Category Archives: Media

Concerns about hydro? Really, Fresh Energy?

conawapa

In today’s STrib, there’s a piece written by Ron Way about hydro power, with a familiar scenario presenting about how then Northern States Power did a deal with Sen. Gaylord Nelson to get its Allen S. King coal plant built, there’s a book there waiting to be written.  But what’s disturbing is the commentary from Fresh Energy’s Micheal Noble with “concerns” about hydro.  Concerns?  And what exactly have you done about those concerns?  I have no time for this “concern” first, because ME3, Fresh Energy’s prior identity, had an active hydro program, and that was disappeared, and second, that the Great Northern Transmission Project has been going on for more than three years and Fresh Energy was absent.

Yet this OpEd today had this to say:

Such projects are still being built, and the social disorder they cause has a connection to the Twin Cities, because here’s where the electricity is consumed. This is a very large concern of Michael Nobel at the nonprofit Fresh Energy in St. Paul.

Here’s why:

Manitoba Hydro of Winnipeg operates a giant system of hydropower dams and reservoirs on the Nelson River that flows north to Hudson Bay. A raging controversy concerns the Cree Nation, which is seeing its pastoral culture shredded and livelihoods shattered by sprawling reservoirs in that system.

Xcel Energy has a long-term power-supply contract with Manitoba Hydro. So in a very real sense, the electricity used here is contributing directly to Cree suffering.

What especially worries Nobel is that Manitoba Hydro plans to aggressively expand its network of dams and reservoirs, further devastating the Cree. Some suspect that Xcel will seek much of the future supply from Manitoba as its aging baseload plants in Minnesota are retired within the next 20 years.

Assessing whether hydropower can be classed with solar and wind as “clean and green renewable energy” is, Nobel said, complicated at best.

Overland’s comment about that “concern” about hydro:

This is nothing new.  Of course Xcel will get more power from Manitoba Hydro now.  So will Minnesota Power.  IF anyone is so concerned about the new dam going up in Manitoba, why is it that that NO ONE intervened in MP’s hydro transmission case, where Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro are building the largest capacity transmission project (500 kV triple bundled) in Minnesota in decades (it matches the Forbes-Chisago line).  The Certificate of Need is long done (PUC Docket 12-1163).  That routing docket (14-21) is also now complete, waiting only for the judge’s recommendation and Public Utilities Commission decision.  Not one funded group intervened, Fresh Energy was no where to be seen.  Without transmission, that hydro power wouldn’t be coming into Minnesota.  No that they’ll have that transmission line built, it’s going to be marketed and imported, nothing will stop it.  Fresh Energy’s hydro program disappeared about the same time ME3 did.  This concern about Xcel’s increased use of hydro is more than three years too late — the largest transmission line in Minnesota is about to be routed.  “Concern” doesn’t cut it.  You have to show up.

What are some Fresh Energy’s concerns that play out in its spending?

$460k for being the RE-AMP Media Center

$67k for being the RE-AMP Host

$159,915 to Michael Noble (salary & benefits)

RE-AMP was a major promoter of coal gasification back in 2005 when Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project was getting going (as a result of the 2003 Prairie Island nuclear deal).  Then RE-AMP became a major promoter of transmission.  Good choices, folks…

And $159k is just too much to be paid in a “non-profit” because to sustain that level of pay, well, it takes a lot of hustling.  We see what advocacy activities are taken on, and what advocacy activities are avoided.  The “mission” of Fresh Energy is to “Shape and drive realistic, visionary policies that benefit all,” but I’ve seen advocacy of policies that presume the public interest but in fact work against it — coal gasification and transmission are two that come to mind.

Oh, and now Jeff Broberg is on the board!!!  Remember his antics for Oronoco Twp. on the CapX 2020 Hampton – La Crosse transmission line?  There’s Oronoco Twp’s Exhibit 89 and Oronoco Township – Testimony of Broberg and Exhibits – see Exhibit 7!  And Oronoco squeals about “new testimony?!?”  Someone of his claimed experience should know better…  His spot on the Board of Fresh Energy makes me wonder what they’ll do next!

And hydro?  Fresh Energy used to have a hydro program specifically about the dams about Manitoba.  What happened to it?  Here’s the ME3 Hydro page back when they had a real website.

From Ron Way in today’s STrib, the full piece:

Is hydropower green? Not really

‘Nothing alters a river as totally as a dam.’ 

Harnessing energy from flowing water has helped advance societies since the days of the Roman Empire. “Hydropower” launched the Industrial Revolution, shaped modern Europe and fueled an emerging America.

Hydropower’s attractions surged in the mid-19th century, when dams were first fitted with turbines to produce electricity, setting off a building frenzy that filled American rivers and streams with thousands of dams.

Water energy at St. Anthony Falls made early Minneapolis a thriving center for mills to saw timber floated in from northern forests, and later to grind wheat into flour, making the city’s milling district world-famous.

It all makes sense. Hydropower’s fuel — water, moved by gravity — just keeps rolling along. No need for an expensive mine or long coal hauls. Amid present-day worries over climate change, emission-free hydroelectricity is seen by some as “clean, green and renewable” — unlike gas-fired and especially coal-fired plants that spew greenhouse gases by the millions of tons.

But is hydropower, in the larger sense, “green”?

Far from it, as more and more are coming to realize.

Hydropower relies on dams that impound water and create vertical pressure to spin turbines. Dams and reservoirs have profound environmental effects that are coming under intense scrutiny, with one prominent national group, American Rivers, pushing hard — and successfully — for dam removal.

“Nothing alters a river as totally as a dam,” writes author and river advocate Patrick McCully.

Minnesota native Denny Caneff at the Wisconsin River Alliance in Madison adds that the relatively small amount of power generated from hydro is “disproportionate [to] the environmental harm that it causes.”

A dam, in essence, is a curtain of concrete that severs a river. The reservoir it creates is wholly unlike the river it replaces, and the change is certainly not for the better.

University of Minnesota biosystems researcher Chris Lenhert’s recent report for the McKnight Foundation on effects of the Ford Dam reads like a rap sheet on how the dam’s reservoir has radically altered the Mississippi Gorge through Minneapolis.

“The dam submerged one of the Mississippi’s largest high-gradient, boulder-and-cobble streambeds and almost entirely blocked upstream movement of fish and mussels,” Lenhert said, adding that many mid-channel islands in the Gorge were destroyed — and, with them, prime eagle habitat.

The idea was to promote barge navigation, a plan that went bust. Some now say the dam, which annually costs taxpayers more than $1 million to maintain, should go. The only remaining commerce at the Ford Dam is a privately owned hydro plant that produces a piddling amount of electricity (less than a tenth of a percent of all power generated in the state).

Caneff said the downside effects listed in Lenhert’s report apply to most every dam.

Here’s how:

As they impound water, dam reservoirs slow a river’s flow. Its sediment load is dropped, creating a silted bottom that chokes out aquatic vegetation. Reservoirs trap toxics like PCBs and heavy metals along with nutrients that grow algae in water that’s warmer than the river it covered up.

Dams are mostly built at river constrictions where gradients and rocky bottoms create riffles and rapids that oxygenate and clean the water. Gravel in pooled eddies is ideal fish spawning habitat.

Impermeable dams block fish movement, so species in the pool are far fewer than in the larger river. Mussels and clams, whose filtering is a vital for water quality, disappear, as they have in the Mississippi Gorge.

All of these effects are present at nearby River Falls, Wis., where critics have stalled the city’s application to relicense its two power dams on the Kinnickinnic River.

Friends of the Kinni and a local chapter of Trout Unlimited cite another casualty of the dams: The falls that is River Falls’ namesake has been submerged under the languid reservoir. That’s similar to Ford Dam’s reservoir, which covered a 5-mile stretch of world-class rapids through the Mississippi Gorge. Removing the dams would restore free-flowing rivers and natural features.

It’s the same at Taylors Falls, Minn., and neighboring St. Croix Falls, Wis. Both were named for a falls that’s under the reservoir of Xcel Energy’s hydroelectric dam, which flooded one of the most scenic and environmentally valuable places on the entire St. Croix.

It was the St. Croix, by the way, that was central in a curious tale of intrigue about replacing hydropower with coal. You see, it’s usually the other way around.

In the 1950s, Xcel’s predecessor, Northern States Power Co. (NSP), was pivoting from hydro to coal and nuclear baseload generators. NSP had gone through a bruising battle over its St. Croix Falls hydro plant and wanted to avoid a similar public maelstrom over another hydro project planned for farther up the river. This one would flood a huge area all the way to Danbury, Wis.

NSP was eyeing a large coal-fired plant at Stillwater, but an upstart politician, Gaylord Nelson of nearby Clear Lake, Wis., wouldn’t hear of it. Nelson, who later served two terms as Wisconsin’s governor and three terms as a U.S. senator, was also eyeing the St. Croix. But his vision was some kind of set-aside protection. He didn’t want a tall, carbon-spewing stack piercing the St. Croix’s skyline.

NSP dispatched emissaries to a remote cabin near Mellen, Wis., with a deal: Nelson would drop his objection to the coal plant, and NSP would donate 30,000 acres it owned for the planned second reservoir on the St. Croix.

Nelson “cut a deal with the devil and accepted,” said one who attended the meeting. The Allen S. King Plant today still sends smoke up its very tall stack at Stillwater, and a legacy achievement of the late Sen. Nelson is a St. Croix that’s a federally protected Wild and Scenic River.

Another downside to hydropower is the social disruption of the reservoirs.

Near Hayward, Wis., the 15,300-acre Chippewa Flowage, renowned for trophy muskies, was built in 1925 to stabilize flow on the Chippewa River for downstream hydropower plants. The project proceeded over strong but futile objections of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Chippewa, whose lands were flooded.

Construction in 1933 of the massive dams and reservoirs of the Tennessee Valley Authority meant relocating 15,000 families and destruction of whole towns.

North Dakota’s Garrison Dam displaced Mandan and other bands on the Fort Berthold Reservation and South Dakota’s Oahe took thousands of prime farmland acres from the Cheyenne. All the tribes strongly opposed the projects and refused to sell land, but it didn’t matter because the builders had eminent domain on their side.

Same for the colossal Columbia River hydro projects — some 125 hydro plants in all — in the Pacific Northwest that displaced scores of American Indian tribes in four states. Worse, operating the system profoundly altered a salmon-based Indian culture whose history spans 3,500 years.

Such projects are still being built, and the social disorder they cause has a connection to the Twin Cities, because here’s where the electricity is consumed. This is a very large concern of Michael Nobel at the nonprofit Fresh Energy in St. Paul.

Here’s why:

Manitoba Hydro of Winnipeg operates a giant system of hydropower dams and reservoirs on the Nelson River that flows north to Hudson Bay. A raging controversy concerns the Cree Nation, which is seeing its pastoral culture shredded and livelihoods shattered by sprawling reservoirs in that system.

Xcel Energy has a long-term power-supply contract with Manitoba Hydro. So in a very real sense, the electricity used here is contributing directly to Cree suffering.

What especially worries Nobel is that Manitoba Hydro plans to aggressively expand its network of dams and reservoirs, further devastating the Cree. Some suspect that Xcel will seek much of the future supply from Manitoba as its aging baseload plants in Minnesota are retired within the next 20 years.

Assessing whether hydropower can be classed with solar and wind as “clean and green renewable energy” is, Nobel said, complicated at best.

 

Ron Way is a former official with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior. He lives in Edina.

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Pimicikamak take over Jenpeg Dam

eviction-notice
Photo used from CBC at this link

 


Chief Cathy Merrick addressing the nation of Pimicikamak at Jenpeg

From their Pimicikamak Take Over Statement, issued today, Pimicikamak’s road map to positive change includes:

  • A public apology from Premier Greg Selinger for past and present harms suffered​ by all hydro-affected peoples and their lands.
  • A commitment from Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro to engage in a good-faith process to fulfill promises in the NFA, including measures related to community development, environmental mitigation and maximum employment opportunities.
  • A revenue sharing agreement and/or water rental arrangement with Pimicikamak.
  • A commitment from Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro to undertake a comprehensive review of how the northern hydropower system is operated with a view to minimizing environmental impacts.

Lots of press coverage yesterday and today.  Yesterday:

First Nation want to evict Hydro workers over flood damage concerns

Reserve, Hydro remain at odds

Cross Lake First Nation issues eviction notice to Manitoba Hydro, occupation …

Today – Manitoba Hydro has been evicted:

Manitoba Hydro evicted from northern dam station

Hydro employees evicted from Jenpeg by Pimicikamak First Nation members

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Not-so-Great Transmission in the news

In at least a couple of Forum newspapers:

Landowners riled up by Minnesota power line

Moving into the last leg of the planning process, Minnesota Power is hoping the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will approve the proposed route for its Great Northern Transmission Line, which would run from the northwest corner of the state near Roseau to Hermantown. The line would carry power generated by hydroelectric plants in Manitoba.

Wednesday’s meeting in Roseau, which drew a crowd of about 45, and others like it will allow the commission to gather public input about two proposed routes. The input will be taken into consideration when an environmental impact survey is released later this year, which ultimately determines which route Minnesota Power will have to pursue when it constructs the transmission line in 2017.

“It was helpful, but it appears they only say so much and it’s hard to get real answers,” said Rice, who attended the meeting.

As it stands, the proposed route would force Rice to sell 48 acres of farmland — farmland that has been in his family for four generations.

“There are lots of issues they don’t really think about,” he said. “I won’t be able to do any aerial application — to fly around (the 150-foot poles); they just aren’t going to do it.”

Uncertainty

While no specific design for the transmission line has been selected, the 750-megawatt line is expected to be fully operational by 2020 with a lifespan of nearly 120 years.

A 3,000-foot corridor will mark out where the line will run from Canada into the Iron Range, but the actual line can be constructed anywhere within the corridor, which has landowner Darin Heller concerned.

“I don’t know where it will actually go compared to where they say it would go along the road,” he said. “My concern is they will use that discretion to put it in the easiest route for them, not the least intrusive.”

Heller said about 90 percent of his property in Dieter Township falls within the corridor.

Despite his concerns, Minnesota Power said it has proposed the least intrusive route options based on more than 75 stakeholder meetings it has organized throughout the last two years.

“We want to make sure we are siting this line with the least possible disruption to people and the environment,” said Amy Rutledge, a spokeswoman for Minnesota Power. “It’s a very thoughtful, lengthy process.”

Airport impact

One of the latest concerns to arise is the line’s proximity to the Piney-Pinecreek Border Airport located along the U.S.-Canada border in Dieter Township.

The proposed power line would fall within the right-of-way for a planned 1,500-foot expansion of the north-south runway, and also hinder plans for a crosswind landing strip heading east-west. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, which owns the airport, is not currently working on the project but has it on file for the future.

Marlin Elton, chairman of the Piney-Pinecreek Airport Commission, is pressuring Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro to shift the entire power line route farther east to avoid the aviation complications.

“When you’re dealing with organizations like this, they are standing to make lots of money, but they are losing sight of what they are trampling over,” Elton said.

He said he is initiating conversation with the Federal Aviation Administration to see what more can be done to push for the route to be moved east toward Department of Natural Resources land — an area Elton, Heller and Rice said would be less intrusive because it is state land.

Like Rice, Elton also would have to forfeit about 48 acres of farmland he uses to grow certified seed grass to make way for the proposed transmission line.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and money to maintain certification status, and this is a step backwards,” he said. “Once (Minnesota Power) is approved by the environmentalists, eminent domain kicks in, and that’s a whole different ballgame.”

Area meetings

The U.S. Department of Energy is holding more public input meetings on the Great Northern Transmission Line at the following times:

Kelliher

Wednesday: 11 a.m. at Kelliher Public School, 345 Fourth St. N.W.

Bigfork

Wednesday: 6 p.m. at Bigfork School, 100 Huskie Boulevard.

Grand Rapids

Thursday: 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Sawmill Inn, S. U.S. Highway 169, Grand Rapids, Minn.

More info: 1.usa.gov/1mX00NR.

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Will Braun’s OpEd in the Winnipeg Free Press

ConawapaBefore ConawapaAfter ConawapaBefore

Conawapa Dam — who needs it?  Who wants it?  Again, it’s that difference between need, and public purpose, and what it is that the utilities want.  WANT.  DESIRE.  It’s anything but need.

A deal was struck so this damn dam would be built, but things have changed, and the Wuskwatim dam is losing money.  Now Conawapa, to throw good money after bad?  Why?  So Manitoba Hydro can make even more electricity to export for profit?  Minnesota Power too?  Will this business plan be any better?

Dam deal loses shine

First Nations gambled on bold talk of prosperity

Premier Greg Selinger once said Manitoba Hydro’s partnerships with First Nations “yield phenomenal social licence.”

Indeed, the fact five hydro-affected First Nations have joined Hydro in development of new dams has lent moral clout to the utility’s ambitious plans.

That moral high ground is eroding. Hydro’s “new era” of northern dealings is in trouble as it sits on the brink of committing to the $6.5-billion Keeyask project.

Phase one of the new era was the Wuskwatim Dam, which went into operation in 2012. Hydro offered Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation the option to purchase a 33 per cent share in the dam.

Hydro, government and NCN said the partnership held great promise for the future. In 2011, a band councillor said Wuskwatim would earn up to $40 million a year, a third of it going to NCN.

It hasn’t worked out that way. According to Hydro, NCN’s share of Wuskwatim’s losses will total $24 million for the past fiscal year and a combined $134 million over the first decade of the dam’s operation.

That’s worth another take. The community of 4,800 people, 80 kilometres west of Thompson, has invested $108.4 million — most of it borrowed from Hydro — in a venture that is predicted to lose the community $134 million over 10 years.

Welcome to the new era.

Hydro has said NCN will not actually have to pay the utility for its share of annual losses, as the original agreement would have required. Hydro will cover those losses for now, incorporating them into its long-term financial agreement with NCN, essentially borrowing from NCN’s future profits to pay for present losses.

One way or another, NCN is stuck with the losses.

Hydro is also stuck with its share of losses, but that’s different. It simply passes them on to ratepayers. But NCN doesn’t have the option of raising anyone’s rates because its revenue stream is based on export prices, not domestic rates.

To be fair, NCN’s benefits from Wuskwatim also included a $5.7-million adverse-effects settlement as well as training and employment opportunities. Hydro and governments spent $60 million on a training program centred at NCN. About one-third of person-hours of employment during the construction of the dam went to NCN members. Less impressive were the turnover rate of 41 per cent and the average duration of employment: eight months.

That was the construction boom. At last report, only four NCN members work at long-term jobs at the dam.

Now four other First Nations — Tataskweyak, York Factory, Fox Lake and War Lake — are lined up for similar “new era” agreements on the proposed $6.5-billion Keeyask dam. They can purchase a combined stake of up to 25 per cent in the dam if they come up with about $375 million.

The “Keeyask Cree Nations” negotiated another option that would amount to a roughly two per cent stake in the dam, with a guaranteed minimum annual payment whether or not the dam makes money. Of course, the payments to the communities would be far less than the windfall once touted under the 25 per cent share.

The current assumption is the KCNs will choose this “preferred” option, providing the First Nations a combined $5 million annually in the early years of the dam.

These communities agreed to the dams based in part on the bold talk of hefty profits and a prosperous future. But the deals were negotiated before the recession and the spike in shale-gas production sank the export market, which is key to the profitability of the dams.

How would they vote today?

What happens if they toss their partnership agreements in the murky old-era waters of the Nelson River, either now or in a decade? Legally they can’t, but morally who could fault future generations for defying this form of partnership?

Hydro’s First Nations partners used to defend the new dams vehemently.

No one talks that way anymore. KCN leaders are contractually required to speak in favour of the dams, but the vigour is largely gone. And the behind-the-scenes grumbling is leaking out.

That’s not what Hydro and Selinger want to hear after paying northern First Nations $241 million for negotiation costs since 1999.

Selinger said last year Hydro’s “legacy of bitterness” in the north has been replaced by a spirit of partnership. Sadly, the new era of dams may exacerbate the bitterness rather than heal it.

Add that social risk to the massive financial risk of Keeyask, and Manitobans should ask whether Hydro has general societal approval to proceed with the dam.

By July, when Hydro wants to start building Keeyask, our utility is likely to have an Environment Act licence and a Water Power Act licence for the megaproject. But will it have a legitimate social licence?

 Will Braun works for the Interchurch Council on Hydropower.

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And on MPR yesterday…

High-Voltage-Warning-Sign-S-2217Got a call from Dan Kraker at MPR up in Duluth yesterday, he’d found this blog, not surprising if you google “Great Northern Transmission Line,” because guess what pops up!??!  I wish I’d been clearer about this being just a small part of the MISO Northern Area Study Final Report larger plan (see map, p. 5):

MISORestoftheStory

Here’s the MPR piece:

Minnesota Power seeks permit for new power line; skeptics question need

Duluth-based Minnesota Power has filed permit applications with state and federal regulators to build a new transmission line from Canada to the Iron Range.

The Great Northern Transmission Line would carry at least 750 megawatts of electricity into the U.S. beginning in 2020. Minnesota Power plans to import 250 megawatts of hydropower generated from dams in northern Manitoba. The utility says it will help power new mining operations and continue its diversification away from coal.

But Carol Overland, an attorney who represents a group of landowners in northern Minnesota with concerns about the project, says it’s not needed.

“What it does is give you this gigantic line, to nowhere,” Overland said. “Why are we building this, what would be the cost to Minnesota ratepayers?”

The Minnesota Public Utilities commission is scheduled to decide on the project’s certificate of need and routing applications in 2015.

 

 

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Substation terrorism blackout — news blackout

powerlines_links_ATC

Talk about being behind the curve…  I’ll post this on all my sites and just watch, NSA’s going to push my stats up!

Very strange timing here — an incident where “multiple transformers,” 17 transformers, or 5 transformers, 5 out of 7 transformer banks, depending what you read/hear, were taken out occurred on April 16, 2013, and it’s just now being reported.  Very little coverage previously.  Try googling “news blackout California substation electrical terrorism” and see what comes up.  Maybe it’s that former FERC chair Wellinghoff is out there talking about it?  There was also a congressional hearing in December that got some coverage…

At the time, the incident wasn’t publicized, but since he stepped down as FERC chairman in November, Wellinghoff is raising public attention to the California sniper’s attack to demonstrate the vulnerability of the nation’s electricity system.

Wellinghoff started talking about it publicly in November, 2013 it seems.

Do some googling and see for yourself the news blackout.  Also,several articles are noting it occurred a day after the Boston Marathon bombing, but not one yet is noting that it occurred the day after taxes are due.  How many anti-tax wing-nuts are out there?

They publicized similar sabotage in Arkansas and arrested the perp (interesting, he unbolted a tower, connected a cable, and used a moving train to tip over the pole!):

Arkansas man charged in connection with power grid sabotage

Back to California — here’s what the substation and surrounding area looks like, and the actions taken, from the Wall Street Journal article:

Substation_Screen-Shot-2014-02-11-at-12.59.24-PM-578x620

In today’s STrib:

Who knocked out 17 giant transformers in Calif. — and why?

In the Wall Street Journal (I don’t have access… do you?):

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm for Potential Terrorism

From PG&E at the time:

April 16, 2013

Grid Operator Calls for Conservation after Substation Incident

April 17, 2013

PG&E Crews Continue Repair Work at Damaged Substation

Now going back to April, 2013:

Vandalism at San Jose PG&E Substation called ‘Sabotage’

AT&T Offers $250,000 Reward for Fiber Vandalism

CAISO’s Alert:

Flex-Alert-Urgent Conservation Needed Now – Santa Clara Silicon Valley  April 16, 2013

Here’s one from December, 2013, that is the most detailed and credible I’ve found:

‘Military-Style’ raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.

In this one there’s a statement that’s a recurring theme that I think is off base, the theme being that it’s a rehearsal for a “real” attack, and in other articles calling it a “dry run,” when I’d call taking out 17 transformers a “real” attack:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Another good detailed article in the NY Times:

Months Later, Sniper Attack at Power Hub Still a Mystery

And a video:

San Jose: Sheriff’s Office release video of attach on PG&E substation

On NPR:

Sniper Attack on Calif. Power Station Raises Terrorism Fears

In Bloomberg:

Rifle-Toting Terrorists Pose Great Threat to Power Grid

Now let’s see some other coverage that I’ll nominate for “wing-nut” status:

False Flag: New Details Emerge on Santa Clara County ‘Military-Style” Power Grid Attack

Latest ‘Domestic Terror’ Sniper Attack is Likely a Government False Flag

In which they say:

Those who still believe that this was the work of a home-grown terror cell, read between their own lines: according to the U.S. Navy investigation ordered at the request of  FERC chairman Wellinghoff, “it was a targeting package just like they would put together for an attack”.

‘Just like they would put together for a real attack’, he says?

Exactly, because this wasn’t a real terror attack.  ???  Again the mantra of a “dress rehearsal” or a “dry run.”  Isn’t taking out the fiber-optic and 911 service and then multiple substation transformers “real” enough?

Chilling: Why an Underreported, ‘Significant Incident of Domestic Terrorism’ Might Not Be A Failed Attack At All

In today’s STrib, the full article:

WASHINGTON – They came after midnight, two or more armed individuals who cut telecommunication cables in an underground vault and outsmarted security cameras and motion sensors at the power substation in a remote corner of Santa Clara County.

At daylight, FBI agents began poring over time-lapse photographs from the surveillance cameras. But the photos revealed only muzzle flashes from a semi-automatic weapon and sparks as shots hit rows of transformers. There was not a face, not a shadow, of who was doing the firing.

The shooters vanished before the first police arrived.

The military-style raid on April 16 knocked out 17 giant transformers at the Metcalf Transmission Substation, which feeds power to Silicon Valley. The FBI is still working the case, and agents say they are confident it was not the work of terrorists.

What they do not have is a motive, fingerprints or suspects. Theories are piling up.

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Is it all connected?

You may be familiar with Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline, soon to be applied for and on a route similar to that of the Not-So-Great Northern transmission line.  As if that isn’t bad enough, last week, Minnesota Power announced another intersection between transmission lines and pipelines…

Looking at the footprints of the Not-So-Great Northern transmission line and Sandpiper pipeline, at what’s been proposed thus far, it seems that it fits together, that combining them is the rest of the story.

But does it?  What does Minnesota Power have in mind with its “Energy Corridor?”  There’s the Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line (Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line), and there’s the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline, look at the maps and similar routes.  But is it all connected?  Or is there even more in store?  How much do these companies want?

The Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line:

overviewmap

And there’s the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline:

Map_NoticePlan

And then there’s this, the Allete Energy Corridor and it looks quite different:

ALLETE_EnergyCorridor

There are significant differences… the Allete Energy Corridor is further south, headed straight east to Duluth.  But look at the map that is in the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline Notice Plan, the “Preferred Route.”  It’s also south:

Sandpiper pdf Overview_Notice Maps_MN_090913

Do they need both? the diagonal route to Duluth and the one straight across Minnesota?  Is this all one and the same project(s)?  Or worse, are they planning multiple corridors?  As we say in transmission, it’s all connected.

So do tell, what’s the connection with or difference between the corridors of these announced projects, one transmission and one pipeline, and this “energy corridor.”  Enbridge must submit more detailed maps for the Notice Plan, so we should see soon their “preference.”

Meanwhile, what’s Allete up to?  Seems it started over two years ago:

ALLETE Clean Energy Press Release   7.28.11

And then last Wednesday:

ALLETE Energy Corridor Would Offer Efficient Movement of Multiple Products, from Flared Gas to Water

by Business Wire via The Motley Fool Sep 25th 2013 12:30PM
Updated Sep 25th 2013 12:32PM

ALLETE Energy Corridor Would Offer Efficient Movement of Multiple Products, from Flared Gas to Water to Carbon

N.D. governor supports comprehensive solution

BISMARCK, N.D.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– ALLETE (NYS: ALE) today laid out its vision for a comprehensive energy transportation corridor that could help provide solutions for the movement of natural gas, petroleum products, water and wastewater, wind energy and future sequestered carbon across a coordinated, shared right-of-way.

The energy corridor’s backbone would follow an existing 465-mile path that contains a direct current transmission line running between Center, N.D. and Duluth, Minn. This 250-kilovolt line, purchased in 2009, is used to transmit electric energy from the lignite-fired Young Generating Station in Center and the nearby Bison Wind Energy Center to Duluth, Minn., home of the nation’s busiest inland seaport. The energy corridor would expand a pathway along strategic portions of the existing right of way to minimize land use and optimize energy delivery infrastructure development within North Dakota.

A top priority of the ALLETE Energy Corridor is to develop an extension of the existing energy delivery path some 60 miles westward to the burgeoning Bakken shale oil fields of west-central North Dakota. ALLETE subsidiary ALLETE Clean Energy has been working diligently with potential partners to study the co-location of facilities and assess the capital needs for the Bakken link. It is envisioned that various lengths of the corridor would be used for different purposes.

“We see the ALLETE Energy Corridor as a comprehensive infrastructure solution in North Dakota that could serve many products and producers across the region,” said ALLETE President, Chairman and CEO Alan R. Hodnik. “We value Gov. Dalrymple’s support of our vision and appreciate him bringing it forward to other members of the state’s energy sector.”

“ALLETE has been invested in North Dakota for decades,” Hodnik added. “We are confident that our rich history of partnering with others can help forge creative solutions to today’s new challenges facing energy markets in the Upper Midwest.”

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple voiced support of the ALLETE Energy Corridor today in remarks to EmPower North Dakota, a commission established to develop a comprehensive energy policy for the state. He said the energy corridor concept is a prime example of the way business can creatively tackle pressing problems like the proliferation of flare gas at oil wells dotting the Bakken field, and the traffic tie-ups caused by too many trucks and trains hauling petroleum products to market.

“The ALLETE Energy Corridor is a breakthrough opportunity to reduce flaring by locating a major natural gas pipeline from the Bakken to eastern markets,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “While the corridor would support the transfer of many energy resources, it could also carry carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants to western North Dakota for use in advanced oil recovery.”

The ALLETE Energy Corridor could accommodate several pipelines capable of transporting natural gas that would otherwise be flared, as well as wastewater and carbon sequestered from fossil fuel generation. Future wind expansions could also benefit.

“We look forward to working with project developers and government officials to implement this vision,” said Eric Norberg, president of ALLETE Clean Energy. “We have an opportunity to pursue investments that will help solve some current issues and lay the groundwork for more efficient movement of energy products, water and wastewater in the future.”

More information about the ALLETE Energy Corridor can be found www.ALLETECleanEnergy.com.

ALLETE, Inc., an energy company based in Duluth, Minn., has a well-established presence in North Dakota that includes BNI Coal, now undergoing a major expansion to extend coal delivery to its partner Minnkota Power, and the Bison Wind Energy Center, where work on a $350 million fourth phase is scheduled to begin this year. ALLETE’s energy businesses also include Minnesota Power, Superior Water, Light & Power Co. and ALLETE Clean Energy. More information about the company is available at www.allete.com.

The statements contained in this release and statements that ALLETE may make orally in connection with this release that are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties and investors are directed to the risks discussed in documents filed by ALLETE with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

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Thursday on the transmission road show

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First Greenbush, kind of a snooze, as there weren’t that many people, which isn’t surprising as it’s in the daytime, 11-1.  What I’ve noticed so far is that the small downs, while they’re slower paced and not many people, they seem to be in pretty good shape, well maintained, the local government buildings are well made, they have community centers, there’s activity on the streets, they are NOT dead, and instead I’d guess quietly thriving.  It does not feel desperate, it feels like these towns are healthy.

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Here in Warroad, where I’m staying, the main highway through town is lined with flowers, and Marvin Windows too… there are a few homes in disrepair, but Red Wing looks worse.  Maybe a part of it is that it’s so green here, not brown, and the sky is SO blue, the clouds so dramatic, maybe that’s the lake:

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On to Roseau next…

This transmission project is connected, literally, to Manitoba Hydro, and the hearings on the new damn dam were yesterday, and also next week:

The $20-billion question

Put public back in ‘public review’ of NDP/Hydro expansion plans

By: Will Braun

Posted: 08/19/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 19

Though Manitoba Hydro’s proposal to build two mega-dams would cost five times as much as Bipole III, it has received much less attention than the contentious $3.3-billion power line.

If that doesn’t change soon, the province’s biggest financial gamble in generations will be a done deal before the public has due opportunity to debate the pros and cons.

Hydro’s plan centres around construction of the Keeyask and Conawapa dams, projected to cost $6.2 billion and $10.2 billion respectively. Manitoba Hydro would like to have Keeyask in service by 2019 and Conawapa by 2026.

 The Selinger government and Hydro clearly decided long ago that the dams are a “go,” though public hearings are still months away and environmental reviews are far from over.

In question period last month, NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton said, flatly, “we’re going to build Keeyask and we’re going to build Conawapa as well because that’s what Manitobans want.”

In a speech last fall, Hydro’s new CEO, Scott Thomson, said the company’s ambitious expansion plan was a “key driver” in his decision to move from British Columbia to work with Hydro.

And in an April legislative committee hearing, Dave Chomiak went further. The minister responsible for Hydro said people who try to “stop hydro development” in Manitoba are “sabotaging our children’s future.”

His comments seemed to invoke the 2012 open letter in which federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver dismissed opponents of energy projects as “radicals.” Like Chomiak, Oliver also had families and dams in mind, writing that the goal of the “radical groups” is to, “stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families… No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams.”

Hydro and government are not just talking either. The utility has spent roughly $1 billion on studies, negotiations and preparatory work related to the two dams. Heavy equipment is already on the ground building an access road and work camp for Keeyask. That work was hived off of the rest of the dam project and granted approvals as the Keeyask Infrastructure Project.

Now it is time to back up the democratic wagon.

While the dams were part of the NDP election platform, they were not a central issue. The Tories talked more about Bipole III and the NDP talked more about alleged privatization of Hydro under the Tories. Plus, the government had already granted a licence for the Keeyask Infrastructure Project months prior to the 2011 election.

The electoral victory provided a degree of social licence, but it was not a blank political cheque to proceed with every element of the campaign platform regardless of public process.

Government officials would note that the upcoming Needs For and Alternatives To review — to be conducted by the Public Utilities Board — will provide for public process, but there’s a catch. Actually there are three.

The review will not include Bipole III, even though the new dams would be useless without it. The government is not obligated to heed PUB recommendations; it can issue licences regardless of the outcome of hearings. And the public review process is only kicking in once the Hydro plan has been allowed to gain virtually unstoppable momentum.

The government news release announcing the Needs For and Alternatives To (NFAT) review made this fairly clear. Chomiak said in the November 2012 release the dams and related infrastructure “would propel the province’s economy for decades to come.” He said, “moving forward with these projects is an important decision and Manitobans need to be assured that they are in the best long-term interest of the province.”

But the purpose of a public review process should be to solicit public and expert input, not just to assure citizens their government is on the right track. The intent should be authentic democratic exchange, not a sales job.

The reason any of this matters is not only the dams would affect the economy of the province for a generation or more, but critical questions hang over Hydro’s expansion plan.

First, what are the chances the new dams will meet Hydro’s financial expectations, unlike Wuskwatim — the relatively small dam that began producing power last year — which is projected to lose money until 2022?

Secondly, how solid are Hydro’s price predictions for Keeyask ($6.2 billion), Conawapa ($10.2 billion), Bipole III ($3.3 billion), and the required additional transmission lines from the north and down to the U.S. border ($1 billion plus a yet-to-be-determined share of U.S. transmission)?

During the review of the Wuskwatim dam, Hydro said its cost estimate of $900 million came with a “90 per cent confidence level” that the final price would be within “-8 per cent to +9 per cent” of that figure. The price actually doubled — a 100 per cent overrun.

Hydro has increased contingency reserves this time, but there are no guarantees.

The third question looming over the dams is whether Hydro will be able to secure the necessary export contracts. As recently as 2011, Hydro’s plan assumed a 250-megawatt contract with Minnesota Power and a 500-MW deal with Wisconsin Public Service (WPS).

That’s 750 MW of the 2,000-plus MW the new dams would produce. Of course not all new power would be available for contracted export sales as growth in Manitoba’s energy demand is expected to use an additional 80 MW each year starting around 2021. Some power would also be sold on the spot markets.

Hydro got the 250-MW contract it wanted, contingent on both parties managing to build their portion of a cross-border transmission line. But the 500-MW deal with WPS hasn’t come through. So far, WPS has only agreed to a 100-MW deal, and the dates have been downgraded from the original 2019-2032 to 2021-29.

Beyond that, Hydro documents list a “proposed” 300-MW contract with WPS which, if finalized, would also be contingent on new transmission.

This year, Hydro has begun adding a 125-MW deal with Minnesota-based Northern States Power to the list of export contracts linked to new dams, even though previous Hydro documents made no such connection.

Including this latest and rather curious addition, Hydro has contracts for 475 MW of power worth about $4 billion. Beyond 2029 — relatively soon after the 1,485-MW Conawapa dam would come on line — it has only the 250-MW deal.

The government has said in the past the dams would only be built if sufficient long-term contracts were in place.

But bigger than the question of export demand, or dam profits or price projections, is the question of whether dams are the cheapest, greenest, most prudent option.

The purpose of the dams would be to meet the projected 1.6 per cent annual increase in domestic electricity demand (equal to about 80 MW per year). If we as a province could reduce electrical demand by that same amount annually, we wouldn’t need the dams.

This is no utopian tree-hugger’s dream; leading utilities are investing heavily in energy efficiency and conservation programs as the cheapest and greenest way to keep the lights on. These initiatives are not about lukewarm showers or living in the dark, but rather creating a finely tuned less wasteful economy — one that is geared toward the future.

Evidence from other jurisdictions, and from Hydro’s own costs for efficiency programs, strongly suggest this alternative to new dams should be seriously considered.

Manitoba Hydro will say there is no good alternative to its “preferred” plan. The job of the Public Utilities Board, and ultimately, the public, is to make their own determination about that.

Manitobans will have a chance to make their views known during the NFAT public hearings, which are expected to take place early next year. Fortunately, unlike the feds, who have made it more difficult for citizens to participate in certain public hearings, the PUB accepts written or oral presentations from “any interested persons or organizations.”

Those people who will stand up before the PUB next year to suggest alternatives to the mega-dams will not be sabotaging the future of any children; they will be participating in a vital democratic process.

 

Will Braun lives in Morden and works for the Interchurch Council on Hydropower.

wbraun@inbox.com

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Hello world! It’s time for another xmsn blog!!!

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Here we go!  It’s all about the “Not-So-Great Northern Transmission line.  Another transmission line for marketing bulk power eastward that’s going to steamroll landowners and our pocketbooks as ratepayers.  NO!  NO!  NO!

Minnesota Power’s version of things can be found at www.greatnortherntransmission.com

And the rest of the story?  Here on Not-So-Great-Northern-Transmission.org!

Below are the past Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line posts from Legalectric, and from here on in, they’ll all be on this site.

If I miss anything, please let me know, and I’ll get right to it.

 

 

 

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