost to ratepayers.

This bill also established “Transmission Only” companies, like TRANSLink, which had been strongly opposed by former Attorney General Mike Hatch. But then the “environmental organizations” did the “TRANSLink deal” which required, among other things, promotion of transmission companies, so this legislation, pushed by Bill Grant, Izaak Walton League, and George Crocker, NAWO, gave Xcel, et al., this option that was so disfavored that Xcel withdrew it from the PUC:

Section 1. Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 216B.02, is
amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Subd. 10. [TRANSMISSION COMPANY.] “Transmission company”
means persons, corporations, or other legal entities and their
lessees, trustees, and receivers, engaged in the business of
owning, operating, maintaining, or controlling in this state
equipment or facilities for furnishing electric transmission
service in Minnesota, but does not include public utilities,
municipal electric utilities, municipal power agencies,
cooperative electric associations, or generation and
transmission cooperative power associations.


Sec. 3. Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 216B.16, is
amended by adding a subdivision to read:
utility owners of transmission facilities may, subject to Public
Utilities Commission approval, transfer operational control or
ownership of those transmission assets to a transmission company
subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission jurisdiction.
For transmission asset transfers by a public utility, the Public
Utilities Commission must review the request to transfer either
in the context of a general rate case under this section or by
initiating other proceedings it determines provide adequate
review of the transmission asset transfer. The Public Utilities
Commission may limit, in whole or in part, the transfer of
transmission assets or the timing of those transfers by a public
utility if it finds the limitation in the public interest. The
commission may only approve a transfer if it finds that the
transfer is consistent with the public interest.
In assessing the public interest, the commission shall
evaluate, among other things, whether the transfer:
(1) facilitates the development of transmission
infrastructure necessary to ensure reliability, encourages the
development of renewable resources, and accommodates energy
transfers within and between states;
(2) protects Minnesota ratepayers against the subsidization
of wholesale transactions through retail rates;
(3) ensures, in the case of operational control of
transmission assets, that the state retains jurisdiction over
the transferring utility for all aspects of service under
chapter 216B;
(4) impacts Minnesota retail rates; and
(5) protects Minnesota ratepayers from paying capital costs
for transmission assets that have already been recovered.
(b) A transfer of operational control or ownership of
transmission assets by a public utility under this subdivision
is subject to section 216B.50. The relationship between a
public utility transferring operational control of transmission
assets to another entity under this subdivision is subject to
the provisions of section 216B.48. If a public utility
transfers ownership of its transmission assets to a transmission
provider subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, the Public Utilities Commission may
permit the utility to file a rate schedule providing for the
automatic adjustment of charges to recover the cost of
transmission services purchased under tariff rates approved by
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(c) A municipal utility, a municipal power agency, or a
joint venture pursuant to section 452.25 may transfer
operational control or ownership of transmission assets to a
transmission company, or make investments in a transmission
company, if the governing body of the municipal utility,
municipal power agency, or joint venture finds that the transfer
or investment is consistent with the public interest and will
facilitate the development of infrastructure necessary to ensure
[EFFECTIVE DATE.] This section is effective August 1, 2005,
and applies to petitions for approval of transfer of
transmission assets filed on or after that date and does not
apply to proceedings pending before the Public Utilities
Commission before that date.

So let’s see, is there anything else the utilities need to prepare for CapX 2020??? Oh, the “Minnesota” need criteria was gutted, changed to be “regional” so that opens the door even wider… gee, thanks…

216B.243, Subdivision 3
(3) the relationship of the proposed facility to overall
state energy needs, as described in the most recent state energy
policy and conservation report prepared under section 216C.18,
or, in the case of a high-voltage transmission line, the
relationship of the proposed line to regional energy needs, as
presented in the transmission plan submitted under section


(9) with respect to a high-voltage transmission line, the
benefits of enhanced regional reliability, access, or
deliverability to the extent these factors improve the
robustness of the transmission system or lower costs for
electric consumers in Minnesota;

Here’s a 2007 utility infrastructure rate return scheme that gives them pronto-payback:

Subdivision 1. Definitions. (a) “Electric utility” means a public utility as defined in
section 216B.02, subdivision 4, that furnishes electric service to retail customers.
(b) “Electric utility infrastructure costs” or “EUIC” means costs for electric utility
infrastructure projects that were not included in the electric utility’s rate base in its most
recent general rate case.
(c) “Electric utility infrastructure projects” means projects owned by an electric
utility that:
(1) replace or modify existing electric utility infrastructure, including utility-owned
buildings, if the replacement or modification is shown to conserve energy or use energy
more efficiently, consistent with section 216B.241, subdivision 1c; or
(2) conserve energy or use energy more efficiently by using waste heat recovery
converted into electricity as defined in section 216B.241, subdivision 1, paragraph (n).
Subd. 2. Filing. (a) The commission may approve an electric utility’s petition for
a rate schedule to recover EUIC under this section. An electric utility may petition the
commission to recover a rate of return, income taxes on the rate of return, incremental
property taxes, if any, plus incremental depreciation expense associated with EUIC.
(b) The filing is subject to the following:
(1) an electric utility may submit a filing under this section no more than once
per year; and
(2) an electric utility must file sufficient information to satisfy the commission
regarding the proposed EUIC or be subject to denial by the commission. The information
includes, but is not limited to:
(i) the location, description, and costs associated with the project;
(ii) evidence that the electric utility infrastructure project will conserve energy or use
energy more efficiently than similar utility facilities currently used by the electric utility;
(iii) the proposed schedule for implementation;
(iv) a description of the costs, and salvage value, if any, associated with the existing
infrastructure replaced or modified as a result of the project;
(v) the proposed rate design and an explanation of why the proposed rate design
is in the public interest;
(vi) the magnitude and timing of any known future electric utility projects that the
utility may seek to recover under this section;
(vii) the magnitude of EUIC in relation to the electric utility’s base revenue as
approved by the commission in the electric utility’s most recent general rate case,
exclusive of fuel cost adjustments;
(viii) the magnitude of EUIC in relation to the electric utility’s capital expenditures
since its most recent general rate case;
(ix) the amount of time since the utility last filed a general rate case and the utility’s
reasons for seeking recovery outside of a general rate case;
(x) documentation supporting the calculation of the EUIC; and
(xi) a cost and benefit analysis showing that the electric utility infrastructure project
is in the public interest.
(c) Upon approval of the proposed projects and associated EUIC rate schedule, the
utility may implement the electric utility infrastructure projects.
Subd. 3. Commission authority; orders. The commission may issue orders
necessary to implement and administer this section.

Oh, and they also limited the amount that a transmission company can be assessed for permitting proceedings, yup, good idea when CapX 2020 is coming through, the biggest project ever, and we’ve got an agency that couldn’t get it up if its life depended on it …

commission and department may charge transmission companies
their proportionate share of the expenses incurred in the review
and disposition of proceedings under sections 216B.2425,
216B.243, 216B.48, 216B.50, and 216B.79. A transmission company
is not liable for costs and expenses in a calendar year in
excess of the limitation on costs that may be assessed against
public utilities under subdivision 2. A transmission company
may object to and appeal bills of the commission and department
as provided in subdivision 4.

But hey… Crocker got C-BED out of this deal, doesn’t that make it all worthwhile? Who pays? Who benefits?

Minn. Stat. 216B.1612 Community Based Energy Development. Tariff.

And we all know whose company C-BED is, eh?

C-BED Secretary of State filings:

Community Based Energy Development – name reserved 3/9/05

Assumed Name filed same day, 3/9/05

Web site established 12/25/05 per Wayback Machine

And then there’s the 2007 C-BED perks:

Chapter 57, S.F. 2096
Chapter 136, S.F. 154

Yup, no question why we’re where we are now with not a heck of a lot to do, under the statutes, to shut this open door to CapX 2020. Thanks, guys… it’s your legacy.

More coal on way in North Dakota

Filed under:News coverage — posted by admin on January 25, 2008 @ 11:05 am

… sigh… no surprise, but here we go… but for CapX 2020, this wouldn’t happen, COULDN’T happen…

Selby awaits decision

Announcement expected on $1.7 billion power plant soon

Basin Electric Cooperative of Bismarck, N.D., might be on the verge of announcing whether it will build a $1.7 billion power plant in Walworth County.

The word could come “very, very soon,” said Gary Steuck of Mobridge, chairman of the North Central Power Plant Task Force, a group that has been working for years to lure the power plant to Walworth County.

Steuck reported these developments that fuel hope Walworth County might be chosen:

# Basin Electric is test drilling offshore in the Missouri River, near where the water intake pipes for the coal-fired electrical plant would be.

# The co-op has purchased Walworth County land in the Selby area. Last year, Basin Electric secured options to purchase the land as a plant site.

# At its annual meeting, Basin Electric eliminated the option of building on a site in the Pierre area. That leaves two contenders: Walworth County and a site near Stanton, N.D.

Four-lane expansion: Steuck made his comments Wednesday night in Aberdeen at a session on a different-though-related topic: a proposal to make U.S. Highway 12 four lanes from Aberdeen to Mobridge and perhaps farther west. Twenty-five people from Aberdeen, Bowdle, Hosmer, Ipswich, Mobridge, Roscoe and Selby attended the meeting of the Dakota Expressway Extension Task Force.

If the Selby area gets the power plant, it would serve as another example of economic development in northeast South Dakota and the need for infrastructure – such as four-lane highways – to meet the needs of growth, Steuck and others said Wednesday.

There are also plenty of here-and-now reasons to support four lanes, according to these comments made at the meeting:

# North Central Farmers Elevator’s new grain terminal west of Bowdle has increased highway traffic in that area, including a significant number of semis from North Dakota.

# Truck traffic will increase when the new Aberdeen Energy ethanol plant opens later this year west of Aberdeen in Edmunds County opens.

# Molded Fiber Glass Cos., which is building an Aberdeen plant to make blades for the windmills found on wind-power farms, needs four-lane highways to ship the mammoth blades east and west from Aberdeen.

Molded Fiber Glass would not be coming to Aberdeen if not for the four-lane U.S. 12 from Aberdeen east to Interstate 29, said Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen.

# Truck traffic from Mobridge to Aberdeen will increase when Northern Beef Packers opens its processing plant south of Aberdeen.

To this point, the four-lane task force has concentrated mainly on enlisting the support of cities and counties, said Dennis Wheeler of Mobridge, task force chairman. On Wednesday, the group reached consensus to seek backing from other entities with stakes in the proposed four-lane: trucking companies, area manufacturers that receive and ship goods, ambulance services and farmers’ organizations, as examples.

The task force meets next on May 21, with the time and place to be announced. 

The eastern side of CapX 2020

Filed under:Reports - Documents — posted by admin on @ 6:37 am

ATC in Wisconsin!  That’s what’s on the eastern side.  ATC is to Wisconsin what TRANSLink was to MN, except that ATC is happening and TRANSLink “isn’t” … until you look at CapX.

ATC clearly states that “it’s all connected.”

Portions of the lines also will require approvals by federal officials and by regulators in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Along with Great River Energy, Elk River, Minn.; Otter Tail Power Company, Fergus Falls, Minn.; and Xcel Energy, Minneapolis, utilities or groups that expect to participate in one or more of the CapX 2020 projects are: Dairyland Power Cooperative, La Crosse, Wis.; Midwest Municipal Transmission Group, Des Moines, Iowa; Minnesota Power, Duluth, Minn.; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks, N.D.; Missouri River Energy Services, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Rochester Public Utilities, Rochester, Minn.; Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Rochester, Minn., and Wisconsin Public Power Inc., Sun Prairie, Wis.

They have LOTS of plans, and I’m trying to find the one map with everything on it… one moment please…

CapX 2020? Tell House Energy & Gov what you think!

Filed under:Uncategorized,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on January 21, 2008 @ 8:33 am


All of you who have an opinion about CapX 2020, here’s an opportunity to tell those who’ve supported it just what you think, and opportunity that for some is close to home! From Mike Bull’s post on Locally Grown (or LoGoNo):

This may be posted elsewhere on these pages somewhere, but David Bly is holding a Northfield Energy Summit the evening of January 31. This should be a fun discussion, for those interested in energy issues:

On the agenda for the discussion will be:
– The Northfield Energy Task Force
Rep. Bill Hilty, Chair of the House Energy Committee
– Mike Bull, Ass’t Comm. for Renewable Energy, MN Dept. of Commerce (who’s that guy?)

January 31, 2008 , 5:30 – 8 P.M.

Here’s Rep. David Bly’s post about it:

First Ever Energy Summit of House District 25B

And a while back, there was the Cox and Bull Story on Energy in Northfield:

The Face of Mesaba & the Cox & Bull Story

Mike Bull does these dog and pony shows every year… if I were paid by the mile for hounding him all over the state about his master’s policies, I’d never have to work again… feet up under the mango tree .. virtual hounding from Costa Rica, that’s oh-so-appealing today.

CapX 2020 Scoping Comments filed

Filed under:Reports - Documents — posted by admin on January 16, 2008 @ 8:33 am

There were a number of Comments filed for the Scope of the Environmental Review.  Here’s what arrived in the inbox, starting with NoCapX2020 and onward:

NoCapX2020 Comment

NoCapX 2020 Exhibit A – MISO queue

NoCapX2020 Exhibit B – Conductor Specs

Windustry Comment


Sierra Club Comment

Citizens Energy Task Force Comment

There might be others on the eDockets page

FYI, it’s “Capital Expenditure”

Filed under:Nuts & Bolts — posted by admin on January 4, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

… a quick aside.  “I remember when,” she says in a creaky shaky voice, but I do, I remember when CapX 2020 was “Capital Expenditure,” and as I sat through too many meetings last month, I remembered that when they called it “Capacity Expansion.”  So isn’t that what Dog gave me google for?  And on Otter Tail’s site:

Minnesota’s electric transmission infrastructure—a network of high voltage transmission lines of 230 kilovolts and higher—requires major upgrades and expansion over the next 15 years to support customers’ growing demand for electricity. To ensure the backbone transmission system is developed and available to serve these growing needs, the five largest Minnesota transmission-owning utilities initiated the CapX 2020 project. CapX 2020, which originally stood for “Capital Expenditures by the Year 2020″— to make sure the capital would be available to meet the need—has now become “Capacity Expansion by the Year 2020”. 

Well, they found that source of capital — stick it to the ratepayers, because after all, “it’s for reliability, not generation interconnection.”  I digress…

Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing

Filed under:Laws & Rules — posted by admin on @ 10:16 pm

Every year I whine about this, every year there’s a “Power Plant Siting Act” Annual Hearing, it’s required under Minn. Stat. 216E.07:

The commission shall hold an annual public hearing at a time and place prescribed by rule in order to afford interested persons an opportunity to be heard regarding any matters relating to the siting of large electric generating power plants and routing of high-voltage transmission lines. At the meeting, the commission shall advise the public of the permits issued by the commission in the past year. The commission shall provide at least ten days but no more than 45 days’ notice of the annual meeting by mailing or serving electronically, as provided in section 216.17, a notice to those persons who have requested notice and by publication in the EQB Monitor and the commission’s weekly calendar.

I mean really, who is going to go to a meeting, who is going to REQUEST NOTICE for this meeting, where we all have the opportunity to sit around and bitch about the antics of the state agencies? Here is the Notice and the list:

2007 Notice and Service List

Yes, there are a number of us who enjoy the opportunity. I can’t find my post from last year’s PPSA Annual Hearing, it’s supposed to be in December, but somehow they forget… in fact, they “forgot” for a decade or more until some time near the end of Florence Twp. nuclear waste and during the Chisago I and Arrowhead I fracas (plural of fracas, fracacases? fracasae?? fricase… farcical… ummmmm…), and we started having them, it was usually on a Saturday and there was a packed house of us policy wingnuts, and Kristen Eide Tollefson and I realized that it’d be a lot better if we made it a potluck, and so we did, much to poor Bob Cupit’s dismay. Last year I was… well, I can’t even remember, did I show up or not? Let’s just accept that I was, subject to check, so say the minutes.  There is this map I put together… I think that’s the 2006 meeting, I went in late and assembled my exhibit while we all bitched and kvetched, I quietly (!) sat there like a kindergartener drawing in the CapX 2020 lines, and drawing and pasting little coal plants on the map to represent the new coal generation in the MISO queue, and how does it all fit together? That’s why a picture is worth a thousand words, showing why the utilities want CapX and why there’s no need for the power in Wisconsin or Illinois, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to plot the trajectory on this one. HERE’S THE PICTURE:


Here’s the minutes from that meeting, but they won’t load, GRRRRRRR, so see if you can get it to work, nevermind, I’ll upload:

2006 PPSA Annual Hearing Record

Yes, now it works. Note that this was filed at PUC on December 17, 2007. There wasn’t a report to the PUC that I know of. Bob, Mr. Cupit, sir, this is a pretty clear example, one more example, that it’s just not working. I think it used to be part of the statute that staff would bring a report to the EQB, but it’s not there now, and last year nothing happened, now we’re in … where… the statute doesn’t really say, and now there’s no requirement that anything happen, nothing at all, they just hold the hearing, we “have the opportunity,” and then it goes into “Pile IV” and that’s the end of that. Well anyway, the comments are interesting, except for those best and most exciting parts that were summarized by, essentially, “a discussion was had.” So if you’re sitting around waiting for water to boil, paint dry, here’s something to pass the time, page after page after page of those trying to working within the confines of the Power Plant Siting Act testifying that “it’s broken,” “fatally flawed” and that the transfer of siting from the EQB to Commerce is not workable, that Commerce inappropriately advocates for projects “based on the record” prior to any record being established, that Task Forces are necessary and yet are given short shrift, and tell me, folks, where have you heard all this before?

There was some discussion of CapX, questions of how the agency would handle it, and unsatisfying answers…

Maybe a Petition to the PUC to put this PPSA Annual Hearing on the agenda?

CapX 2020 Xmsn hearing schedule released

Filed under:Nuts & Bolts,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on January 3, 2008 @ 11:47 am


The Scheduling Order is out! Today we (the service list) were served with the First Prehearing Order, and here is what was in the inbox:

First Prehearing Order

Cover Letter – PHO

CapX 2020 Service List

The gist of it is:

Completion of Environmental Report March 31, 2008
Intervention (if calling witnesses) April 15, 2008
Direct Testimony Filed April 30, 2008
Rebuttal Testimony Filed May 30, 2008
Surrebuttal Testimony Filed June 13, 2008
Objections to Direct or Rebuttal Test. June 13, 2008
Public Hearings June 16-27, 2008
Intervention Deadline -no witnesses June 27, 2008
File exhibit & Witness list June 27, 2008
Objections to Surrebuttal Testimony June 27, 2008
Evidentiary Hearing July 7–August 1, 2008
Deadline for Public Comment August 8, 2008
Applicants’ Post-hearing Brief September 5, 2008
Responsive Briefs October 5, 2008
Reply Brief, if any October 19, 2008

Deadline for Commission Action November 27, 2008
Order states that parties have agreed that there is good cause to extend this deadline

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace