Northfield News on CapX 2020

Filed under:News coverage — posted by admin on September 29, 2007 @ 10:39 am

CapX 2020 has its evil eyes on a route through the Northfield area, north of town, and a meeting was held earlier this week at the Archer House — what can I say, I was incommunicado in the Black Hills! Anyway, I’ve been on this for a while now, holding a “Transmission 1001” meeting in Northfield, wrote an editorial or two, been telling them this for a while now, and it seems the paper has finally noticed! GOOD!


Above is the corridor near Northfield, just to the north, traversing House District 25B. And below is the western part of that corridor:


From Northfield News:

CapX 2020 project not one to gloss over

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CapX 2020.

Sounds like an extreme sports event or super-secret military maneuver – something to pass by on your way to thinking about more important things.

It’s not.

CapX 2020 is joint initiative of 11 utilities to expand the electric transmission grid in the state of Minnesota and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin by building 345-kilovolt power lines through all or parts of those states. They need the state Public Utilities Commission’s permission to do so.

The project’s estimated cost is in the billions.

Those who support the project say the upper Midwest’s current transmission grid will not support demand for electricity in the future. They believe the lines are needed to maintain the quality of service to which we’ve become accustomed – with no rolling blackouts like those in California and New York.

Those who oppose it say the utilities want the grid simply to sell power from parts of the upper Midwest that have too much electrical supply (read the Dakotas) to parts of the United States that do not (read East Coast). They believe the utilities want the lines only to boost their profit margin on the backs of landowners who will be asked – and forced, if necessary – to give up use of their land for the project.

The exact locations of the lines have not been determined. However, the full northern and eastern borders of Rice County are in what project coordinators call the “proposed notice corridor.” Those who live in these areas may have already received a letter from CapX 2020 officials alerting them to the possibility that the line may go through their property.

Once the final locations of the lines have been determined, homeowners can either negotiate an easement agreement with the utilities, allowing them to “rent” the right-of-way land needed for the project, or refuse to negotiate, at which point the utilities could attempt to take the land through eminent domain.

Tonight and Thursday, CapX 2020 representatives will be in the area to answer questions about the project. State law requires they do this, but more importantly, it is local government and residents’ first opportunity to ask questions about the project and weigh in on the location of the line.

Educate yourself by visiting the CapX 2020 Web site at and an opposition site called “No CapX” at

If you’ve ever flipped on a light switch, this is not a meeting to miss.


Going back to June, 2005, here’s my prediction/warning following the sell-out of Minnesota control over transmission in the Omnibus Transmission Bill of 2005, or more correctly, the “2005 Omnious Transmission Bill from Hell.” The Republicans actively supported it, but hey, so did the Democrats, and everyone who voted for this bill ought to be voted right out the door. We have them to thank, and we have George Crocker and Bill Grant to thank for convincing them that this was “a deal, a package deal, and it’s a good deal.” Yes, it was a deal, that’s why the bill has “an interesting group of supporters.” Good for who? Not for ratepayers who will pay for it and not for the tens of thousands of affected landowners. Time to start sending them “Thank You” notes, eh?

Here’s my Guest Column from June, 2005:

6/1/2005 1:24:00 AM

Transmission bill is policy disaster

Ray Cox supports the Transmission Omnibus Bill because “SF1368 contains some very good provisions. The bill has an interesting group of supporters.”

Sounds good, until you look deeper, and that’s the job of a legislator. I don’t hear the important questions: What’s the supporters’ interest in this bill? Is this bill in the public interest?

The bill’s supporters don’t speak for a broad coalition of “environmental groups.” They speak in their own names in their own self-interest growing from a transmission agreement in 2003, between the Izaak Walton League, ME3, North American Water Office and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

The agreement contained a transmission agenda on which this bill is based, promoted by these groups, notably “Wind on the Wires” (WOW), a Walton/ME3 pseudo-organization based on a very large grant from the Energy Foundation. In 2001, WOW received $4.5 million and in 2003, the day after the TRANSLink agreement was announced, it was awarded $8.1 million. The purpose of this Wind on the Wires grant? To promote transmission.

WOW has joined with utilities, transmission organizations and coal companies with plants in North and South Dakota to promote transmission in the hopes that large wind developments will secure transmission access. WOW has pushed environmental groups to adopt its transmission agenda.

What’s wrong with that? It assumes that the many megawatts of planned coal upgrades and construction will not usurp transmission access, but that cannot be guaranteed. It also assumes that large central station wind developments which necessitate large transmission infrastructure, which is only one option to get renewables on line. The SEED coalition, composed of the major environmental groups, has repeatedly declined to adopt the WOW transmission agenda, a significant policy statement.

Yet on his blog, Ray Cox claims that SF1368 contains provisions that he’s “glad to see:”

* Creation of the Community Based Energy Development … or C-BED. This tariff will help Minnesota property owners finance small wind-energy systems.

* Promotion of bio-mass energy projects.

* Promotion of development of hydrogen energy technologies.

* Includes a Wind Integration Study to determine what is needed to reach a statewide 20 percent energy from renewable sources. The report will be presented to the Legislature in January 2006.

* Promotes construction of transmission lines that are needed for the delivery of wind energy.

It’s not that simple. C-BED corrects a problem created by “environmental” groups in the negotiation of the wind tariff, which was set too low for a competitive investors market to develop. C-BED front-end loads the contract, rather than correct the problem. An avoidant approach is not good policy.

Biomass and hydrogen projects are a mixed bag that requires a more thoughtful forum than legislation, because the green house gas and fuel preference issues of biomass and the issue of hydrogen production from onerous coal and nuclear sources have not been settled.

A Renewable Energy Standard is a good thing for Minnesota, but the WOW party line would not permit language that the energy be generated in Minnesota, conferring local benefits from taxes, jobs and investment. For that reason, the RES lost some grassroots support.

“Transmission for wind” is an illusion, as we learned in the southwest Minnesota transmission proceeding where only 213-302 megawatts of the 2085 capacity 345kV line is coming south from Buffalo Ridge into the line. The 1700MW of remaining capacity is for what? Transmission under federal law is “non-discriminatory,” as is electricity under the laws of physics, and no one can assure that transmission will be “for wind.” In fact, it is a lot easier to assure that much will be for coal, given the number of coal plants under construction, for example the Big Stone and Coal Creek additions of 1,100MW. The CapX2020 plan for transmission criss-crossing the state shows what’s in store for us.

The transmission provisions are significant changes in public policy. Ray Cox has been given resources for follow-up, he’s even attended my “Transmission 1001,” yet he accepts the Transmission Omnibus Bill.

This bill allows TRANSLink style companies to operate in Minnesota and divests our state of jurisdiction over that transmission. Ray Cox is willing to accept “regional” need as justification for new transmission rather than require it be based on need within Minnesota. He is also willing to accept language that gives transmission owners automatic rate recovery for transmission “for renewables” rather than have them prove up that claimed use.

All legislators have access to this information, and have the ability to ask questions. It’s their job. We’ll soon wake up and discover our energy nightmare.

— Carol Overland is an attorney and Northfield business owner.

Seems they’re starting to wake up — it took CapX 2020 notices, of course…

And you might want to take a look at just who owns the corporation called “C-BED” and note when it was formed. Hmmmm… ever heard of “special legislation?”

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace