CapX Hampton-LaCrosse line in the news

Filed under:PUC Docket,Uncategorized — posted by admin on July 29, 2011 @ 9:39 am

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After the absurdity of the Oronoco attempt to run the transmission line over unsuspecting township residents and landowners (and away from others!) without notice:

ex-89-crop

…and the Post Bulletin reporting that “new” route, complete with the above “Exhibit 89” map, and then its suddenly “oh, that was an error, here’s a correction” move (yup, transparency is a good thing!!!  How transparent can you get?  You didn’t get the map from the PUC’s shut down site… it was GIVEN to the Post Bulletin in its backfiring PR attempt)…

… and then the Post Bulletin then does a forum featuring Oronoco’s position.

It was… interesting… particularly where the editor made a bizarre assumption in one of his “questions” asking why only Oronoco Township is being vocal about this (or some such)!  As with misbehaving dogs, I had to make a quick “correction.”

Even more bizarre was consultant Jeff Broberg’s “taking the hit” for proposal and advocacy for the route on Exhibit 89 through his statement that he advanced the Exhibit 89 illegitimate route on his own without authority from the township!  Uh-huh… right…  I was there at the evidentiary hearing, and it’s too bad that the editor of the paper and forum moderator wasn’t there because then he’d understand the bizarreness of Broberg’s statements.  Broberg testified at the hearing, when asked whether the landowners had been given notice, that it had been discussed at the Planning Commission meeting the night before (the Planning Commission?  Oh really?!?!), and attorney Rod Krass pulled out the Exhibit 89 from his bag of tricks,Jeff Broberg testified about it at length.  When it was introduced, they both looked like the cat that ate the canary

big_cats_-_puma

… that is until it fell apart during cross-examination, when it was finally clear to them that they could not propose a route at the last minute, that there was a process to go through that they hadn’t bothered with, that their “new” route on Exhibit 89 could not and would not be considered by the ALJ or the PUC, and worse, they didn’t appear to even know what the rules were about it!!!  Oh, my, goodbye catbird, hello deer in the headlights:

deerinheadlinghts

There they were, wedged into the grill, and cross-examination of Jeff Broberg continued for at least half an hour.

As soon as I can get at the transcript, we’ll set that record straight about his testimony about their Exhibit 89, above.

Back to the PB “create-some-news” event, here’s the KAAL piece (click below to get to their page and the video):

CapX 2020 Project Moving Forward


(ABC 6 NEWS) — As plans for a new high voltage powerline line move forward, those in its path are coming out to get more information, and for some, to share their opposition.

The message is clear from Oronoco residents like Paige Collins – no one wants the powerline in their front yard.

“It’s kind of a case of nobody wants these, right? And so you have to look at where the best placement is,” says Collins.

Collins represents Oronoco’s planning commission and says at least part of the proposed route doesn’t make sense.
She says, “[Oronoco is] much more populated than some of the other areas along the alternative routes.”

At Wedneday’s meeting at the Rochester Public Library, people listened while both sides explained their positions.

CapX 2020 is a multi-state project that’s been in the works for around six years. Xcel Energy is behind it and the company says the recent heat and humidity prove why the project is needed.

“All of the utility partners in this project broke records as far their electricity use on their system so the system is demanding we upgrade it,” says Xcel spokesperson Tim Carlsgaard.

A number of routes is still being considered. One travels from just north of Cannon Falls, down toward the Rochester area, and over to Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

“People are using electricity more than ever and we need to be able to meet that demand,” says Carlsgaard.

A judge has all the data and testimonies collected by both sides. She’ll give her recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. It’ll make the final call as to where the power line will go up.

Either way, those against it say they’ll continue their fight.

“We’re trying to protect our residents because we have so many of them,” says Collins.

The judge is expected to make a decision in September. The utilities commission will  make the final call in December or January. Construction could start then sometime next year.

And a pretty even-handed article from the Post Bulletin:

Companies, opponents continue work on power line


SharePosted: Jul 28, 2011, 2:42 pm
By Jeffrey Pieters
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

On the web

CapX2020: www.capx2020.com

No CapX2020:https://nocapx2020.info/

Oronoco Township:http://tinyurl.com/3dgkjak

A decision is nearing on a route for the proposed CapX2020 power-transmission line through southeastern Minnesota, but opponents still hope to unplug the whole project with a legal victory in Wisconsin.

The power companies behind the project are about to unveil new plans for a segment of the line, called the Chester Line, to run south through Farmington and Haverhill townships in Olmsted County to a substation on U.S. 14 East near Rochester.

The transmission-line project was the subject of a Post-Bulletin Dialogues discussion Wednesday at Rochester Public Library. About 45 people attended.

A decision on the route for the main line is in the hands of a Minnesota administrative law judge, who will issue a report, based on project studies and public testimony, this fall. A state Public Utilities Commission vote would follow, in December or January, and the 125-mile, 345-kilovolt line would be set for construction in this area starting in 2012 or 2013. The Hampton-to-La Crosse line is one of several that are part of the CapX2020 project.

But first, the regulatory process in Wisconsin will unfold. According to Carol Overland, an attorney representing a group of project opponents, decreased electrical demand in recent years might have weakened the power companies’ case for the need for the line. “The basis for the local need in Rochester was nominal,” Overland said, “and if you look at the reports for Wisconsin, it’s even less.”

Tom Hillstrom, who oversees the project for Xcel Energy, one of 11 partner utilities participating in CapX2020, said it is the first major upgrade of the electrical transmission system in this area in three decades. The region’s power system “is strained right now,” he said. “It needs to be improved.”

Overland and Hillstrom were joined at Wednesday’s discussion panel by Paige Collins, a member of the Oronoco Township Planning Advisory Commission, and Jeff Broberg, a principal of McGhie & Betts Inc., which was hired by the township to help with its opposition to a proposed transmission line route.

The preferred of three main routes passes through Oronoco Township, but Broberg said that other routes to the north in Wabasha County would pass through less-populated areas. “You avoid the greatest amount of human conflict by avoiding Olmsted County,” Broberg said.

In addition to the 345-kilovolt main line, the CapX2020 plan includes a 161-kilovolt offshoot from near Pine Island to a substation in west Rochester. In addition, Hillstrom said, plans are being introduced next week for a second 161-kilovolt offshoot to another substation east of Rochester. That line is being referred to as the “Chester line.”

The new route will be presented during an Aug. 2 public meeting at the Farmington Township Hall, 11534 County Road 128 N.E. The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m.

The two lines would improve electrical transmission capacity and reliability for Rochester. Rochester Public Utilities is another partner utility in the CapX2020 project. Other partners include the Rochester-based Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

NoCapX 2020 granted intervenor status in Wisconsin!

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,Wisconsin — posted by admin on July 19, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

Here we go!!!

PSC Order – Interventions

To look at the filings in the docket, go to www.psc.wi.gov and search for docket 05-CE-136.

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

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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!

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:

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response-list

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.

Oronoco Twp’s Exhibit 89

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on July 12, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

Interesting spin in the Post Bulletin – first one way, then another… oh, we’re backpeddlin’ as fast as we can… see articles below… where on earth are they getting their info?  It’s absolutely correct and reflected in the record and the transcript (when it comes out!) that Oronoco Township proposed that “new” route, Exhibit 89, paid McGhie & Betts a bundle to produce this Oronoco Township Exhibit 89 map, planned and paid for Attorney Rod Krass and witness/conslutant Jeff Broberg to enter it…

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… and they put a lot of effort into trying to get it accepted by the judge, A ROUTE THAT WAS NOT LEGITIMATE AND ONE FOR WHICH NO NOTICE WAS PROVIDED TO LANDOWNERS AND WHICH HAD NOT BEEN REVIEWED IN THE DEIS. They pushed hard to get that in, it’s all in the record.

What’s all the fuss about?  Look at the map!  Look at the green line on the map! Seems that readers of the Post Bulletin looked at it, including apparently some readers who were landowners along that green route WHO STILL DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THEIR TOWNSHIP HAD DONE TO THEM, WHO STILL HADN’T RECEIVED NOTICE!!!  Haven’t they told those landowners???  Looks like Oronoco Township’s public relations gambit didn’t go so well…

Oh my… somebody’s in trouble.

SNORT!

The good news for those surprised landowners is that the route, because it wasn’t properly vetted and because there was no notice to landowners, cannot be considered by the Administrative Law Judge and it cannot be considered by the Public Utilities Commission.

And the other good news is that the landowners now know and can now hold the township officials who are responsible accountable for trying to screw them over.  Can you spell R-E-C-A-L-L? Can you spell R-E-S-I-G-N?

Here’s Oronoco Township Exhibit 89:

ex-89-full

And let’s take a close look at the part at issue, the new part that they proposed on June 21, 2011.  It’s the green line, introduced when Jeff Broberg was on the stand, he was looking so pleased with himself, looking like the cat that ate the canary:

ex-89-crop

The green line is something new that they made up.  When asked if they provided notice, Broberg said that they had talked about this at the Planning Commission meeting the night before (that would have been June 20, 2011).  Oh really?  Let’s see the minutes for that meeting!!!  McGhie & Betts put together this map… at whose behest?  Who authorized that they draw that line and spring this route proposal on us at the last minute?  Who came up with the idea?  Who advocated for it?  Who made the motion to go forward?  Who voted for it?  Who voted against it?  Who notified who?

The transcript of the evidentiary hearing will show that they were asked and they answered the following questions:

  • Did they notify landowners?  No.
  • Did they propose this at an Advisory Task Force meeting or in a scoping comment?  No.
  • Has this been evaluated in the DEIS?  No.

BURP!  Suddenly that canary was a bit of a problem and Broberg was choking on it.

It seemed to me that they didn’t have a clue that what they were trying to do wasn’t allowed, and I couldn’t believe they’d attempt something like this. Deer in the headlights look…

Did they not know?  Did they try just to see if they could pull it off?  Either way, doesn’t look good… goodbye credibility…

Questions… Inquiring minds want to know…  Paige Collins has testifed a number of times at public meetings and hearings.  She has said she’s on the route.  She testified in Pine Island public hearing as a member of the Oronoco Township Planning Commission… Did she play a part in that Planning Commission discussion Broberg referred to?  Did she recuse herself from this Planning Commission discussion on June 20 where Broberg discussed Exhibit 89, their “new” route?  Are there other directly affected landowners involved in the Oronoco Township decision to go forward with Exhibit 89?

And what surprised me the most was that they didn’t seem to understand that they could not just spring this “route” out of nowhere at the last minute and expect that it would be considered.  The judge did let it in, but she kept saying, in exasperation, looking over her glasses, “I can’t do anything with this!”

Then, after a protracted discussion about their Exhibit 89, at least half an hour… they pulled out another map and introduced:

Oronoco Township Exhibit 90

That was just a compilation of several previously proposed and evaluated route options, and it was entered with no objections, no problem, it’s old news, and for sure, it was not entered with any fanfare on the part of Oronoco Township, not like their Oronoco Township Exhibit 89.

Here are the Post Bulletin articles that seem to have let landowners know what their township did to them — the first one with a map of Oronoco Township Exhibit 89:

Oronoco Township proposes new power-line route

Posted: Jul 09, 2011, 7:13 am

By Sam Smith
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

ORONOCO — Leaders in Oronoco Township hope to force more of a proposed $500 million high-voltage transmission line into Wabasha County, but the state government shutdown will delay any decisions.

“We’re not fighting it — we’re fighting the way it would affect our township,” said Mark Thein, supervisor of the Oronoco Township board of trustees.

A consortium of utilities owners and transmission line operators in the upper Midwest called CapX2020 plans to build a series of power lines across Minnesota as part of a national initiative to improve grid reliability and increase the amount of power available to the Rochester and La Crosse, Wis., markets.

The lines would connect power plants in both Dakotas with Minneapolis, Rochester and La Crosse. It’s necessary, they say, to ensure that utilities can meet electricity demands of customers until at least 2020.

Developments such as the Elk Run biobusiness park in Pine Island and a planned Mayo Clinic data center north of Rochester will draw huge amounts of electricity that will further drain an already stressed electricity grid, said Tom Hillstrom, the permitting manager for CapX and an employee of Xcel Energy, CapX2020’s largest backer.

Representatives for Oronoco Township say they, too, recognize the need. They just object to CapX’s proposal to run it across their land.

The board of trustees for Oronoco Township has filed legal papers that give the board and its representatives a seat at the table during public debate and at future hearings before the Public Utilities Commission.

With that legal muscle, the township board proposed a route that “splits the baby,” said Jeffrey Broberg of McGhie & Betts Environmental Services of Rochester, a consultant hired to represent Oronoco.

Broberg’s proposal would have the line run from east from U.S. 52 just south of Minnesota Highway 60, then turn south near U.S. 63 before following state Minnesota Highway 247 east toward the Mississippi River, where it will cross the river between Kellogg and Alma, Wis.

Broberg said the proposal will balance environmental impact with general nuisance. It will ensure recreational use of Lake Zumbro and minimize impacts to trout streams along the path while diminishing the number of people affected.

About four times as many people in Olmsted County would either have power lines on their property or be able to see them than people in the more agricultural Wabasha County, Broberg said.

“We think this is a pretty good option,” Thein said.

Ultimately, it’s up to an administrative law judge in St. Paul to determine the best option. Judge Kathleen Sheehy must make a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission before a series of hearings that are tentatively scheduled for this October.

Trouble is, no one knows exactly when Sheehy’s office will reopen or her staff will be able to circulate all of the public comment filed during the course of CapX2020.

“I figure for every week the government is shut down delays things a month on the other end,” Broberg said.

A continuing government shutdown could delay construction for up to a year, Hillstrom said.

CapX originally wanted to break ground sometime next year, Hillstrom said.

With the government delays, “I think 2013 is a pretty good estimate,” Hillstrom said.

Building these types of redundant transmission lines in the first place was a need that has been recognized at the national and international levels, Hillstrom said.

“It’s a big push throughout the whole country,” Hillstrom,said “There is a need … but it’s a difficult process to get these lines cited because they do go across private property.”

And here is a diversionary “correction” which is very odd, and accompanied by Exhibit 90:

Correction: Oronoco Township proposes new power-line route

Posted: Jul 12, 2011, 10:02 am

By Sam Smith
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

An incorrect version of Oronoco Township’s preferred version of the Capx2020 route was provided to the Post-Bulletin. The map was published in Saturday’s print edition. At right is the correct version.

Leaders in Oronoco Township hope to force more of a proposed $500 million high-voltage transmission line into Wabasha County and have hired consultants to come up with an alternative.

Oronoco Township’s preferred route is a compilation of three routes proposed in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

A consortium of utilities owners and transmission line operators in the Upper Midwest called CapX2020 plans to build a series of power lines across Minnesota as part of a national initiative to improve grid reliability and increase the amount of power available to the Rochester and La Crosse, Wis., markets.

The lines would connect power plants in both Dakotas with Minneapolis, Rochester and La Crosse. It’s necessary, they say, to ensure that utilities can meet electricity demands of customers unt

Two Wisconsin EIS Scoping Meetings Scheduled

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,RUS EIS — posted by admin on July 8, 2011 @ 11:51 am

Put it on your calendar: July 14 in Cochrane, WI and July 20 in Centerville, WI!

As Wisconsin’s CapX 2020 Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse proceeding ramps up, here’s the latest from the Public Service Commission — notice of two scoping meetings:

Notice of Scoping Meetings

Here’s the short version – there are scoping meetings to get public comments regarding what we all think should be covered in the Environmental Impact Statement:

scopingmeetingschedule

To submit comments, the PSC staff suggests three ways:

  • Show up at one of the meetings above and make your comment;
  • Contact EIS Coordinator Ken Rineer at kenneth.rineer@wi.gov
  • Go to PSC’s Comment site and make your comment online:

http://psc.wi.gov/apps/dockets/comment.aspx

Because the USDA’s RUS Comment period is reopened until July 24, 2011, ALSO SEND A COPY TO Stephanie Strength at RUS:

stephanie.strength@wdc.usda.gov

… or…

Stephanie A. Strength

Environmental Protection Specialist

Rural Utilities Service

Engineering and Environmental Staff

1400 Independent Avenue  S.W.

Mail Stop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250

For the full Wisconsin PSC docket, and there’s some GOOD STUFF there, go to www.psc.wi.gov and scroll down and enter docket number 05-CE-136.  It’s that simple!

It’s important to bring everything together from the various jurisdictions that have anything to do with WI, so dig through the Minnesota DEIS, AVAILABLE HERE ON MN’S COMMERCE WEBSITE; and the RUS Alternative Evaluation Study and Macro Corridor Study and note that on the official RUS website they have only the Macro Corridor December 2010 Modification Maps and do not have the Alternative Evaluation Study or Macro Corridor Study or the new June 2011 Macro Corridor Routes!

RUS Reopens Comments on Hampton-LaCrosse

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse,RUS EIS,Uncategorized — posted by admin on July 6, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

june2011-newcorridors

ONCE AGAIN, new corridors have been added to the Wisconsin side of the Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse.

  • Were we notified of this change? NOOOOOOO!

This happened before, in October extending to December, and when I caught it, we were NOT notified, and caught it AFTER the top secret comment period had ended, I reasonably requested that it be extended:

Request for Extension – January 20, 2011

and was it extended?  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Here’s what was changed last time around in October? Comment period through December 6, 2010???

USDA’s RUS files Macro Corridor Modification Maps

… and now, here we go AGAIN…

June 2011 – Letter – New Corridors

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, HERE’S THE NEW MAP WITH GREY AREAS THAT WERE ADDED:

june2011-newcorridors1

July 24, 2011 is the deadline for Comments, which should be sent to:

stephanie.strength@wdc.usda.gov

… or…

Stephanie A. Strength

Environmental Protection Specialist

Rural Utilities Service

Engineering and Environmental Staff

1400 Independent Avenue  S.W.

Mail Stop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250

The link they give in their letter does notw work.  So mMy little birdie says and I tried too!  Nada…  What good is this June 2011 – Letter – New CorridorsEven if the link that they gave THREE times worked,  where can they get information? THIS LINK WORKS!  CLICK HERE! (Just got a call from Tom Hillstrom – THANK YOU!!! … and he’d heard from Stephanie, they tried it and it works, and I’ve tried it again and it works, hmmmmmmm…).  Now, let’s get the AES and MCS posted on that page!

So how do I know about this?  A little landowner birdie told me… she’d been out of town and gotten the letter. and then was looking around and was trying the link, nada, couldn’t find info, so she called me!!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!  This post is for you, but for your call, I’d never had known!!!  Or like last time, would have found out too late!

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Meanwhile, I’m fixin’ to bust a gasket, and am composing another gentle letter with a few surprises… well, shouldn’t really be a surprise, but Stephanie, do DUCK AND COVER!

NoCapX 2020 Petitions to Intervene in WI

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on @ 9:55 am

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The WISCONSIN part of the Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse transmission project is now ramping up.

Notice of Proceeding – June 22, 2011

When the Wisconsin PSC issues a Notice of Proceeding, there are 14 days to submit a Petition to Intervene, so yesterday, NoCapX 2020 did just that:

NoCapX 2020 Letter and Motion for Intervention

And so did Citizens Energy Task Force:

CETF – Intervention

And Pat Conway:

Pat Conway – Intervention

So we’ve joined those already asking to intervene:

Citizens Utility Board – Intervention

ATC Intervention

Note that ATC, in its filing openly admits interconnection with the CapX Hampton-LaCrosse project, a connectedness that Judge Sheehy stated does not exist.



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace