MAPP adopts shroud of secrecy

Filed under:Nuts & Bolts,Reports - Documents — posted by admin on February 2, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

coneofsilence.jpg

Above – Here’s where MAPP’s going… the Cone of Silence.

MAPP’s NM-SPG is the “local” transmission proving ground, or vetting ground, where utilities bring their transmission proposals to the engineers who test it and give it thumbs up or thumbs down and then pass it on to MISO (Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator). Transmission planning is supposed to be a relatively transparent process, and the MAPP NM-SPG meetings are open to the public. I enjoy these meetings immensely and wish I could get to them more often. They’re typically held in Elk River at the Great River Energy HQ, and that’s a bit of a jaunt for me to be there by 8:30 or 9! Since I’ve been going, they’ve been facilitated by Mike Steckelberg of GRE, who does a good job of orchestrating the meetings, making sure all the supporting stuff is there, keeping things on track, and he’s helped open up the process.

I get the feeling that an open process is not appreciated by some, because it opens up the utility workings to daylight, and then some of us who can understand what’s going on get what’s going on. The utilities get something out of it too, though, because public input can save them a lot of hassle. For example, for a while they were considering a big line from Prairie Island to LaCrosse, upgrading an existing 69kV on the west side of the Mississippi. What they hadn’t considered was that the 69kV line went across “site P” in Florence, where they wanted to put nuclear waste a decade ago, and DUH! I’m guessing that Florence Township probably wouldn’t like a big honkin’ transmission line through the township, and that Mississippi Jewel wouldn’t want a 345kV line through their pricey golf course community (since sold at auction, no market…) and they could probably put up quite a stink. And lo and behold, after being reminded of that (and who knows what other considerations) they dropped that idea and instead are diverting the line to Rochester in the SE Minnesota line in CapX. They also had called the CapX lines the “SW Minnesota to Prairie Island” and the “Prairie Island to LaCrosse” and Prairie Island Indian Community and City of Red Wing got the word and started showing up at transmission meetings and they suddenly started calling it “Hampton Corners” instead of “Prairie Island” as start and terminus points If they had gone forward with either of those ideas, there’d be uproar and through a more public process, they avoided that, perhaps (depending on what they do ultimately).

But (drumroll) a little birdie told me that we’re in for some change, they’ve been talking about it for a while and now it’s becoming an unreal reality. MAPP’s CEII joins HSA and TSA, oh Dog, give me a break…

littlebirdie.jpg

So from the little birdie, here’s the poop:

A part of that more open process is that anyone attending gets handouts, donuts & coffee, and gets the studies, and so that’s how I got the Mesaba studies and handouts that were so damning. And all this notice about CapX plans, as it’s been building for years. And I don’t think they like having their trajectory so obvious. Hence the Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) “Cone of Silence.” It’s come down from FERC, conveniently at a time where the feds have declared and are wanting to utilize “National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors,” and where question need is becoming a “terrorist activity.” I really don’t like where this is going…

Here’s their plan for the Cone of Silence, out there for the world to see on their site, MAPP Policies, a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and their “Critical Energy Infrastructure Information Policy” of secrecy:

MAPP CEII Policy link

MAPP CEII Policy download

MAPP CEII Non-Disclosure link

MAPP CEII Non-Disclosure download

So who’s to say whether something is “Critical Energy Infrastructure Information?”  Here is the guideline:

CEII is specific engineering, vulnerability, or detailed design information about
proposed or existing critical infrastructure (physical or virtual) that:

1. Relates details about the production, generation, transmission, or
distribution of energy;
2. Could be useful to a person planning an attack on critical infrastructure;
3. Is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 (2000);; and
4. Does not simply give the general location of the critical infrastructure.

So how will this be determined?  What’s the mechanism for challenge if something is deemed CEII?  Why do I reflexively roll my eyeballs and sigh?

Here they are, at a MAPP NM-SPG meeting a while ago, and yes, that’s Excelsior’s Steve Sherner in the foreground on the right.  Can you spot the terrorist in this room:

mapp1.jpg

What a bunch of crap, but hey, can’t have the public knowing what they’re planning, now, can we… It’s exciting stuff, and I’d just as soon tape it and put it on public access, but then again, people like Beth Soholt call it “watching paint dry.” I think it’s hilarious, particularly when electrical engineers argue! Like watching Norwegians argue, you have to pay attention to notice it, have to know the subtexts, and it sets out some big issues, like the implications of utilities being held accountable for their share of the reactive power.

I wish I could go just to challenge this, I mean really, what’s going to be classified as classified? They already made the transmission map top secret, HELLO, folks, all you have to do to find a transmission line is drive around, it’s not like utilities are undergrounding… I know, I said it before, but GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace