CapX status update

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

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

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


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


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


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


This is a docket I know nothing about!


Right now, like TODAY, task forces are forming.

New Dept. of Administration CapX site

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on March 26, 2010 @ 10:38 am

This site with some (not all) of the CapX 2020 environmental documents and history popped up on Google Alert today, covering the 06-1115 docket:

Project: CapX2020 Phase I Transmission Projects Certificate of Need Environmental Review

This is not to say that it hasn’t been there a while (though Wayback turned up nothing) but it did pop up today, and it never has before.

RUS Scoping Report and MN Task Forces on Hampton-LaX/Alma route

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on March 24, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

… sigh…

How much more could be going on at once?

It’s out — it’s dated FEBRUARY — how did that happen?  Did any of you get notice?


Rural Utilities Service Scoping Report for EIS

Appendices A-D

Appendices E-F

Appendices G-H

Appendix I – Part I

Appendix I – Part 2

Appendix I – Part 3

Appendix I – Part 4

Appendix J

Compendium of Public Comments

So on to the State of Minnesota Routing Docket for the Hampton to LaX/Alma transmission line.  I’m sitting here looking at the Task Force docs, where MOES is notifying local governments about the formation of Task Forces:

MOES Notice of Task Forces

Solicitation of Task Force Nominations

… and looking at the route map enclosed with the MOES ditty:


… and looking at the township maps, there are a LOT of townships potentially affected by this, and few spots for township officials/representatives on the Task Forces.


If you’re in this area and live in a township, contact your township officials and let them know how important it is to participate in the Citizen Advisory Task Force and get the local perspective on impacts, what’s important to include in the EIS and particularly how important it is to work jointly and incorporate the federal environmental review being conducted by Rural Utility Services.

CapX CoN appellate arguments in the news

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on @ 10:46 am


Here’s the old railroad bridge outside of Kenyon, if you go down Home St. to Hwy. 56 and walk south a bit, there it is, on the east side of 60.  This is from the days when they really used railroads, and there was that massive influx of Norwegians.  If anything, Kenyon is a Norwegian town… but that didn’t help me fit in there.  But Kenyon Vet Clinic is the best!!!

Anyway, I digress… here it is, from yesterday’s Kenyon Leader:

Need of CapX2020 argued in court

By: Corey Butler Jr.
Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 11:24 am
Email Print
Opponents of a proposed energy project through the region were in court last week to challenge an issuance from the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Carol Overland, an attorney and opponent of the CapX2020 project, said in an e-mail the issuance of a Certificate of Need for the proposed transmission lines are not necessary.

CapX2020, a group comprised of 11 utilities, is proposing the construction of a 345-kilovolt electric transmission line and associated facilities to run between Hampton and Rochester. The proposal includes a 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.

Three other transmission lines are proposed throughout the region.

If the preferred line from Hampton to Rochester isn’t approved, a backup route would head south from Hampton along Hwy. 56 through Holden Township and then head east through Wanamingo.

Speaking on behalf of groups NoCapX and United Citizen Action Network before the Appellate Court, Overland said the energy usage CapX2020 says is needed to power the region are wrong. She said in the time since the project began, energy usage has decreased.

“Demand has decreased so dramatically that utilities are canceling or withdrawing infrastructure projects, and since the peak in 2006, it’s down,” she wrote. … “The CapX project is not needed by any measure.”

CapX2020 utilities were granted a Certificate of Need from the PUC on April 16, 2009. According to CapX2020’s Web site, the expansion of the electric transmission grid is needed to ensure continued reliable and affordable service. It says planning studies show that customer demand for electricity will increase by 4,000 to 6,000 megawatts by 2020.

On March 9, the PUC accepted a completed application from CapX for the transmission project route permit from Hampton to Rochester to La Crosse.

As part of the Minnesota Route Permit process, the PUC determines the transmission line’s final route. The rules for the permit require that the applicant identify at least two routes and state a preference for one.

Should the preferred line ultimately be denied, landowners in Holden Township and Wanamingo could be faced with battles over their land.

State law currently allows government entities to use eminent domain to purchase private land without the owner’s consent but with fair compensation in effort to boom economic development.

Last month, Rep. Steve Drazkowski (Wabasha), the lead Republican in the House Civil Justice Committee, became an author of a bill that would remove an exemption for public service corporations when it comes to eminent domain.

Lawmakers are looking at the law again after CapX2020 proposed its project including four major utility lines throughout the state, worrying landowners who could fall in its routes of not receiving proper compensation.

But that discussion could become moot, should the argument by NoCapX and UCAN be welcomed by the Appellate Court.

Overland said she expects a decision from the court within three months.

HF 1182 passes in the House!

Filed under:Laws & Rules,News coverage — posted by admin on @ 10:04 am


IT PASSED IN THE HOUSE — THE FULL HOUSE!  Now on to finish up in the Senate.

Thanks to Rep.  David Bly for authoring HF 1182, to remove the eminent domain law exemptions for public service corporations — our “good neighbor” utilities who thought they were special.  Thanks also to the other co-authors  Falk ; Paymar ; Buesgens ; Brod ; Morrow ; Drazkowski ; Haws

Here’s Bly’s press release — and kudos to Russ Martin, United Citizens Action Network, for all his work, all Judy’s work… and then there’s Joyce Osborn too!  Anyway, the press release:


Bipartisan legislative victory passes 123 to 5

ST. PAUL – Legislation authored by Rep. David Bly (DFL – Northfield) passed the House today that would increase fairness and balance for Minnesota homeowners whose land may be taken through eminent domain process. Passed on a wide bipartisan vote of 123 to 5, Bly’s bill repeals the special exemptions for eminent domain given to utility companies involving high-voltage transmission lines and natural gas and petroleum pipelines. Bly called the bill a victory for private property rights for all Minnesotans.

“A constituent of mine named Russell Martin came to me in 2008 when he found out an oil pipeline was going to be built across his land. A year later he found out the CAPX 2020 powerline was sited to cross his property. I began hearing from other property owners across the state on this issue and drafted the current bill,” said Bly. “This bill will protect homeowners like Russell who deserve to have a fair process when they are put in this unfair position.”

After United States Supreme Court broadened the ability of government to use eminent domain in 2005, the Minnesota Legislature took action to limit the power of state government to use eminent domain in order to protect and increase fairness to property owners. However, as part of those changes, “public service corporations” (PSC) were exempted from the new regulations and restrictions. Bly said this exemption has created a paradox in state law that is unfair to Minnesota property owners.

“If a non-profit entity like the state government wants to use your land for a public park, you have far more protections than if a for-profit utility company wants to run a high-voltage power line through your property,” said Bly. “In the interest of fairness to Minnesota’s property owners, we are simply holding these specific utility companies to the same standard we hold our own government.”

This legislation is a direct response to the proposed CapX 2020 line that is moving forward that will affect many regions of the state. The CapX 2020 line will go from Brookings to Hampton affecting Minnesotans in Lincoln County in the west through, Scott, Rice, Dakota and Goodhue counties and points south toward the Wisconsin border.

“The CapX 2020 power lines are moving forward as we speak and it’s critical we ensure that the rights of Minnesota property owners are protected,” said Bly.

The Minnesota Senate is expected to act on a similar bill soon at which point it will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Here’s what Rep. Steve Drazkowski has to say about it — he wouldn’t co-author last year, but this year, with all the constituents calling, his name is on it — this is from his email blurb (I omitted the part about the federal health care bill, sorry, but my stomach just cannot abide by his rant):

Over the past year in southeastern Minnesota, property owners have been dealing with the uncertainties brought forward by the development of the CapX2020 project and the plans for the development of a 345 Mhz high powered transmission line. The proposed route runs right through house district 28B. From the outset, there were two items that I have communicated my commitment to doing to help limit the impact that this line would have on private property rights in our district.

The first was to work with government agencies, the CapX consortium, and other legislators to encourage the selection of a route that maximized the use of existing corridors and minimized the impact on private property. At this point, it appears that our work has paid off, as the proposed route uses existing corridors to a high degree, and the impact on private property should be minimized.

The second goal was to have eminent domain reform passed into law - so that the very same eminent domain restrictions applied to utilities as it does to local units of government. This will ensure that when property is taken for utility projects like CapX, that property owners are placed in the very best position to ensure fair and honest compensation from the utility company. I am happy to report that this afternoon, HF1182, a bill that I co-sponsored - and a bill that accomplishes the eminent domain reforms that our state lacks, passed the House Floor a vote of 123-5! I am confident that the senate companion will also pass, that we will get a favorable conference committee report, and that the bill will be signed into law very soon.

Now, everyone call the Governor and let him know that we expect him to sign that bill when it lands on his desk.  Oh, but wait, he’s not there… where is he campaigning these days…

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


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 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!

A good day at the Appellate Court!

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

peakdemandchart… a 1,200MW drop in demand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see… 90 days?

Only 2 Task Forces on Hampton-Alma line

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on March 12, 2010 @ 7:23 am

The PUC meeting yesterday resulted in two Citizen Advisory Task Forces, which, looking at the bright side, is twice as many Citizen Advisory Task Forces as MOES wanted. On the other hand, I’d requested five in specific locations — there’s too much ground to cover with too wide varieties of issues for just two.

moes-tavern1Here are my notes from the meeting:


The webcast should be in the archive soon (the most recent one now is February 25, 2010:


Based on all those I’d heard from, they got many requests.  There will be a notice out soon to participate in the Task Forces they did set up, and I”ll post it and send it around the second it comes out.

PUC Thursday – CapX Alma route Task Forces

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on March 9, 2010 @ 11:13 am


Now’s the time to request Citizen Advisory Task Forces for the CapX 2020 line from Hampton to Alma (f/k/a LaCrosse line).

The PUC has asked the Dept. of Commerce to come back with a plan, though there’s no order posted about it yet. HERE IT IS, they just put it up now, afternoon of 3/9 (note it is SILENT about joint environmental review with RUS):

PUC Order March 9, 2010

It is on the PUC agenda for Thursday, March 11, 2010, and you can watch by CLICKING HERE and look for little navy blue button that says “Watch Webcast” and it’s live starting ~ 9:30 a.m., and here’s the agenda item, dead last:



Xcel Energy
In the Matter of the Route Permit Application for the CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse High Voltage Transmission Lines in Dakota, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha Counties.

Should the Commission establish an Advisory Task Force structure and charge? (PUC: DeBleeckere, OES EFP: Langan)

Soon “briefing papers” should be posted, you’ll find a link by clicking on AGENDA HERE and scrolling down… but maybe it won’t appear until after the meeting?!?!? Nope, those are now linked the afternoon of 3/9 too!  A peek at the PUC docket shows that this is MOES’ plan:

Task Force – Staff Comments & Recommendation

What does MOES recommend — surprise, surprise… ONE Task Force for the length of the line, option “A-1.”

I’ve fired off this Motion right now… and YOU FIRE ONE OFF TOO!  (emails below)

AMENDED – NoCapX & U-CAN Motion for CATF & Joint EIS

NoCapX & U-CAN Motion for CATF & Joint Environmental Review


Send in a request for a Citizen Advisory Task Force NOW.  From the looks of the route proposed, and from the people who have contacted me on this, I think there should be one for the northern part, Hampton-Cannon Falls area, another for the corner, the Pine Island/Rochester, and one for the River Crossing.

Send request to both: (and they’ll file it on PUC site)

St. Cloud to Monticello – DEIS Comments

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on March 6, 2010 @ 9:18 am

Although the time for DEIS Comments was up the week before last, it’s important to get Comments that are relevant to routing in the routing docket.  Just entering things in as DEIS Comments is NOT enough.  You need to get information related to siting directly to Judge Heydinger, and most things relevant to the DEIS are also relevant in the siting/routing docket.

FYI, here are my DEIS Comments filed in the St.  Cloud to Monticello docket – note that the numbers for EMF modeling are way, way off, inexcusably underestimated:

Overland – Comments – Monticello

Overland – Comment – Attachment A – Sandok4-3-09

Overland – Comment – Attachment B – Feasibility Study – Undergrounding

Overland – Comment – Attachment C – 01-1958 Ex. 35, App. 7

Overland – Comment – Attachment D – CoN Ex76 MCEA IR3

And other Comments that I’ve found:

Onnen – Comment

Ziegler/Cat – Comment

Clear Lake Township – Comment

Wright County Board – Comment

MnDOT – Comment

From the looks of the MnDOT Comment, there’s the same sorts of issues here, and thankfully OES is putting them up on the PUC Docket.  Scenic easements are an issue, running longitudinally is an issue, “hopping back and forth” across I-94 is a problem.

Clear Lake Township and Wright County both raise Notice issues, Clear Lake Township states that it had no notice whatsoever of a proposed alternate route and no opportunity to be on the Task Force.

Wright County is affected, the river crossing in the County and Scenic Byway are areas where the transmission line as proposed would have a significant impact, and how would or could that be mitigated?

Take a look at the issues raised in prepping for Monday!

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