And finally, last night in Fountain City…

Filed under:RUS EIS,Wisconsin — posted by admin on June 26, 2009 @ 10:14 am



The Comment deadline has been extended, no formal notice, but heard it verbally and in writing from Stephanie Strength herself!

Send Comments to:

Stephanie Strength
Environmental Protection Specialist
USDA, Rural Utilities Service
Engineering and Environmental Staff
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1571
Washington, DC 20250-1571
(202) 720-0468


As to last night’s meeting in Fountain City, well, close, it was the Cochrane-Fountain City, at the High School, and afterwards, at the Monarch Tavern.

It was same old, same old, with fewer people, maybe fewer than even St. Charles.  That’s disappointing, but oh well, we’re done!

For suggestions for Comments on the EIS Scope:

Comment Suggestions – Scope EIS

We’ll keep you posted with news as this goes forward.

And last night in Galesville…

Filed under:RUS EIS,Upcoming Events,Wisconsin — posted by admin on June 25, 2009 @ 2:33 pm


This scene was just outside the door of the Galesville/Centerville Community Center where RUS held the CapX 2020 scoping open house yesterday.  It really was that beautiful, and corn chest high on June 24, the growing season is way ahead, getting more so all the time.  We ran into the nastiest storm with the weirdest shaped clouds, feather fingers dangling down, not at all smooth spinning tornado like, but columns falling down with feathers reaching out.  The front was extreme, super windy and tree branches blowing all over, we were running late and this didn’t help, but it was a fun storm to be in.  By the time we got to Galesville, it was long gone.

But quick, get to work, and chat with everyone coming in — between the CETF person at the door and NoCapX just inside in the hallway, we made them run the gauntlet before CapX even saw the whites of their eyes!

Here are all the handouts, in a bunch:

Comment Suggestions – Scope EIS


Mortgage Companies taking eminent domain compensation

OK, now on to Fountain City!

The deadline for comments has been extended to July 25th, BUT I don’t have a formal announcement yet.  Do have it in writing from Stephanie Strength.  I’ll post the official Notice.

“One would think” it’s because of the good meeting attendance, eh?

Brookings EIS scoping… “the response… was massive.”

Filed under:RUS EIS — posted by admin on June 24, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

Well, DUH!  What do you expect when they threaten to take away land from so many people?

This is a hectic time in CapX 2020 land…

The Scoping Decision for the Brookings line routing docket EIS was due MONDAY, and so TODAY, two days later, MOES writes to the judge to say they aren’t ready, don’t have it done, and won’t have it done until the end of June.

MOES Letter to ALJ Luis re: failure to deliver EIS Scope



The vultures are coming home to roost…

I thought we all were supposed to comply with the Judge’s Orders.  I guess deadlines are now optional.

Press coverage of RUS meetings

Filed under:News coverage,RUS EIS — posted by admin on @ 12:51 pm

nocapxherePhoto by Kay Fate/Kenyon Leader

Public gets the chance to comment on high voltage power lines

Hey, got plastered across the screen!!!

From WXOW 19

Deadline approaching for CapX 2020 concerns

From the Cannon Falls Beacon:

High voltage power line headed for Hwy 52?

Comment section here, LaCrosse Tribune:

Federal utilities group to begin review of CapX 2020 project

And from the Kenyon Leader:

Power line irks residents

Kay Fate-The Kenyon Leader

WANAMINGO — Barb St. John attended the public scoping meeting about the CapX2020 transmission lines last week, “basically as a (Holden) township official,” she said, “because we didn’t know the route” the lines would take.

On the way in to the Wanamingo Community Center, “I met one of my neighbors, and she said, ‘boy, am I relieved. It’s not going to be on my property,’ ” St. John remembers. “I said, ‘oh, where is it going?’ and followed her back inside.”

Where it was going, it turned out, was right down St. John’s own property line in Holden Township.

She’d had no idea.

“Ambushed,” she said, “is a pretty good word for it.

“We’d all gotten a notification about a month ago,” she said, “but it was kind of a broad thing.”

Nowhere on the notice, St. John said, did she see her property singled out as part of the transmission line route. But as a township official, she knew of the possibility.

“We’d talked about it a little at the township level,” she said, “but I don’t think they were aware (then) of this route.”

Last week’s meeting in Wanamingo — which drew nearly 250 people — was designed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to allow input for an environmental impact statement, a project requirement.

The CapX2020 utilities are proposing the construction of a 345-kilovolt electric transmission line and associated facilities to run between Hampton and Rochester. The proposal included the 345 kV transmission line from a substation near Hampton to a proposed substation in north Rochester, then on to a new or existing substation near La Crosse, Wis.

The transmission line poles, which will be placed anywhere from 800 to 1,000 feet apart, will be 8 to 10 feet in diameter.

Xcel Energy is the lead utility for the proposal.

The route St. John saw isn’t set in stone, cautioned Tim Carlsgaard, communications manager for CapX2020.

The final route will be determined sometime in the fall, he said.

The large turnout in Wanamingo was because “we had narrowed down the proposed route options from many to few,” Carlsgaard said. “We have to provide the state with at least two route options for this project. If you’re in that Wanamingo area, you’re going to see it — either on Hwy. 52 or parallel to (Hwy.) 56.”

Once the certificate of route is presented to the state, it will be “another 12- to 15-month process with public meetings and public hearings,” he said. Even then, landowners or township residents “may present the state with their own route option.”

When the final route has been determined by the state, “we’ll talk to the landowner about acquiring an easement, a right-of-way,” Carlsgaard said.

In addition to a one-time payment for the land use, other compensation could include crop-damage or compaction. The amount paid “would depend on how many structures are on the property. We need to compensate them fairly, and be diligent about pole placement,” Carlsgaard said.

The $2 billion project must obtain approval from state and federal agencies before it can be built.

Its supporters say the project is necessary “to expand the electric transmission grid to meet the increasing demand for power.”

Not true, said one of its most vocal opponents.

“There’s a brain-washing going on here,” said Carol Overland, an attorney from Red Wing who specializes in transmission and energy issues.

“I’m getting a really strong sense that this line isn’t needed,” she said. “The Xcel (energy) demand from 2007 and 2008 dropped 11 percent. Not each year, but total. They’d planned for a 2.5 percent hike each year; that’s a 16 percent swing in demand.”

The study used by Xcel to predict demand, Overland said, “was based on 2004 information, and that’s all. It stops at 2004. They’re trying to say this (decrease) is a blip on the radar, but no, it’s been going on for years.”

Her passion about energy got its start in, of all places, Kenyon.

“After law school, I ended up in Kenyon,” Overland said. “I was just about destitute; I lived above Nygaard’s (Repair) there on Main Street. City hall was just across the street then.”

In 1994, a call was put out for a committee’s input about where to put nuclear waste from Prairie Island.

Overland responded.

“I just went as a regular old person,” she said, “not as a lawyer.”

The experience was what got her involved in nuclear energy; the rest followed naturally, she said.

CapX2020, Overland believes, “is the biggest thing to come down the pike; 80,000 landowners in Minnesota will be affected.”

At least one, of course, is St. John, who calls the project “unfortunate for farmers; it’ll break up their farmland.”

She asked a CapX official at the Wanamingo meeting why the project would be going through the middle of (farmland) sections.

“He told me, ‘because there’s too many houses along the road,’ ” St. John said. “So it’s too dangerous to go near houses, but you’ll put it over my land? He said no, he didn’t mean that, but that’s what it seemed to imply.”

For the time being, she said, “I’m just gathering information and informing the rest of Holden Township about this. People say, ‘well, how would you like it if you didn’t have any electricity?’ And I tell them, this electricity isn’t even for us, it’s going over us.”

The federal officials “want some substantial reasons for why (the project) would change the environment,” St. John said. “We’ve spent all these years conserving energy, and now it’s coming in and stepping on us.”

For her part, Overland is challenging the project on its entire basis.

The EIS process alone is predicted to take at least two years, which she said “gives me hope that it will be thorough.” That’s not enough, though.

“Some people say, ‘well, it’s OK, as long as there are conditions, if it goes somewhere else.’ Well, no; then that means it’s OK. That means it’s going to go through someone’s property. We need to start better conservation policies, more renewable energy sources,” she said.

St. John said her neighbors will be hearing from her.

“We were totally unaware that this route was cemented in,” she said. “I just want them to know that there’s a big red line going right through Holden Township, and it looks pretty specific to me.”

Last night in LaCrosse

Filed under:RUS EIS,Wisconsin — posted by admin on @ 8:07 am

This is a high mileage week, yesterday, LaCrosse, today Galesville, and tomorrow Fountain City.

It was a sparse gathering yesterday. I’d expected a better turnout because of the proximity to LaCrosse and that it was a larger city than others, and hopefully more organized, but noooooooo… The good news was that I got to meet people I’ve been in contact with and hear their story in person, connect a face with a voice.

Once more with feeling, here are suggestions for the scope of the EIS — things to ask RUS to cover:

Comment Suggestions – Scope EIS


The comment date has been extended, but I haven’t got anything official, I’ll post when it comes out, so, for now, let’s use the former deadline, June 29, 2009 — send Comments to:

Stephanie Strength
Environmental Protection Specialist
USDA, Rural Utilities Service
Engineering and Environmental Staff
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1571
Washington, DC 20250-1571
(202) 720-0468


Yesterday, I brought in the CapX 2020 flyer that I find so objectionable — they didn’t have any of them at the St. Charles meeting, but they were there again last night — so I showed it to Stephanie Strength, RUS, and gave her a copy of it and a copy of the NoCapX flyer with the 2000-2008 Xcel system peak demand showing MAJOR decrease in demand, called over Tim Carlsgaard to register my complaint, Grant Stevenson got into the act too, and Stephanie said she’ll check it out.  Uh-huh — all the materials they have on display were supposedly approved by USDA/RUS.  That means that it should be true and correct, eh?  Right…  those flyers should be dumped in the recycling NOW!

Here’s that CapX 2020 flyer:

CapX-Electric Usage Continues to Climb

In short, it’s a bunch of crap… here’s the real poop from Xcel:


And here’s my handout about it from last night showing the above drop in electricity with the citations:


Xcel 2008 10-K

Xcel 2005 10-K

Xcel 2002 10-K


Alan had some good chats, he enjoys talking with these guys, particularly engineers.

Mortgage companies & banks take eminent domain $$$$

Filed under:News coverage — posted by admin on June 20, 2009 @ 6:53 pm



Those of you facing eminent domain, fighting hard for those measly dollars that utilities will cough up, well, what many people are finding is that the mortgage companies are grabbing it, leaving them with nothing.

If you are a landowner and if CapX 2020 is threatening to take some of your land, QUICK, get out your mortgage and see what it says about landowner compensation for eminent domain takings or eminent domain settlements.

One thing this article doesn’t address is whether there’s a pattern based on percentage of equity, i.e., are they taking the cash when someone’s upside down, but if the mortgage balance is 20% of the value they don’t, if it’s a new mortgage or one regularly behind do the take it, and if it’s one with a substantial down payment and prompt payments they don’t… What’s the pattern here?

From Friday’s STrib:

Government takes land, banks take cash

In tough economic times, more homeowners who lose ground to eminent domain are finding that stressed mortgage holders are pocketing the proceeds.


Harold and Sharon Tieden were unhappy from the outset that they would lose a 12-foot swath of their Blaine back yard and a row of mature pines to an expansion of Radisson Road. Still, they began negotiations with Anoka County, planning to use the settlement to rebuild a berm, move trees and rocks, and maybe build a fence. ¶ But like many other homeowners losing ground to eminent domain this year, they have found that they can’t even count on the cold comfort of a settlement check.

When they sign the papers, the check, it turns out, will likely go instead to their mortgage holder.

In an unusual twist brought about by stressed lenders and highly leveraged real estate, homeowners across the metro who are facing the loss of land due to eminent domain projects are increasingly getting notices from banks claiming rights to the proceeds. In the past, such notices were sent so rarely that county officials never saw a need to keep track of how often it happened.

St. Charles last night

Filed under:RUS EIS — posted by admin on June 19, 2009 @ 10:10 am


Last night, Stephanie Strength of the USDA’s RUS, announced that I would not be allowed to set up my little display, above, in the same room as CapX.  Must be the revolutionary stuff I’m handing out:

Comment Suggestions – Scope EIS

Buy the Farm – Minn. Stat. 216E.12

She said that though I’d been no problem the prior two nights, she’d checked with the head honcho, and they’d decided that I should not be allowed to set up in the meeting room, that I could set up anywhere in the hall.  But wait — the RUS has no rules regarding this, so she told Alan.  They have at least 10 displays, probably more, they have SIXTEEN PEOPLE, they have two or three computers set up to print out maps for landowners, they have three tables piled high wtih projects maps that are at least 6×8 feet, and I’m little ol’ me with one table and display board and a few hastily printed out handouts.  Not exactly even there…

So what’s their basis?  She said that if she let me in, then if anyone else would come, she’d have to let them in too, and they didn’t want any disruption, that people had to hear (HUH?  Where’s the disruption?  Who can’t hear?  If there’s disruption, then deal with disruption.  This is not the way to do it — it’s the same theory the St. Paul Police and Sheriff Fletcher were operating on with the RNC, raid first to prevent disruption, wholly unconstitutional).  It was clear that that was the new rule.  Offensive, but not worth a trip to jail about.

Thing is, she’s said that in her 10 years with RUS, no one has ever done this before, a fact that I find so strange, I’ve been setting up displays wherever there are meetings and hearings, for how long, following project proponents around the state.  I cannot believe that no one else has done this.  The DOE knows from the Mesaba Project that “this is how we do it in Minnesota!”  But then, where is everyone on this project?  No other intervenors have bothered to show up.  What gives?

Methinks that Grant Stevenson had best hurry up with my official CapX nametag, with “NO” scribbled in front of “CapX.”


Anyway, the front hall had its advantages.  Rather than sit back and passively wait for people to stop by, I got to have at least a little discussion with everyone coming and going, so it might even be better!!!  I got a lot of sheets handed out, although the turnout was not as good in St. Charles as it was in Plainview and Wanamingo.   It was looking like it might rain, though it didn’t, so a guy doing music on Main Street was set up in the room next door, and I got to play usher.  “Are you here for the music (indicating door on R) or the song and dance (indicating ahead, to CapX)?”  Many went off to the music on the right with NoCapX 2020 flyers in hand, including the Music Man!

Another thing, the first night, CapX had a flyer with a subheading about “ever increasing demand for electricity” and I couldn’t find that flyer last night.  What gives?  I know it was there somewhere, and hey, I want to object!

All but 10 of  the “Buy the Farm” flyers are gone…

Next week, LaCrescent, Galesville and Fountain City:

June 23, 2009   6-8 p.m.
La Crescent American Legion
509 N. Chestnut
La Crescent, Minnesota

June 24, 2009   6-8 p.m.
Centerville/Town of Trempealeau Community Center
W24854 State Road 54/93
Galesville, Wisconsin

June 25, 2009   6-8 p.m.
Cochrane-Fountain City High School
S2770 State Road 35
Fountain City, Wisconsin

Be there or be square!

Comments can be sent, by June 29, to:

Stephanie Strength
Environmental Protection Specialist
Rural Utilities Service
Engineering and Environmental Staff
Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1571
Washington, DC 20250-1571
(202) 720-0468



Wanamingo – another well-attended RUS EIS meeting

Filed under:RUS EIS — posted by admin on June 17, 2009 @ 8:12 pm


There’s “larger than life” Joyce Osborn, United Citizens Action Network, at the Wanamingo meeting tonight, where RUS was holding an open house to gather public comments for their Environmental Impact Statement.  Oh, nevermind, it’s a MINATURE turbine…

Tonight, there were about 200 people — Stephanie Strength said that last night’s crowd in Plainview was MORE than 200!  It was a good gathering and I got to meet a lot of people I’ve been corresponding with but never met, and Joyce and Judy from U-CAN (United Citizens Action Network) were there and I overheard someone telling Joyce how much she’d appreciated her comments at the Cannon Falls PUC Public Hearing, that she really went at it and said what needed to be said!  That kind of statement makes this battle a lot easier!

If you want to be added to my email notice list, drop me a line — you know how to find me!!!


Here are some suggestions for Comments – feel free to use them, expand on them, apply them to your situation (I cannot get links to work in this doc, so you’ll probably have to cut and paste them into browser):

Comment Suggestions – Scope EIS

And here’s a perennial favorite that I can’t ever print enough of:

Buy the Farm – Minn. Stat. 216E.12

Here are the primary documents to use for Commenting on the EIS:

Federal Register Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS

Alternative Evaluation Study (it’s BIG)

Macro Corridor Study (it’s BEYOND BIG)

Broken down Macro Corridor Study:

Chapters 1-4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6-7



Last night’s meeting in Plainview

Filed under:RUS EIS — posted by admin on @ 9:15 am


Yesterday was the first Rural Utility Service meeting for scoping its EIS.  The notice said that there would be an “open house” and then a “discussion period.”  Didn’t happen, it was strictly the “open house.”

What should we be telling them should be included in the EIS?

  1. Everyone should send in specific environmental information about their community and areas they know (parks, wildlife areas, Laura Ingalls’ brother’s grave, etc).
  2. The WHOLE project must be reviewed, it’s all one big happy project.
  3. There is no need for this project – Xcel demand down 11+% 2007-2008 per their SEDC 10K filing, not even getting into 2009!!!  Otter Tail Power demand down the toilet too.  PJM cancelled part of Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway due to decreased demand.
  4. Rochester plans a “West Side Energy Park” gas plant
  5. System alternatives individually and collectively, such as conservation, which alone is 1.5% under the state’s puny mandate, serious conservation which would cut a lot more, load shifting and SmartGrid peak shaving and load shifting, local generation, distributed generation, thoughtfully sited renewable generation (i.e., siting wind/gas combo), DRG study based additions to system sans transmission, on and on and on…
  6. Impacts on river crossings and wetlands
  7. Impacts on federally protected waters and wetlands and Scenic Byways, etc.
  8. Property value losses
  9. Compensation for those near but not under the lines
  10. EMF impacts of 4,100MVA project (see for more info)

Anyway, we got there early to allow time to set up my little display and table, as I’m setting it up, Stephanie Strength, probably dreading her worst nightmare as reality, said, “What’s going on here?”  I said we were setting up.  She said that no one’s ever done this before at a RUS meeting.  Really?  Where are people and what are they dong?  I’d think that’d be one of the easiest and most logical things to do.  All around the entire cafeteria was promotional CapX 2020 material, even some with outright lies, like saying that there’s “ever increasing demand” or some such.  She said that everything there had been preapproved, and of course, mine wasn’t.  She was also worried about “disruption” or some such, and wanted me to be sure there was no confusion, that everyone knew that this was NOT CapX!  Well, sure, of course…  I can do that!  I’d guess she figured out that it’d be better to leave me be and see what happened rather than throw me out.  Well, maybe it’s because I have the weight advantage…  Good thing, cuz I can just see what would happen if I had to call in Grant Stevenson, Tim Carlsgaard and Randy Fordice for backup!!!  I mean really, it’s not like I had a big “Death to the Capitalist Pigfuckers” banner…


Anyway, important factoid — it was an “open house” the whole time, no discussion whatsoever, no public meeting, no hearing, no court reporter or tape.  There was a cardboard box way in a corner to put comments in.  So if I ruled the world, I would do things differently.  I’d have two boxes, at the entryway, and at her table in the room, much moreclearly marked.  Tonight, in Wanamingo, I’ll see what I can do about that.

Humorous note — one of the utility toadies last night was an engineer, and he didn’t even know that Xcel demand had dropped more than 11% in 2007-2008, not even including 2009!  If those designing and planning don’t know, folks, we’re in a world of hurt…

Onward!  Time to print out a bunch more “Buy the Farm” flyers.  So many landowners asked about it yesterday that I ran out!  For those inquiring minds, here’s the text:

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.

Here’s the schedule again — it’s supposed to be 6-8, but we stayed late last night and expect that’ll happen again if enough of you show up:

June 17, 2009  6-9 p.m.
Wanamingo Community Center
401 Main Street, Wanamingo

June 18, 2009   6-9 p.m.
City of St. Charles Community Meeting Room
830 Whitewater Avenue
St. Charles, Minnesota

June 23, 2009   6-9 p.m.
La Crescent American Legion
509 N. Chestnut
La Crescent, Minnesota

June 24, 2009   6-9 p.m.
Centerville/Town of Trempealeau Community Center
W24854 State Road 54/93
Galesville, Wisconsin

June 25, 2009   6-9 p.m.
Cochrane-Fountain City High School
S2770 State Road 35
Fountain City, Wisconsin

Be there or be square!

Inching towards appeal of CapX 2020 CoN Order

Filed under:PUC Docket,Uncategorized — posted by admin on June 12, 2009 @ 12:39 pm


Somehow the time flew and next thing I knew, AAAAAGH, Requests, Petitions and Motions for Reconsideration were flying into the Inbox.  After a frantic cut and paste, mine went out too… that’s one deadline not to miss!

Here’s the Order in question:

Order Granting CoN with Conditions

And here are all the Reconsideration pleadings, leading off with Applicants’ — even they’re not happy:

Applicants Request for Reconsideration

MOES – Reconsideration

CETF Petition for Reconsideration

CETF Attachment A

CETF Attachment B

NoCapX & U-CAN Motion for Reconsideration

Ex A – Surprise drop in power use

Ex B – Xcel 2008 Summary

Ex C – Otter Tail Corp SEC 10-K

Ex D – EIA Electric Power Monthly Chap 5

Ex E – 2008 NERC Reliability Assessment

Ex F – Press Release Sandok 4-3-09

Ex G – MTO Study Reports 3-31-09

Ex H – NYISO & ISO-NE 2-4-09

Ex I – JCSP 08 Executive Summary 2-8-09

Ex J – NY Testimony – US Senate Energy

As these were coming in, I was reminded of a comment made to my “Request for Recusal” a while ago where I’d wanted Commissioner Reha recused for activity regarding a docket at issue, and someone… Pugh?  O’Brien?, Koppendrayer?  said that this was a “Request” and “we don’ t have a Motion before us so we don’t have to take any action” so I’m calling everything a Motion now…  I wonder if they’ll toss out the CapX 2020 Request for the same reason… SNORT!  Not likely…

next page

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace