Category Archives: Routing Docket

Watch the GNTL Commission deliberation NOW!

BogLine

The Great Northern Transmission Routing Permit is now up at the Public Utilities Commission.

LISTEN HERE, NOW!

Just click on the link, and you’re there!  Live!

PUC STAFF BRIEFING PAPERS – AMENDED

New Commissioner Matt Schuerger does understand transmission, and has exposed their nonsense of this being a “reliability risk” issue.  Will they care?

Libschultz: It’s a continuum, not a precipice?

And MP is hiding their theory under “Trade Secret” evidence that was withdrawn from the record.

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Filed under Meetings, MISO, Routing Docket

Commission Meeting 2/25 — this is it!

High-Voltage-Warning-Sign-S-2217

Hot off the press — the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will deliberate, and most likely decide, on the route for Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line at its February 25, 2016 meeting:

Notice of Commission Meeting_20162-118248-01

Thursday, February 25, 2016, no earlier than 10:30 a.m.

Public Utilities Commission

Large Hearing Room, 3rd Floor

121 – 7th Place East, St. Paul, MN  55101

On the other hand, they might put the decision off until early March:

2-25-2016NoticeNotice issues — you may recall the notice issues raised at the public hearing — this is another one of those transmission dockets where additional routes were added and landowners on those new routes were not given notice:

Last Minute Notice to Landowners — NOT OK!

LATE NOTICE to Landowners, and Public Hearings Aug 12 & 13

From the ALJ’s Recommendation, the issues I’d raised — the lateness of the EIS was not made part of the Findings, the FEIS came out long after the Public Comment period closed, and even after the party briefs were due.  How could anyone comment on the adequacy of the FEIS?  Here’s the cut and paste from the ALJ’s report:

Overland1Overland2
The issues raised should have been stated here, and not dismissed via referral to the Order Denying RRANT’s Motion… The contortions and contradictions of Commerce’s ongoing “explanations” should be a matter of public record, because it started out bizarre at the hearing, and over the next couple of weeks got even stranger:

20158-113450-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL DOC-EERA LETTER 08/21/2015
20158-113402-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL OAH LETTER–CORRESPONDENCE TO MS. JENSEN 08/20/2015
20158-113405-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL OAH OTHER–CORRESPONDENCE 08/20/2015
20158-113397-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL RESIDENTS AND RATEPAYERS AGAINST NOT-SO-GREAT-NORTHERN TRANSMISSION RRANT REPLY BRIEF–RRANT REPLY LETTER BRIEF TO DOC-EERA 08/19/2015
20158-113390-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL DOC-EERA BRIEF 08/19/2015

Oh, it’s my job to enter the Work Group report into the record?  Methinks that’s the job of Commerce, why didn’t Commerce enter it into the record?  Turns out it IS in the record:

201411-104621-06 PUBLIC 14-21 TL DOC EERA OTHER–APPENDIX E – SUMMARY OF WORKING GROUP MEETINGS 11/13/2014

The ALJ did look into these notice issues, and in the ALJ’s Findings, there was a lot more than “just” the notice issues I raised:

NoticeFindingsNotice97

And the footnotes to the ALJ’s findings about Notice referenced in the above snippets show that the Applicant has not met the statutory notice requirements:

Notice

fn2

And generally, a few points of interest:

  • The ALJ recommended the EffieVariation (East Section) including the East Bear Lake Variation;
  • The ALJ recommended the Trout Lake Alignment;
  • And the ALJ recommended addressing issues raised by Charlotte Neigh in the Findings of Fact:

216Neigh

217NeighAnd in the Recommendation:

25_NeighCharlotte Neigh’s complete Comments:

201511-115341-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL PUC PUBLIC COMMENT–PUBLIC COMMENT OUTSIDE OF OPEN COMMENT PERIOD 11/02/2015
20159-113725-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL PUC PUBLIC COMMENT 09/02/2015

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Filed under PUC Filings, Routing Docket

ALJ’s Recommendation is out!

gavel

The ALJ’s Recommend for a route for the Not-so-Great Northern Transmission Line is out:

ALJ Recommendation_20161-116959-01

Short story, the ALJ recommends the Effie alternative, and the Trout Lake alternative, and more to follow.

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Filed under PUC Filings, Routing Docket

Oxymoronic Manitoba Hydro!!

CanadaDry

RECEIVED!!!  Damaged in transit, one can blew up, and I’d guess caused much consternation and intrigue at the Post Office.  Package ripped up, stuck half in a bag, or half in the bag put in the bag by someone on overtime.

OH MY…  A BRIBE!!!  A CapX 2020 La Crosse hat, and now this!!!  In a plain brown wrapper, but we know where this came from (ginger pale ale next time?!?!) (and about that little retirement tico in Costa Rico?!?).  To be clear, it’s not Manitoba Hydro because that would indeed be contrary to Canada Dry!

Here’s a toast to Minnesota Power, and their attorney ERK too, and to another year of being a royal Pain In The Patoot to them.  We’re not done with the Not-so-Great Northern Transmission Line, and we’re not done with the Menahga Transmission Project yet (though on Menahga, we’re making progress, EH?).

p.s. I don’t know where I put my coal supply, it’s gonna be late this year…

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Filed under Canada permitting, Presidential Permit, Routing Docket

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

ALJ Order filed, no RRANT intervention

Homer_Rant

ALJ O’Reilly has issued her Order, and each of RRANT’s Motions were denied.  Here’s the Order:

Order-20159-113734-01

It seems that it’s not a problem if landowners potentially affected don’t get notice, landowners who could have transmission over their land.  A point raised was that none of these landowners have tried to intervene… well… do they even know???

… sigh…

Well, the RRANT public comment is in, and we’ll see what happens.

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Filed under 7850, Condemnation, Easements, Hearings, Meetings, PUC Filings, Routing Docket

RRANT Public Comments just filed

So here I sit, in the Bear Paw campground next to Lake Itasca, and realize that there’s been no Order on the RRANT_Motion to Intervene Out of Time and TODAY is the deadline for Public Comments.  So the choice was to file something today, or forever hold my peace if the ALJ doesn’t file an Order.  OK… fine… whatever… there’s internet access in the Bear Paw campground, site 38e, love the information age, so BRING IT ON!

20150901_170016[1]

Just filed: RRANT Public Comment FINAL

The DNR filed some new comments too, haven’t read them, but referenced them because they’d requested more information about the “Effie alternative” and Minnesota Power did NOT want that alternative to be used.

20159-113683-02 PUBLIC 14-21 TL MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES COMMENTS–APPLICATION COMMENTS ENCLOSURE 09/01/2015
20159-113683-04 PUBLIC 14-21 TL MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES COMMENTS–DEIS COMMENTS ENCLOSURE 09/01/2015
20159-113683-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES COMMENTS–COMMENTS GREAT NORTHERN TRANSMISSION LINE ROUTE PERMIT 09/01/2015
20159-113683-03 PUBLIC 14-21 TL MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES COMMENTS–EARLY COORDINATION ENCLOSURE 09/01/2015

 

 

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Filed under 7850, Hearings, PUC Filings, Routing Docket

Can you believe Commerce EERA would file this?

lucy-surprised

14-21_DOC-EERA_Letter_to_ALJ_with_Affidavit_of_Warner

laughinghorse

FULL DISCLOSURE & CLARIFICATION:  THIS IS NOT ABOUT MINNESOTA POWER, THIS IS NOT ABOUT MANITOBA HYDRO.  THIS IS ABOUT THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE.

Here’s the recap:

The most recent Dept. of Commerce EERA letter…

14-21_DOC-EERA_Letter_to_ALJ_with_Affidavit_of_Warner)

… was sent in response to the Administrative Law Judge’s letter directing them to follow through on her request for an Affidavit from the person who mailed the landowners notice, those “ADDITIONAL new landowners” who were supposedly sent notice prior to the one that was sent in July.

From the top:

  • Notice sent out to some landowners on February 9, 2015, and to some on July 27, 2015, evidenced by filing in eDockets:
20157-112741-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL DOC EERA OTHER–NEWLY AFFECTED LANDOWNER NOTICE 07/27/2015
  • I discovered this eFiled document and contacted Sharon Ferguson about the mailing of the 27th of July, and after reviewing the document, she said that yes, she served that last page of “ADDITIONAL new landowners” on July 27, 2015, and that the others had been served earlier, on February 9, 2015.  I went over it twice to be clear, to make sure I understood it correctly.
  • Upon learning that the one page of “ADDITIONAL new landowners” got their first notice on July 27, 2015, I filed for RRANT (Intervenor in Certificate of Need docket) to intervene in this routing docket: RRANT_Motion to Intervene Out of Time.
  • At the hearing the following day, I entered the last two pages of the Notice, the “24 landowners” list and the July 27, 2015 Certificate of Service as Exhibit 280.  Pages 18-19 from 7272015_Notice_p18_20157-112741-01
  • At the hearing, I was told by Asst. A.G. Jensen that this was just a clerical error, that Sharon Ferguson was handed a big pile of landowner lists that had previously been served and instructed to file them on eDockets (see above, eDocket filing 20157-112741-01 ), and for some unknown reason she also filed a Certificate of Service dated July 27, 2015, in addition to the one dated February 9, 2015, that was in the eDocket filing with the letter and landowner lists.
  • During the hearing, Bill Storm stated (was he under oath?)(from DRAFT Transcript (selected)_8-13-2015) (note that only Sharon Ferguson is mentioned):

BillStorm1

BillStorm2

BillStorm3

Speculative hearsay…  Then Asst. A.G. Linda Jensen went on to state:

Jensen1

Then Judge O’Reilly asks, to clarify:

OReilly1

“Correct.”  Uh-huh… and more clarification:

OReilly2

But Exhibit 113 does not equal 20157-112741-01Exhibit 113 is missing the last page of what was filed on eDockets.  And yet Exhibit 113 was entered after July 27, 2015… and it was entered into the record with certain representations… (when that transcript comes out, I’ll post that snippet.).

And the wrap-up:

OReilly3

OReilly4

ManureSpreader

And now, the kicker:

OReilly5

And from Mr. Storm:

BillStorm4

Nope, doesn’t seem that he can!  What Commerce EERA produces is an Affidavit from Bill Storm, not Sharon Ferguson, with more and different speculative hearsay, and this time it’s not about Sharon Ferguson, but now it’s about a new character, “Caren Warner,” who supposedly sent that one page of “ADDITIONAL new landowners” notice that their land may be affected…

Letter  Brief & Attachments_20158-113390-01

EH?  There’s still no Affidavit of Sharon Ferguson!  What happened to the Affidavit from Sharon Ferguson?  The story now is different than it was at the hearing, as reflected in the transcript, and now there’s a new character!  Caren Warner!  And no Affidavit of Caren Warner!

BillStorm4

laughinghorse

Next the Administrative Law Judge fired this off:

Letter from ALJ O’Reilly to DOC Asst. A.G. Jensen_20158-113402-01

… in pertinent part:

Letter

So what did Commerce produce this time?  Check it out:

14-21_DOC-EERA_Letter_to_ALJ_with_Affidavit_of_Warner

lucy-surprised

Ms. Warner has no memory of that day:

Warner

Sounds like the Rose Mary Woods School of Clerical Endeavors:

rose-mary-woods

Looks to me that the logical presumption is that those 24 “ADDITIONAL new landowners” were not served on February 9, 2015.

Do the Rose Mary!!!  On a count of four, the backwards-leaning stretch reach, and forward for a count of 4.  Ready, 1, 2, 3, 4,  BACKwards-leaning STRETCH REACH, forward 2 3 4, BACKwards-leaning STRETCH REACH, forward 2 3 4, BACKwards-leaning STRETCH REACH, forward 2 3 4, BACKwards-leaning STRETCH REACH, forward 2 3  vamp, 1, 2, 3, 4, hold that RRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEACH!  18.5 minutes… HOLD…. HOLD… HOLD…. HOLD… 18.5 minutes… HOLD…. HOLD… HOLD…. HOLD… 18.5 minutes… HOLD…. HOLD… HOLD…. HOLD…

BillStorm4

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Filed under 7850, Hearings, PUC Filings, Routing Docket

Commerce EERA Responds… NOT!

BogLine

UPDATE:  Letter from ALJ O’Reilly to DOC Asst. A.G. Jensen_20158-113402-01

Letter

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That letter above pretty much sums up the issue at hand.

The ALJ asked Commerce-EERA to produce an Affidavit from the person serving late notice to the “ADDITIONAL new landowners” and they didn’t do it.   Affidavit regarding service of the person who actually did it?  Yup, it was pretty specific.  From the transcript, pages 33-35:

Aff1

And this:

Aff2

And this:

Aff3

Here’s the RRANT_Motion to Intervene Out of Time.

Here’s selected parts of the 8-13-2015 hearing transcript, thanks to David Moeller, Minnesota Power:

Transcript (selected)_8-13-2015

So what did Commerce EERA send?

LetterBrief&Attachments_20158-113390-01

Starting with this:

EERA1

This “takes no position” declaration was followed by 2+ pages, single spaced, of position after position!  The letter discussed everything BUT the issue at hand” Did the 24 “ADDITIONAL new landowners” get notice of this proceeding on February 9, 2015, and the Affidavit regarding same from the person who did or didn’t do it.

Rather than attach an Affidavit from the person serving notice, as requested by the ALJ, they attached an Affidavit of Bill Storm, as much speculative hearsay as it was at the hearing on August 13, 2015.

Rather than attach an Affidavit from the person serving notice, as requested by the ALJ, they imply that because “Attachment 3” shows that John Wahlberg asked to be put on the service list in June, JUNE, at the same address as Wahlberg Trust, one of the 24 “ADDITIONAL new landowners,” must have received notice.   Constructive notice is likely, but what about actual notice?  That’s what we’re trying to get at here.

So if it went down as Commerce EERA says it did, why aren’t they producing an Affidavit from the primary person who served Notice on February 9, 2015, be it Sharon Ferguson, Caren Warner, or someone else?

This isn’t a criminal trial, and administrative rules of evidence are not court rules, BUT… not producing the Affidavit as ALJ O’Reilly requested, specifically, several times, opens the door to an inference that they’re doing the best they can and that they can’t produce what the ALJ asked for.

Lack of notice has been a recurrent problem, and yes, we’re trying to deal with this in rulemaking, latest draft released earlier this month:

Onward with PUC Certificate of Need and Routing Rulemaking

Anyway, here’s what I sent in response:

RRANT Response to DOC-EERA

To this RRANT Response, MP’s attorney writes, just now:

Judge O’Reilly – I would note that while OAH Rules (1405.0900) allow other parties or persons to respond or object to a Petition To Intervene, the Rules do not provide for “a reply to the replies.” At some point, the process must stop or parties and participants could continually reply to one another. Minnesota Power respectfully suggests that Ms. Overland’ latest filing should be ignored and a decision made on the basis of the filings and arguments to date.

Yeah… whatever… OAH Rules 1405.0900 is not prohibitive either.  Let’s be clear, Minnesota Power, this is NOT about you (though in other dockets it’s been the Applicants bringing in new routes at the last minute).  This is about the Minnesota Department of Commerce apparently failing to provide notice to landowners targeted in scoping, and failing to comply with the ALJ’s request for an Affidavit regarding service from the person doing the job, not Bill Storm and his speculative hearsay.

Decision time?  Yes, bring it on…

What bothers me about this is that never, at no time, ever, should any landowner be subjected to a transmission line without notice and an opportunity to speak their mind about it, to decide whether to participate or not, to intervene or not, and if they do, to do all they can to speak up!  If anyone thinks that someone who has not been given notice should “host” a transmission line, or be considered to “host” a transmission line, there’s a serious hole where their sense of ethics and their moral compass should be.  And then there’s that pesky matter of due process.

horsesasses2

 

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Filed under 7850, PUC Filings, Routing Docket

Greetings from Grand Rapids

20150813_110930_resized

Intro by Judge O’Reilly…

Mark Mandich, an Itasca County Commissioner, presented County Resolution supporting the orange Effie alternative, and support Bass Lake and Wilson Lake alignment if the blue or orange is selected.  Some questions about location of the options

Now Mike Kaluzniak gives the PUC perspecive and process…

Now David Moeller, Minnesota Power:

20150813_114706_resized

And now a break … and then Bill Storm:

DOE received 122 comments on the DEIS (not separated out DOE & Commerce, so that must be total comments).  Hoping to have Final EIS out by October 30? (two months after public comment period closes).

And now for public comments (this is NOT all inclusive, I missed a lot while jumping up to look at maps and looking up other info):

Don Peterson (Ex. 264 & 265): Map with rectangle around his land.  Koochiching County, north of Deer River, comes laterally across 80.    Purchased it in 2012, and learned by accident of this project in January 2014.   He was never notified.  Told they get lists of landowners from county.  Is it legal to potentially confiscate land from someone without notifying them?

Buddy John Savich (Ex. 266 & 267): From Effie, 431 acre beef cattle farm and hay for sale.  Lovdahl family, farm has been in family for 57 years.  How many farms where people elected “Buy the Farm” are those farmers still farming?  Are farms targeted or do they receive preferential treatment, is it possible you’re targeting farms?  A: Try to avoid ag land to a large degree, try to avoid farms.  On Great Northern website, talks about “need to reduce coal.”  For the record, what is the “need to reduce coal?”  I’ve heard that cows cause global warming… I would opt for Buy the Farm if you’re going to come through here.  I didn’t get any notice of this route, somehow accidentally found out this fall.   He has alternative.  He’s on Map 78.  Would have happily submitted it but I didn’t get notices.  Submitting comments in December.  Ex. 267.  Is it too late to suggest these types of changes?  Is it too late to ask to go around an active farm?  I’d ask to go to southern parcel, there’s nothing there, it’s hunting land.  If the powerline goes over my farm, one less farm in Minnesota.  Is there a preference for taking land that’s already clear.

Michael Twitt (?), Magnetation (Ex. 268 map, Ex. 269 Letter) Little O’Reilly Lake.  Magnetation fully supports this Minnesota Power project.  Proposed alternative on Map 122, area is circled on map, that portion has a direct adverse impact, traverses historical mining area, includes 4 tailing basins and stockpiles, included in our permits.  Land use restrictions for that route alternative are incompatible with mining.  (no mention that Magnetation is laying off workers, shutting plants 1 and 3, or their May bankruptcy filing)

Quintin Leger, Blandin Paper Company (Ex. 270 maps 90, 99, 100, 104, 105, 107;  Ex. 271 Written comments, excerpt from conservation easement): This land is all encumbered by conservation easements, and this would affect use of this, would impair or interfere with conservation values, should protect this resource.

Dan Strand (Ex. 272 maps, 2 pages Northome variation)  Our property is on county line with Koochiching, we have a certified survey and we run right along that line.  If you run south of that line, we’re concerned with tresspassing, ask that it be moved further south, more in Itasca County, so there’s a barrier.  It’s not personal property, it’s county property.  Prefers blue route, but if orange, then J2 option and the Northome alignment.  If it didn’t get far enough south, what would you do to protect our property from tresspassing, fence or ?  A:  We do put up gates… but this is two miles… A: We would put up gates over roads…

Richard Libbey, Grand Rapids Wes Libbey Izaak Walton League (Ex. 273 Map):  Here in favor of Effie alternative in NE Itasca County.  Same route endorsed by county board.  Effie alternative is on blue route, and there’s a MCBS site there, Wasson Lake Bog, Bear and Wolf Lake?, just north of there, peat land.  Going cross country would increase forest fragmentation.

(oh-oh, think I lost someone’s comments here, _________, Ex. 274)

(Breaktime)

Trevor Johnson, Hartley Lake Association (Ex. 275, Map 103): Didn’t want to pit lakes against lakes.  We suggested another route, turned out to be not proosed, we were told various reasons this couldn’t be done, if this route could be used, Effie variation and and East Bear Lake variation.  If the Commission decides this is the route to use, can you design something that will work?  A: Short answer, yes…

Raymond Steffen, Balsam Township Supervisor (Ex. 276, Map 105): Chapel, fire hall… Preference for the blue route over the orange route.

Kathy Krook (Ex. 277, Map Snaptail Lake): Property impacted by Orange route, Balsam Township.  If this goes through will impact our entire property of 84 acres.  Father bought it 70+ years ago, I’ve lived here 60+ years, it’s where I hunt, it’s where I fish.  I’m concerned about resale value.  Who’s going to buy it with this monstrosity.  The orange has less impact, I’m primarily concerned about the Balsam variation.  I prefer the Blue route.

Catherine McLynn (Ex. 278, No of Effie) own 35 acres adjacent to 235(?), 2 miles north of Effie, affected by Orange route.  Use public land in the area.  Lot of beaver plan flowage, attracts trumpeter swans, deer, grouse, etc., support the Effie red route that would avoid this area.  Prefer using this route rather than disturbing the forest and wildlife.

Richard Libbey: Did work for MP for 25 years, was operator at Boswell station, was meter reader, familiar with different aspects of operation.  Earlier I talked about support for the Effie variation that would minimize impacts to environment.  It can be engineered in a way that would not affect the stability of the grid.  Manitoba Hydro is going to be paying 70% of the operation, impacts on us would be less MP will pay $50,000 (?) per mile which would increase tax base, Koochiching county will benefit most.  MP owns 51% of the project and MH has 49% as far as paying for operating and taxes.  Reliability and parallelling existing lines.  MP’s response in draft EIS where two 500 kV lines are parallel.  Concerns about parallel lines, the likelihood of severe event impacting lines can be … (see EIS Comment).  They were talking about having a 200 ft wide corridor, but it sounds like they maintain a 50 foot buffer, so 50 foot further away from existing lines, that would also provide habitat, rather than 600 foot wide swath.  Simultaneous outages due to weather events, develop a weather study based on actual weather in the area. (options to mitigate outages, faster repair/restoration).  They should have a monitor for weather events, can compensate, and anticipate so it won’t be such a shock to the system.  Outage years ago, set up FERC, they’ve got the system so they can isolate, with those considerations they can parallel 500 kV to Canada, so adding line to 230 in Koochiching isn’t that significant.

Winter, MP (additional testimony, missed a lot here, see transcript): Effie variation.   Three broad issues that categorise.  Issues associated with construction, operation, and maintenance, Issues of consequences of simultaneous unpanned outage event that would take out the project in addition to 500 kV, and third, environmental and length and cost considerations.  All have been floating around.  Response is more nuanced than is generally perceived.  Starting with construction, operation and maintenance — there’s been no consideration of EMF impacts along Effie route, and we would expect all three characteristics to be higher because there would be thre eof them in same corridor.  Electric field, likely to to be higher, higher structure height and meet state limits.  Magnetic fields would be higher than where we would be parallelling one, there’s no way to quantify without running some simulations and calculating what the impact would be.  Noise would be higher, and evaluating, I would expect would be pushing the MPCA at edge of RoW.  Impact might not be extreme, but if the noise is… (?), can’t tell without simulation.  Re: EMF, utility building project would not only be responsible for the project, we would also be responsible for assuring EMF and noise would be within applicable limits (?) for proposed and exisitng.  None of that has been considered or evaluated…  In addition to those impacts, we also have some concerns about helicopter access.  Helicopters would be used in some circumstances for consturction, fly structures in, maintenance, and emergency restoration.  During construction for various things we might use helicopters for, operation in vicinity of two energized lines… maybe not one issue, but conglomeration of issues, went into our decision to not go forward with this proposed route, not only impact during construction, but also operation maintenance, that operators would flat out refuse to fly over that middle line.  That’s our understanding from our conversations with our contractor.  Existing 500 kV line sandwiched between existing 500 kV and 230 kV line.  If we had structure failure…  General maintenance, it’s our understanding, because it’s parallel, would still be treated as line, approach distances would be increased.  Special constructions and design considerations, line would have to be taller, would perhaps have to be more robust in design to account for more extreme weather than it would otherwise be designed for.  Technically nuanced how we choose our return period, we could choose a longer return period to account for extreme events.  Modifications to mitigate electric field, separation between lines, 50′ separation between right of ways.  Purpose of that is not for reliability, but it’s for access, the 50′ is not a reliability, but a construction issue.  Consequences of simultaneous outage, I’m a system planner, we have identified that there is an appreciable difference between 500kV alone and 500 + 500 + 230kV all at once.  That’s covered in supplemental testimony in detail.  There are 5 existing Manitoba tie lines, this would include two.  Result, even if not a cascading event, would be a dramatic decrease in Manitoba/US transfers.  Causes, many things, and any combination thereof, I don’t want to get into discussing the likelihood, but the more localized they are, the more susceptible to events, and it increases the likelihood of a simultaneous outage.  Wildfires, we haven’t discusses impact.  It could be anything up to structural failure, or we may pre-emptively de-energize the line.  Finally, last week, intentional disruption, the larger visually the corridor, the larger the target becomes.  (DOH, good argument against central station power and large and long transmission!).  When we looked a the Effie route alternative, it was our conclusion that the difference in environmental impacts, there isn’t as drastic a difference compared to the Blue route, such as length, residences within 1,500 feet (4 v. 14), impacts to private property 77 v. 121 acres of private property, wetlands greater, MCBS Biodiversity Blue 422 acres and Effie 427 acres.  These are attached to to record last week, Ex. 76, that’s where these numbers come from.  Forested land, 14,000 v. 17,000.  I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the Effie route as the greatest route out there, we’d still be cutting trees and putting in foundations.  Blue route cost $46.6 million v.  Effie variation $57.4 million, $10.8 million difference.  That does not include costs of potentially needing higher structures, longer return period, etc., doesn’t include route specific design considerations.  ALJ: But isn’t Manitoba Hydro paying 70%?  A: With all due respect (!) it’s our preogative to control costs, and we’re not treating it any differently than we would any other project.  ALJ: That was a major consideration in the Certificate of Need.  A: The major consideration inwhy we’re building a 500 kV line rather than a 230kV, it doesn’t give us license to spend more on this project.  The factors that lead us to deem the Effie route not for consideration, we’re trying to balance all these factors, Blue and Orange similar length of parallel corridor, impacts, and Effie because of more than double parallel of 500 kV route, in addition to adding 3rd line in that corridor, it throws that balance off.  It increases the magnitude of impacts to the point where it rendered the Effie route not being viable to propose.  (Minnesota Power does NOT want this Effie variation)

Jensen cross (Commerce): Would risks be decreased with increased space between lines?  A: I would say it’s a matter of degree, the less separation the less benefit there is (to colocating).  Series of concerns with construction, operation and maintenance, used the term “may” often…  is there uncertainty?  A: Yes, there is uncertainty.  Are there various ways to mitigate those risks if PUC selects the Effie variation?  A: Additional mitigation measures would increase complexity of engineering, have ot meet 8 kV/meter limit, to extent we would have to mitigate we will, but …

_________ Marshall (Ex. 279 map): 2 parcels adjacent to Orange route.  It’s our hunting camp for 60 years or so.  I prefer not to have a powerline running right through my property,  I understand public good, it’s got to go somewhere.  I’m a retired forest manager, have had a number of dealings with MP and other utilities, and the principle, whenever practical it is best to use existing corridors.  Not have northwoods carved with multiple routes.

Ryan Reed, MN DNR Grand Rapids, coordinates divisional comments.  Point of clarification regarding Catherine McLynn’s and Mr. Marshall that DNR endorses Effie route.  We have not endorsed routes.  We did ask for additional information about forest fragmentation and some rare resources, and we were looking for more information.  We wanted a quality analysis of this route.  We’ll provide additional comments, and conditions, and may provide a preference.

Richard Libbey again – request that you consider Effie alternative…

And my turn… speaking for Residents and Ratepayers Against Not-so-Great Northern Transmission:

First, I’d noted that the meeting notice included information on how to file Comments, but there was no email, only the PUC’s Speak Out! form page, and the “U.S. Mail” option.  This is 2015.  But I learned that the day before, ALJ O’Reilly had made mention of this problem and given out her email for comments.  GOOD!  And in the introduction section this morning, she gave out her email again, noting the attachment issue!  Thanks much!

Second, I check to see if DOT, DNR and USFWS Comments were in the hearing record and they were not.  So I asked that these be entered into the hearing record because they have an impact on routing and shouldn’t be isolated in the EIS to languish in an appendix to the FEIS that won’t come out until October 30, long after everything is said and done.  BIG problem.  Commerce objected to this.  BIGGER problem.  Judge O’Reilly suggested that they be entered in, assigning exhibit numbers, and I would have to send her hard copies by mail.  OK, whatever, if that’s what it takes.  MP and Commerce did agree. (hard copies mailed Friday, and it was not easy, three did NOT want to download).

RRANT_Agency Comment Letters

20148-102320-01_DNR

20148-102320-03_DNR

20148-102320-04_DNR

20158-113095-01_DNR20158-113095-02_DNR

20158-113095-03_DNR

DOT_8-10-2015

USFWS_11-26-2014

DOT_20148-102265-01 8-14-42014

And finally, the odd one, the landowner notice.  Background: Prior to my Comment time, Asst. A.G. Linda Jensen wanted to chat about this.  The Commerce position is that this was a simple clerical error, that Bill Storm, EERA Commerce, had handed Sharon Ferguson a pile of documents to eFile, and she had written up and attached that July 27, 2015 Certificate of Service in error, and then eFiled it. Here’s what was filed:

7 27 2015_Notice_see p18-19_20157-112741-01

What I got out of that conversation is that they did not want me to bring it up at the hearing.

Sure, that Commerce explanation of adding an additional Certificate of Service in error is possible, but that’s not what the documents show, and in my experience, Sharon Ferguson is anything but a ditz — she’s thorough and conscientious and has been doing this forever — and I have run into routing dockets where people got late notice where a utility is trying to find a last minute way around a prohibitive situation — so inquiring minds want to know…

More background:  I always go right to the source.  On Wednesday, after discovering this, at 9:44 a.m., I called Commerce (phone number I found online for Sharon Ferguson didn’t work), was rerouted to Sharon, and we went over the filing very carefully, she pulled up the document, and I had it up on my screen.  I asked about the February 9, 2015 notice, and about the July 27, 2015 notice, and specifically whether it meant that the pages of “new landowners” following the February notice were sent out in February, and she said they were, and whether the one page of “ADDITIONAL new landowners” were sent out in July as stated in the July “ADDITIONAL new landowners” Certificate of Service.  She confirmed that is what happened.  I asked again to be sure, whether that last page of landowners with the “ADDITIONAL new landowners” footer was sent notice on July 27, 2015, and she again confirmed that.

That’s when I wrote up the RRANT Motion for Intervention Out-of-Time:

RRANT_Motion to Intervene Out-of-Time_FINAL

More Background: Before the hearing began, I asked about the Agency Comments and learned they were not in the Record.  Later, I learned that the post-scoping landowner notices were entered by Commerce as Exhibit 113.  So ALJ O’Reilly dug out Exhibit 113.  What was Exhibit 113?  It was the filing of July 27, 2015 minus that last page with the July 27, 2015 Certificate of Service:

20157-112741-01 PUBLIC 14-21 TL DOC EERA OTHER–NEWLY AFFECTED LANDOWNER NOTICE 07/27/2015

So they took out that 7/27/2015 Certificate of Service and filed it as Exhibit 113?  Yup.  Did they let anyone know, did the state on the record, that the eFiling of 7/27/2015 was in error, and they removed the last page?  I don’t know, wasn’t at the hearing where it was presented, but I have a feeling the “error” wasn’t mentioned.

Prior to my turn to comment, I was approached again, and the message I received, again, was that it was a simple clerical error, with the implied “don’t bring it up, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”   Having experienced first hand the last minute Myrick Route in the Brookings docket, and the Cannon Falls Hwy. 19 and Hwy. 52 last minute route alignment additions, I’m not about to shut up about it.

So back to the hearing — at the outset, I’d asked to be affirmed (yes, redundant because I’m an “Officer of the Court” but I wanted to be clear…).  And yes, I brought it up, noting that Commerce had a different position, but that this document was entered in the record, that I’d spoken with Sharon Ferguson about this for clarification, and my position that the “ADDITIONAL new landowners” was based on the July 27, 2015 filing, the Certificate of Service and this confirming conversation on Wednesday with the person who had signed the Certificate of Service.  Commerce responded with statements of “assumed” and their belief, Asst. A.G. Linda Jensen and EERA Bill Storm, that it was just an error, and neither of them said they had spoken with Ms. Ferguson about it (and given I’d filed on Wednesday, and there were breaks in the hearing, in the morning until 11 and all day long, WITH computer access, they could have, well, maybe they did, but they did not say they’d checked with her about it.  Given the looks on their faces and the “thought balloons” I saw over their heads, I’m surprised that’s all they said!  Bottom line, the ALJ was concerned, and asked that they file an Affidavit of Sharon Ferguson about what happened.  Nothing posted or eFiled yet.

If this is a simple clerical error, then let’s get that on the record.  And if not, Commerce, Minnesota Power, we have a problem.

 

 

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