Category Archives: Canada permitting

Whoa, Manitoba Hydro line delayed!

$453M Manitoba Hydro line to Minnesota could face delay after energy board recommendation

Really! And here’s the info straight from the National Energy Board’s “Manitoba-Minnesota” page:

31 October 2017: Recommendation to the Minister regarding Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project [Filing A87404]

Highlights

  • The recommendation to elevate the regulatory process to a certificate was made following careful analysis of recent Supreme Court rulings and the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission recommendation report for the project.
  • A certificate process will ensure that Indigenous considerations are fully taken into account as part of the Board’s assessment.
  • The process will provide greater regulatory certainty to Manitoba Hydro as it imposes a legislated time limit on the assessment.
  • Wherever possible, the NEB will seek to minimize duplication between the provincial and federal processes.
  • The NEB is committed to carrying out a regulatory assessment of the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project that is open, fair, timely and accessible.

Bottom line:

Therefore the Board is recommending to the Minister, pursuant to subsection 58.14 (1) of the NEB Act that the Project be designated by order of the Governor in Council under section 58.15 of the NEB Act as an IPL that is to be constructed and operated in accordance with a certificate issued under section 58.16.

There will be an Order, either following through on this recommendation, or denying it and proceeding. But this is an interesting twist, focused on First Nation rights.

Here’s where you can get more information from the Canadian side of the border:

National Energy Board – Manitoba-Minnesota transmission page

Here’s Canada’s Clean Environment Commission’s Manitoba-Minnesota transmission page

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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

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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Hold yer horses, Conawapa…

conawapa

The recommendations of the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba, in short:

The Panel recommends to the Government of Manitoba that:

THE FULL REPORT.

So if Canada’s Public Utilities Board says, “Manitoba Hydro had not made a strong enough business case for building the Conawapa dam,” why would there be any question that the Not-so-Great Northern Transmission line is not needed?

What does this mean?  The DOE is starting their scoping hearings for the federal environmental review next week:

1. Roseau, MN: Roseau Civic Center, 121 Center Street East, Roseau, MN, 56751; Wednesday. July 16, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

2. Baudette, MN: Lake of the Woods School, 236 15th Ave. SW., Baudette, MN, 56623; Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 6:00 p.m.

3. Littlefork, MN: Littlefork Community Center, 220 Main Street, Littlefork, MN, 56653; Thursday, July 17, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

4. International Falls, MN: AmericInn, 1500 Highway 71, International Falls, MN, 56649; Thursday, July 17, 2014, 6:00 p.m.

5. Kelliher, MN: Kelliher Public School, 345 4th Street NW., Kelliher, MN, 56650; Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

6. Bigfork, MN: Bigfork School, 100 Huskie Boulevard, Bigfork, MN, 56628; Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 6:00 p.m.

7. Grand Rapids, MN: Sawmill Inn, 2301 South Hwy 169, Grand Rapids, MN, 55744; Thursday, July 24, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

8. Grand Rapids, MN: Sawmill Inn, 2301 South Hwy 169, Grand Rapids, MN, 55744; Thursday, July 24, 2014, at 6:00 p.m.

More on this in the news:

NEB has final say over Hydro mega-projects

PUB had no choice in approving dam

Manitoba grants licence for Keeyask dam, puts Conawapa on hold

 

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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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Open houses beginning in Canada for GNTL

As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press, a series of open houses has begun this week, TODAY, and continue through the first week of May in Canada regarding the Canadian part of the “Great Northern Transmission Line.”

Hydro hosts open houses on U.S. transmission line

04/9/2014

Manitoba Hydro wants public feedback as it puts the final touches on its proposed transmission line to the United States.

The line is to run from Rosser (https://www.hydro.mb.ca/projects/mb_mn_transmission/description.shtml) north-west of Winnipeg south to the Minnesota border where it will hook up with a second line to Duluth.

Under a proposal now being studied by the Public Utilities Board, Manitoba Hydro will own 49 per cent of the U.S. side of the 500 KV transmission line, with Minnesota Power owning the rest.

The PUB has heard that Hydro’s stake in the line was needed so that it would be upgraded, at Hydro’s request, from the originally-proposed 230 kilovolts to 500. The larger line (http://www.greatnortherntransmissionline.com/) would allow Hydro to ship more power into the Wisconsin market and import more power to Manitoba from U.S. utilities when needed.

Hydro says it also wants input from First Nations, the Manitoba Metis Federation, local municipalities, government departments, local landowners and the public during the final route selection and environmental assessment process.

Open houses will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Ste. Anne — Tuesday, April 15, Seine River Banquet Centre, 80A Arena Road.
Richer — Wednesday, April 16, Richer Young at Heart Community Club, Dawson Road at Highway 302.
Vita — Tuesday, April 22, Vita Community Hall, 209 Main Street North.
Piney — Wednesday, April 23, Piney Community Centre, Highway No. 89 (Main Street).
La Broquerie — Thursday, April 24, La Broquerie Arena, 35 Normandeau Bay.
Marchand — Wednesday, April 30, Marchand Community Club, Dobson Avenue.
Dugald — Tuesday, April 29, Dugald Community Club, 554 Holland Street.
Lorette –Tuesday, May 6, Lorette Community Complex ,1420 Dawson Road.
Headingley — Wednesday, May 7, Headingley Community Centre, 5353 Portage Avenue.
Winnipeg –Thursday, May 8, Holiday Inn Winnipeg South, 1330 Pembina Highway.

Hydro has also posted an online survey (http://sm.upaknee.com/surveys/101378/manitoba-minnesota-transmission-project-round-2/) on its website for the project.

 

 

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A view from above — Canada that is…

Canada_flag_halifax_9_-04

In the Brandon Sun:

Power line to U.S. ‘ill-advised’ for Manitoban rate-payers: Pallister

By: Staff Writer

Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Opposition Leader Brian Pallister charged today the NDP is recklessly “Americanizing” Manitoba Hydro at the expense of Manitobans under its plan to build two new dams and a new transmission line to the United States.

“The fact is what we’re guaranteed with here under the NDP’s agenda is a power-aid program,” he said. “We get to do all the sweating up here and they get the juice down there.”

Pallister said an example of that is that the Crown utility wants approval to build and co-own a proposed transmission line that will run from Winnipeg to Duluth, MN. Under a proposal now being studied by the Public Utilities Board, Manitoba Hydro will own 49 per cent of the 500 KV transmission line with Minnesota Power owning the rest.

The PUB has heard that Hydro’s stake in the line was needed so that it would be upgraded, at Hydro’s request, from the originally-proposed 230 kilovolts to 500. The larger line would allow Hydro to ship more power into the Wisconsin market and import more power to Manitoba from U.S. utilities when needed.

Hydro’s involvement in the line has been described at the hearing as being “an owner of last resort” in order to see it upgraded.

“Who says Manitoba Hydro had to get it done?” Pallister said. “This government, obviously, is driving Manitoba Hydro’s agenda and pushing Manitoba Hydro to make deal that may well be ill-advised for Manitoba ratepayers.”

The PUB has heard this week that under a confidential deal with Minnesota Power to build the transmission line, Manitoba Hydro — at this stage — will be responsible for 66 per cent of the line’s construction and maintenance. That’s because Minnesota Power does not need the full capacity of the line so it only wants to pay for the portion it will use.

“So with regard to the question of who will pay, Minnesota Power intends to rate-base the cost of their 250-megawatt share of the large (750 MW) interconnection,” Hydro’s division manager of power sales, David Cormie, told the PUB on Monday. “That means their customers, through their rate-recovery mechanisms with their customers, will recover the cost of their investment.

“That leaves Manitoba Hydro with the obligation to pay for the balance of 66 per cent, including the cost of providing the transmission services to Wisconsin Public Service. However, as we intend to be an owner only of last resort, we are making provisions in these discussions on the business relationship so that a third party can step in and participate.”

Cormie also said despite Hydro’s 66 per cent involvement in the 850-kilometre line, it’s still a benefit to the utility because it provides it with an electricity pipeline into the American Midwest.

“Under the contracts dependent on the line, Manitoba Hydro’s energy gets shipped first,” he told the PUB. “Whether it’s dependable or surplus fixed-priced energy or additional energy that Manitoba Hydro intends for the spot market, we own the transmission rights in Canada. They may own the transmission rights on the U.S. side associated with their ownership position, but it’s always Manitoba Hydro’s energy that will flow on that — on — under those firm rights.”

He also said it makes sense to build a larger-capacity transmission line now, instead of a smaller one, because having to add another line to Minnesota in later years will be more expensive and more scrutinized by regulators.

Pallister asked if American investors didn’t want to get involved in the line in its earlier stages, why they would get involved after it’s built.

“The fact is Manitoba Hydro has entered into a commitment that obligates Manitoba Hydro ratepayers to subsidize U.S. purchasers of hydro,” he said.

Pallister also questioned Hydro’s expectations, and the government’s, that by building the proposed Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations the province will reap billions selling power to Americans as U.S. utilities close old, carbon-belching coal plants and add hydro power as part of state-mandated plans to use more renewable energy.

He said experts to testify at the ongoing PUB hearing will say Hydro’s expectations are overblown.

The PUB is examining whether there are alternatives to building the $6.5-billion Keeyask and $10.7-billion Conawapa generating stations, and if the line to Duluth is needed.

It’s to file its report to government June 20.

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Canadian NFAT Hearing has begun

canadianflag

Half of the Great Northern Transmission Project is in Canada, where the transmission line is part of the much larger Manitoba Hydro’s proposed preferred development plan for the Keeyask and Conawapa Generating Stations, their associated domestic AC transmission facilities and a new Canada-USA transmission interconnection.

Manitoba Public Utilities Board NFAT site for this project

Manitoba Hydro is seeking government approval for its proposed Preferred Development Plan, which requires the following commitments in June 2014:

In addition, the plan would include Conawapa G.S., 1,485 MW, with an earliest ISD of 2026, although decisions on whether to construct Conawapa and its timing are not required now and would be made over the next few years.

Intervenors: CLICK HERE for identification and information about their cases

They are going through a similar but MUCH more rigorous process, and the NFAT hearing has just begun, scheduled to extend from Monday’s beginning through May 13, 2014, with “Closing Submissions” following until May 26, and maybe longer than that.

NFAT Hearing Schedule

Also, if you go to the HEARING tab, then click on Exhibit Lists, each intervenor’s exhibits are linked, from the initial Intervenor Application to everything they plan to enter during the hearing, and… like… WOW!  Lots of good info there, including:

LaCapra – Appendix 8  Transmission (MAJORLY redacted)

LaCapra – Appendix 6  Export Markets (also MAJORLY redacted)

Spend some time on the NFAT site and check out how they conduct hearings up there, what type of evidence and reports they’re entering, the length of the hearings, and check the intervenors’ work plans and the amounts the Manitoba PUB is dishing out for intervenor expenses!  Granted the subject of this Canadian hearing is much broader than “just” a transmission line, but what a difference it would make of hearings here were more like hearings there!

 

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