Why a STrib puff piece for CapX 2020?

Filed under:News coverage — posted by admin on February 24, 2013 @ 5:33 pm


“Rodney Dangerfield is the patron saint of transmission systems,” quipped Will Kaul, vice president of transmission at Great River Energy and chairman of the CapX2020 group of 11 Minnesota utilities involved in the 800-mile project.

Why would there be a puff piece on CapX 2020 in the STrib today?

Maybe it’s because they’re announcing the South Dakota coal connection?

Maybe it’s because the Appellate oral arguments are approaching on March 21st?

Maybe it’s because they’ve been getting such bad press lately about their attitude towards landowners electing Buy the Farm and all their antics to avoid paying out just compensation?

Maybe it’s because the legislative efforts, a la HF 338 and SF 183; HF 665 and SF 455?  Or HF 438 and SF 464; and HF 439 and SF674?

Whatever the reason, the oozing of CapX 2020 feel good toadyism is something to behold.  Put your comments in on this article — it’s such a one-sided PR piece that it begs for a few choice words from you!  Here it is:

$2.2 billion project will overhaul Minnesota’s electrical grid

The $2.2 billion CapX2020 project will modernize Minnesota’s electrical grid and capture wind energy that is sometimes wasted

When it comes to big-dig construction projects, public attention over the last few years has focused on the publicly subsidized Vikings football stadium that will cost $975 million.

Meanwhile, a bigger, more critical, but less publicly electrifying project will complete about $1 billion worth of work this year alone. It’s the $2.2 billion overhaul of the state’s electrical transmission system and replacement of 1970s-vintage technology that dates to before the Metrodome was built.

Electrical transmission gets little respect.


SD Coal Connection Announced

Filed under:News coverage,South Dakota,Upcoming Events — posted by admin on @ 4:47 pm

transmission_towers =coal


Finally, the South Dakota to Minnesota transmission line is announced.

Transmission equals coal, the “benefits” of transmission are realized when coal displaces natural gas, when coal can be shipped anywhere:

ICF – MISO Benefits Analysis Study

And that can only happen with a massive transmission build-out, the likes of which we’re seeing with CapX 2020, and with a 765kV transmission web waiting in the wings:

RGOS – Regional Generation Outlet Study

We weren’t allowed to address coal and transmission lines from the Dakotas to Minnesota in the CapX Certificate of Need proceeding, even though their own map shows the full plan, from the Dakotas to Madison, yes, old news, but here we go again — see those transmission lines starting in the Dakotas?


Finally, they’ve announced the South Dakota transmission lines, in this case, from Ellendale, SD to Big Stone, SD:

$300 million transmission line project to be discussed

By Jeff Natalie-Lees, jnatalie-lees@aberdeennews.com

11:16 p.m. CST, February 23, 2013

One of the largest electrical transmission line projects proposed in years will be discussed at five open house meetings this week.

The line from Big Stone City to Ellendale, N.D., would cover 150 to 175 miles and cut across land owned by several hundred farmers. The cost is estimated at $300 million to $340 million.

“It is definitely one of the biggest ones we have participated in,” said Mark Hanson, spokesman for Montana-Dakota Utilities.

The line, which would be jointly operated by Montana-Dakota Utilities and Otter Tail Power Company, would provide many benefits to the region, including providing transmission capacity for wind energy.

The meetings are designed to allow people to see the proposed corridors for the line and ask questions.

“We will be taking all this feedback from landowners and agencies and developing a preferred route,” Hanson said. “That is what we need when we file the route permit with the South Dakota and North Dakota public utilities commissions.”

Construction on the line would begin in 2016 and take three years to complete. In the meantime, the utilities will be working on securing easements from landowners and completing permits.

Landowners who sign an easement will receive a one-time payment for purchase of land at pole sites, Hanson said. The poles will be between 700 feet to 1,200 feet apart.

While precautions will be made to avoid damaging any crops during the construction of the poles and lines, landowners will be compensated for any damage, Hanson said.

The line has been recommended by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, the independent regulatory agency for electrical transmission in 15 states and parts of Canada, as a “multivalue project.”

A study determined the need for the the line, Hanson said, and provide benefits such as:

While landowners are the most affected by the transmission line, everyone is invited to the meetings to learn more about the project, Hanson said.


Open House meetings are scheduled in the following towns:

Groton: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Groton Area School; presentation at 6 p.m.

Ellendale, N.D.: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Fireside Restaurant and Lounge; presentation at noon.

Britton: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Britton-Hecla High School; presentation at 6 p.m.

Webster: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, The Galley; presentation at noon.

Milbank: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Milbank Visitors Center; presentation at 6 p.m.

So why did it take so long?  Looks like it’s timed to begin as Minnesota ends…


CapX in the news!

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on February 14, 2013 @ 7:20 am

We’re taking a quick trip while there’s a break in the action, had a Pollo Loco take-out picnic at the beach, weather could not have been better, 70s, clear blue sky.

Thanks to Suzanne and Charlotte for sending these snippets that didn’t even show up in a Google Alert.  First the one from Suzanne, a depressing video about the 161kV construction in the Rochester area.

CapX2020 construction underway – KTTC

And on the condemnation end of things:

A massive electrical transmission line project is prompting Minnesota farmers and homeowners to invoke the state’s “buy the farm” law in record numbers, hoping it will force utilities to buy them out so they can move away from the looming towers.

The consortium of 11 utilities behind the CapX2020 project says 79 landowners have demanded to be bought out. The landowners cite the law enacted in 1977 after violent protests erupted against another transmission project.

But some landowners said Tuesday that the 35-year-old law — the only one like it in the nation — isn’t working because utilities and courts have sharply restricted how it’s applied.

“We have experienced endless stalling tactics,” said Brad Lindberg, who raises cattle on 68 acres of land in Clearwater, Minn., that now features five transmission-line towers where once stood a row of trees.

Lindberg, whose buy-the-farm request has languished for two years, testified with other landowners before the state House Energy Policy Committee in support of a bill that would strengthen landowners’ rights at the expense of utilities’.

The CapX2020 project is a $2.2 billion upgrade to the regional electrical grid that adds nearly 800 miles of new transmission lines in four states, including a major segment along Interstate 94 from Monticello to Fargo that passes Lindberg’s property. Other segments span the state’s southern tier from Brookings, S.D., to La Crosse, Wis. A northern line has been completed from Bemidji to Grand Rapids.

Ordinarily, utilities acquire only a 150-foot-wide easement — a right to cross a property — to construct major power lines. But the 1977 law aimed to change that, requiring utilities to purchase an entire farm or residential property if an affected landowner demanded it. The law does not apply to commercial and industrial properties.

“Before the CapX process, the buy-the-farm statute rarely was used in Minnesota,” said Dan Lesher, who leads the right-of-way acquisition on part of the project for Great River Energy, a wholesale cooperative that is the state’s second-largest power supplier.

Two other property owners testified that it isn’t easy to pull up roots to avoid living next to CapX2020 transmission lines.

Dave Minar, whose grandfather started Cedar Summit Farm in New Prague, Minn., said he believes the organic, grass-fed dairy cow operation “can’t be sustainable beneath a high-power line” that’s planned through the property. Yet it’s just as hard to move, he said. It would take three years to certify new grassland as organic, he added.

Julie Schwartz, who with her husband Dale, own a dairy farm in Arlington, Minn., said they chose to sell their home, farm buildings and 160 acres to avoid living and raising their herd near the CapX line, but the process has taken months. She said a Wisconsin farmer told her his herd’s milk production dropped significantly after transmission lines were built across his property.

A big problem for the Schwartzes is that “there are not dairy farms for sale,” she said.

Their attorney, Rod Krass of Minneapolis, who represents 20 landowners affected by CapX2020, said that a 2012 state Appeals Court ruling bars landowners like the Schwartzes from collecting relocation and other expenses, which are allowed in other types of condemnation proceedings. The bill proposed by Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield, would undo that court decision, which also is on appeal.

A product of the 1970s

The law grew out of the mid-1970s unrest over a 176-mile power line through west-central Minnesota to a substation near Rockford, Minn. Protesters toppled 15 transmission towers amid bitter opposition and civil disobedience that drew national attention. The line did get built, delivering electricity from a North Dakota power plant.

Former state Sen. Gene Merriam, who sponsored the 1977 law, said in an interview that “it was the greatest degree of civil unrest I had ever seen in the state.” He said the restrictive interpretation of the buy-the-farm law by utilities and courts is not what he intended.

The CapX2020 project, while contentious, has not provoked violence. The utility group is led by Xcel Energy, Otter Tail Power Co. and Great River Energy, and the sponsors have been holding meetings with property owners for more than three years.

“We’ve sat in the same room and the same public forums and have debated each other,” said Tim Carlsgaard, a project spokesman who has handled many of the meetings. “It has always been civil and constructive.”

Carlsgaard denied that utilities have stalled farmers like Lindberg and the Schwartzes. He said their properties are to be purchased, though the final terms have not been worked out. He said the valuation on Lindberg’s property is complicated because the land is near a planned future Interstate 94 interchange and eventually could become a commercial site.

“There is frustration definitely,” Carlsgaard said. Once a buy-the-farm request is made, “it goes into this very long process.”

Utilities have accepted 46 of the 79 requests by CapX2020 landowners so far, he said. Many are for homes, rather than farms, he said. Additional requests may be made on the last segment in southeast Minnesota, on which property acquisition has just begun, he said.

Along the Monticello-Fargo transmission line, utilities agreed to buy 30 properties and opposed 15 requests, Carlsgaard said. Some cases landed in the courts, which have long overseen land condemnations.

So far, $5 million has been spent to purchase 18 properties on the Monticello-Fargo line, Carlsgaard said. That compares to an estimated $500,000 the utilities would have spent on easements, he said. Purchased properties are being resold, but utilities take a loss, he added.

Carlsgaard said utilities have taken no formal position on the bill, but would prefer to wait for a ruling later this year from the state Supreme Court on a disputed case. He said utilities are willing to discuss changing the law to improve the pace of property purchases.

HF 338 – Buy the Farm to House Energy Policy

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on February 5, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

The “Buy the Farm” bill of this session has been introduced in the House and referred to House Energy Policy Committee.

Please contact your legislators and each of the members of the House Energy Policy Committee ASAP!

rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn, rep.will.morgan@house.mn, rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn, rep.susan.allen@house.mn, rep.joe.atkins@house.mn, rep.mike.beard@house.mn, rep.andrew.falk@house.mn, rep.tom.hackbarth@house.mn, rep.frank.hornstein@house.mn, rep.tim.kelly@house.mn, rep.sandra.masin@house.mn, rep.duane.quam@house.mn, rep.peggy.scott@house.mn, rep.yvonne.selcer@house.mn, rep.barb.yarusso@house.mn

Stay tuned for updates!

SF 183 going to Environment & Energy Committee

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on February 1, 2013 @ 9:14 am

Change of plans

SF 183, Buy the Farm, is going to Environment and Energy Committee… here is the list, PLEASE contact each member of the Environment and Energy Committee and tell them to pass SF 183 Buy the Farm amendments through!


Two use a form only, and the rest use emails, all below:

John Marty: http://www.senate.mn/members/member_emailform.php?mem_id=1035&ls=

Chris Eaton http://www.senate.mn/members/member_emailform.php?mem_id=1192&ls=

sen.david.brown@senate.mn, sen.john.hoffman@senate.mn, sen.michelle.benson@senate.mn, sen.scott.dibble@senate.mn, sen.foung.hawj@senate.mn, sen.lyle.koenen@senate.mn, sen.david.osmek@senate.mn, sen.julie.rosen@senate.mn, sen.bev.scalze@senate.mn, sen.matt.schmit@senate.mn, sen.katie.sieben@senate.mn, sen.bill.weber@senate.mn

It’s important to call/email them about this.  One person who called yesterday was told by staff, “Wow, you all sure are coming out of the woodwork on this!”  GOOD!  They ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  Keep at it!!!

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace