Report on Prehearing Conference for Alma/LaX line

Filed under:Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on August 11, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

Monday was the Prehearing Conference for the CapX 2020 Hampton-LaCrosse/Alma transmission line. NoCapX 2020 and U-CAN are the only parties thus far – CETF was missed!

The Prehearing Conference was to discuss the schedule.   We had some observers, one from the church and school in Cannon Falls that CapX wants to run right over, another with property and developed land in Wanamingo, two from the “North Route Group” and the ever-present Dave Seykora of the DOT. For an hour, we went round and round and round, and it seems to me that ALJ Sheehy is just getting a taste of what she’s in for, a taste of what she wasn’t quite aware this project would entail.  She’ll issue a Scheduling Order sometime soon… We’re off to the races.

Here’s some idea of the schedule — I’d filed the following proposal:

NoCapX & U-CAN Proposed Schedule

proposedschedule

And it turns out MOES had proposed one too, but it wasn’t sent around to ALL parties, i.e., US, it was only sent to the applicants.  Typical MOES…  Here’s what they proposed, they had to cough one up for me, those are my doodlings there, and for the most part, it’s OK, with exceptions below:

moesproposedschedule

First thing, note that this schedule is pushed way out into 2011.  As Ed Berger would say, it’s “real outside!”  They have evidentiary hearings way out three months from my estimate.   One thing I did was put an explanation column so there’s be some understanding of why I was suggesting things, like… for example:

  • Notice for landowners.  It was a problem in Brookings, because in scoping and through the Task Force process, additional landowners were affected, and although the scoping decision was released in that project on June 30, notice didn’t go out until mid-September, or even later for some landowners.  Recognition of this problem and rectifying it would help.  But nooooooo… MOES defensively relied on “there’s no rule that would require that” and said “the DEIS would be out by early 2011 and the hearings weren’t until June,” say WHAT???  The scoping decision that has additional routes and additional associated landowners was out last Friday, August 6, 2010, and you think it’s OK that landowners not get notice until the DEIS comes out?  No, that is NOT acceptable.  Thankfully, Matt Langen was on the ball and said that notice was going out this month, he was already planning that.  GOOD, that works.
  • Intervention Deadline – sure, theirs is OK as long as there is an extension to provide opportunity for landowners who are drawn in later, who don’t get notice, to intervene.
  • Public Hearings – they’re only scheduled for Plainview, Pine Island, and Cannon Falls.  EH?  What about Kenyon/Wanamingo? What about Winona and on the way to the Winona river crossing?  What about LaCrosse and on the way to the LaCrosse river crossing?  It’s quite a ways from Kenyon/Wanamingo to Pine Island or Cannon Falls, but not according to MOES’ map.  It threw up red flags for me because there were NO hearings in Belle Plaine.  By this plan, there are no hearings along that alternate route going down to Kenyon area and then east parallel to 60, and that’s a BIG area not to have any hearings.
  • RUS EIS.  This is a big deal.  The Rural Utilities Service, an arm of the USDA, is financing the Dairyland Power part of this, and because federal funding is involved, they’re doing an EIS.  Unlike the Bemidji-Grand Rapids CapX line, which is doing a joint EIS with RUS, and contrary to Minn. R. 4410.3900, which requires that the state and feds work together, MOES AND RUS ARE NOT WORKING TOGETHER ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW FOR THE HAMPTON-LaX (ALMA) TRANSMISSION LINE.  We need the RUS information in this docket, to be incorporated in if MOES is not willing to do a joint EIS, which from what I can see thus far, that they’re not even willing to acknowledge in the scope or the Task Force reports that RUS environmental review is ongoing, I’d say they’re not willing to do this willingly, OK, fine, let’s have at it.

When the rule is so clear — and where Glahn cited it in his Initial Scope – Bemidji-Grand Rapids (for reference) — and it’s not even mentioned — how do they think they can get away with that — go figure…  Once more WITH FEELING:

4410.3900 JOINT FEDERAL AND STATE ENVIRONMENTAL DOCUMENTS.

Subpart 1.  Cooperative processes.

Governmental units shall cooperate with federal agencies to the fullest extent possible to reduce duplication between Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D, and the National Environmental Policy Act, United States Code 1976,
title 42, sections 4321 to 4361.

Subp. 2.  Joint responsibility.

Where a joint federal and state environmental document is prepared, the RGU and one or more federal agencies shall be jointly responsible for its preparation. Where federal laws have environmental document requirements in addition to but not in conflict with those in Minnesota Statutes, section 116D.04, governmental units shall cooperate in fulfilling these
requirements as well as those of state laws so that one document can comply with all applicable laws.

Subp. 3. Federal EIS as draft EIS.

If a federal EIS will be or has been prepared for a project, the RGU shall utilize the draft or final federal EIS as the draft state EIS for the project if the federal EIS addresses the scoped issues and satisfies the standards set forth in part 4410.2300.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace