Category Archives: Certificate of Need

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Canada permitting, Certificate of Need, Condemnation, Media, Presidential Permit, Routing Docket

GNTL Final Order is posted for Certificate of Need

gavel

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission final Order Granting a Certificate of Need for the Great Northern Transmission Line has been posted and served… it’s OFFICIAL.  The clock for Motion for Reconsideration starts ticking, there’s 20 days to file a Motion.  July 20, 2015!

Order_20156-111920-01

The Order in writing usually seems different than what was talked about, mostly in the narrative to how they get to the bottom line, so let’s read!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, PUC Filings

Video of PUC GNTL Oral Argument & Deliberation/Decision

Here’s the videos of this week’s Great Northern Transmission Line Oral Argument (May 13, 2015) and Deliberation/Decision (May 14, 2015) at the PUC:

Oral Argument – Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Deliberation/Decision – Thursday, May 14, 2015

And remember this map from the Northern Area Study, where the point is to get electricity from Manitoba through Minnesota, through Wisconsin, and on down towards Detroit — the Minnesota Power “Phase II” from Blackberry sub to Arrowhead (Duluth) sub was cancelled/postponed, so as proposed here, it stops at Blackberry:

Untitled

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, PUC Filings

ALJ files Recommendation for PUC

gavel

The Administrative Law Judge has issued her Recommendation, that the Certificate of Need be granted, for the Great Northern Transmission Line.

Recommendation_20153-108286-01

More on this later — and there is testimony just filed in the Routing docket.  LOTS HAPPENING!

Just flied in the Routing docket, Minnesota Power Testimony — these are direct links to PUC site, and soon I’ll get around to downloading and posting individually:

20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_filing letter affidavit and service list.pdf. Filing Letter Affidavit and Service List
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_atkinson.pdf. James B. Atkinson Direct Testimony
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_atkinson_schedule 1.pdf. James B. Atkinson Direct Testimony Schedule 1
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_atkinson_schedule 2 part 1.pdf. James B. Atkinson Direct Testimony Schedule 2 Part 1
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_atkinson_schedule 2 part 2.pdf. James B. Atkinson Direct Testimony Schedule 2 Part 2
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_rolfes.pdf. Christina Rolfes Direct Testimony
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_tracy.pdf. Darel Tracy Direct Testimony
20150316_docket no. 14-21_mp_direct testimony_winter.pdf. Christian Winter Direct Testimony

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, PUC Filings

Reply Briefs are filed!

men-in-briefs

Reply Briefs for the Great Northern Transmission Line docket are in:

RRANT Reply Brief

Large Power Intervenors Reply Brief

Large Power Intervenor_FOF

Dept of Commerce Reply Brief

Minnesota Power Reply Brief

Time to take a break and then try on a few for size!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, PUC Filings

Initial Briefs filed

FooL_Briefs

Initial Briefs filed thus far (they’re due by 4:30).

Minnesota Power – Initial Brief_201412-105592-02

       Minnesota Power – ProposedFindings_201412-105592-03

RRANT – Initial Brief

Commerce – Initial  Brief_201412-105596-02

I’ve not seen one yet from “Large Power Intervenors” — where arrrrrrrre you?!?!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, Need, PUC Filings

Rebuttal Testimony filed in GNTL Certificate of Need docket

overviewmapMISO map showing the point behind this project

Rebuttal testimony has been filed by the Applicant Minnesota Power and Dept. of Commerce Division of Energy Resorces (DoC-DER):

MP Testiony_Donohue_Rebuttal_201410-104117-02

MP_Testimony_McMillan_Rebuttal_201410-104117-03

Rakow_Rebuttal_201410-104130-01

The evidentiary hearing for this project begins on November 12, just over two weeks away!

Here’s the rest of the Minnesota Testimony filed previously:

MP_Testimony_Atkinson_Direct_20148-102147-02

MP_Testimony_Donahue_Direct_20148-102147-04

MP_Testimony_Hobert_Direct_20148-102147-06 MP_Testimony_Hobert_Direct_Sched2_20148-102147-06-2 MP_Testimony_Hobert_Direct_Sched3_20148-102147-06 MP_Testimony_Hobert_Direct_Sched4_20148-102147-06-2

MP_Testimony_McMillan_Direct_20148-102147-03

MP_Testimony_Rudeck_Direct_20148-102147-07

MP_Testimony_Winter_Direct_20148-102147-09

Commerce:

Shah_Direct_20149-103162-04

Rakow_Direct_20149-103162-02

Large Utility Intervenors:

Kollen_Direct_20149-103178-02

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need

TODAY – Hearings at 11 & 6 in Grand Rapids

20141014_163123_resized_1

October 15

Yesterday’s hearing in Bigfork was not well attended, but despite the poor turnout, those who did show up had a lot to say and asked many good questions.

What was odd about this is that Intervenors were not required to be there (I’d missed the hearings last week), and no witnesses.  Dept. of Commerce DER had no one there either.  Mike Kaluzniak stated that there was ONE intervenor, the Large Power Intervenors.  EH?  HELLO!  Residents and Ratepayers Against Not-so-Great-Northern Transmission (RRANT) is an Intervenor with full party status.

There was also a question and some information presented about alternate routes — note the next/final workgroup meeting is October 29.  These meetings are open to the public, so if you are interested in the where and when, contact Bill Storm of Commerce EERA: bill.storm@state.mn.us

The comments were insightful, though many pertained to routing, not need.

Meloy Mattfield lives on the orange route, and he has a trail and spends a lot of time on that trail.  He wanted to know what a safe distance from the power line would be, given that he’s in the area regularly, and has grandchildren who are often there too.  He got the usual “causation has not been established” and was referred to the application section on EMF.  Later I was able to interject info about the epidemiological association of EMF with childhood leukemia.

Here are some articles with links from powerlinefacts.com (website accessible via Wayback).

Here are some specifics from the routing application, and note there is no disclosure of the amps:

EMF1_RPA_Book1,Part2EMF2_RPA Book1There is more in Appendix I, so here it is — but note that it only relates to electric fields — is there more info somewhere?

20144-98342-04_Initial Filing – RPA_Appendix I

How to determine what’s safe?  Buy a gauss meter (some are cheap, some are not) and measure powerlines starting at the centerline, and moving out (when they’re running, ramped up!).  Keeping away from it until levels are under 2 mG would be a good bet.

Sally Sedgwick was concerned about the scenic wilderness southeast of Effie, and noted that even if the line creates a benefit for one area, is it acceptable to burden another with this line?  She requested that the line be co-located with pre-existing transmission )PUC pay attention, because that’s the requirement of PEER too).

PEER – use existing corridor!

She also asked what percentage of the MP budget is devoted to getting this permit.  It wasn’t clear to me whether this meant what % of MP’s budget is focused on getting this permit or what % of the line’s budget is permitting costs.  The latter was answered, as 1% of project costs are permitting costs.

She was also concerned about reduction of jobs at Boswell.  That seems inevitable, as it looks like they’ve retrofitted Boswell 4, are retrofitting 3, and are evaluating what to do about 1 & 2 (which are likely smaller and older units).  Moeller noted that Hoyt Lakes will be converted from coal to gas.

Moeller also stated that increased transfer capability attributable to this project is 883 MW (if so, why build such a large project).  I asked whether they’d be willing to limit it to that, as with the Arrowhead-Weston line with its 800 MW phase shifting transformer condition as part of the permit, and I got questioning looks and deferral to the evidentiary hearing.

Dean Sedgwick had a few interesting questions too!

How many lines would be reduced or eliminated with this?  None.

NOx, look at it and do comparison of generation?  None.

Line losses?  Answered with information about comparative voltages for transmitting electricity, and that this was best (includes all of eastern interconnect!).

What is impact of becoming dependent on a single point source (Manitoba Hydro) for such a large component of generation?  A: Not restrictive.  Working to be less reliant on coal.

Back of envelope calculation, 625/kW, higher cost for this project.  Is this the least cost option?  Coal is a low cost energy generator, is this lower cost than coal?  A: Wind and hydro are lowest cost, no fuel cost.  Have had issues with coal transport, and looking at rule changes.  They’re “not saying that adding this will offset coal, it might change dispatch” (which means to me that this project opens door to marketing their coal elsewhere, at the eastern end of the line).

He also had concerns about the change of rates through using a time of day supply, and the variability of those rates.

Is biomass part of the mix MP looks at?  Yes, but supply is issue (Moeller mentioned “railroad ties,” oh great, let’s breathe some of that!!).

Richard Reinhart lives between the orange and the blue options, 4.5 miles west of Hwy. 65.  Why no use the existing route?  If they make a new corridor, they don’t have the way to repair line.  Could build a larger line and remove the smaller one on that corridor.  If you did that, you’d be saving ecology, saving forest, and saving yourself a lot of trouble.  It’s claimed to be needed for more power, but Hibbing Taconite is likely  to close, and Essar, most of us will be dead by the time that gets going, if ever.

Mattfield agreed, that these places will be closing down, the supply is limited, 30 years or so, and that’s about up.

Gail Blackmer also urged them to use the existing corridor close th Hwy. 65.  She’s a resident on Deer Lake, and it would go between county and state camping areas.  Utilize the existing line, realize this is not a route hearing, but this is important.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need

MP Updates to Info Request Responses

question_marks

Minnesota Power has submitted some updated responses to Intervenor Information Requests.  The New Tie Line Loop Flow Impact Study Report-Rev1-FINAL is the most important update to the IRs :

RRANT – Overland – Cover Letter 9.24.14

RRANT IR 002 Supplemental – FINAL

New Tie Line Loop Flow Impact Study Report-Rev1-FINAL

Updates to Dept. of Commerce IRs (also re: new study!):

DOC – Hofschulte – Cover Letter 9.24.14

DOC IR 008 Supplemental – FINAL

New Tie Line Loop Flow Impact Study Report-Rev1-FINAL

Updates to Large Power Intervenors’ IRs:

LPI – Moratzka – Cover Letter 10.2.14

LPI IR 020 – Supplemental – FINAL

LPI IR 020.1 Attachment CONSTRUCTION AGREEMENT – Public

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need, Information Requests

Direct Testimony Filed!

oath

Here we go — it’s testimony time.  Yesterday the “Large Utility Intervenors” and Commerce DER filed their Direct Testimony.

Commerce:

Shah_Direct_20149-103162-04

Rakow_Direct_20149-103162-02

Large Utility Intervenors:

Kollen_Direct_20149-103178-02

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Certificate of Need