Category Archives: Open Houses

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Cash-Register

Donate!!!  Yes, you!!   See that “PayPal” button up to the right?  Join the challenge to transmission that they don’t need and we don’t want!  Residents and Ratepayers Against Not-so-Great-Northern Transmission, an ad hoc advocacy association, has Intervened in the Certificate of Need, a public interest intervention focused on showing up to weigh in on the big picture issues (Important note, we’re aiding public participation, but not taking a position on route.).

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Filed under Certificate of Need, Environmental Review, Hearings, Information Requests, Need, Open Houses, Presidential Permit

Wednesday & Thursday – DOE Scoping Hearings

Yes, it never ends.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday, we’re having scoping hearings before the U.S. DOE (and also Commerce).  Yes, we’ve been through it before, but this is a MUCH more intense review of environmental impacts, and most importantly, ALTERNATIVES!  Please come to the meetings and let them know what SPECIFICALLY should be covered in the environmental review.

These meetings are in an open house format, and after that, a formal comment period where your comments will be taken down by a court reporter.  It’s important to give your comments to the court reporter because otherwise it won’t be part of the record and won’t be taken into consideration.  You can also send comments in to the DOE:

Comments are due by August 11, 2014.  Send comments to:

Julie Ann Smith                                                                  
Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20)
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW.
Washington, DC 20585
 
Via email: Juliea.Smith@hq.doe.gov

COME ON OUT TO THE MEETINGS!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014:

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014:

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

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

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Filed under Environmental Review, Hearings, Meetings, Open Houses, Presidential Permit

Tonight, Wednesday night, in Baudette

Live from Baudette — we’ve got internet access in the building!  Can you tell I’m trying to get today’s work done as we go?

We’re in the Ambulance Garage to talk about the “scope” of the Environmental Review, this isn’t posted on the PUC docket yet:

DRAFT ER Scoping document

Comments due by 4:30 p.m. March 14, 2014

Send to:

bill.storm@state.mn.us

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Tracey Smetana, the Public Advisor, is presenting now:

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Tonight we don’t have as many people as last night, but it’s a good crowd and we’re moving along through the presentation.

Now for Minnesota Power:

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The PPA they now have is 250 MW and they’re looking at another for 133 MW.   250 + 133 = 383!  MP claims there’s an increase in demand.  They serve the Iron Range and are seeing substantial load growth and are projecting that into the future.

Now it’s Bill Storm, Dept. of Commerce:

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One thing they’re doing a good job of is explaining the difference between Certificate of Need and Routing, and that this is all about “need.”  Each one of them raises this, and it seems people are getting the difference, but I think discounting this proceeding when/because they’re really concerned with the routing.  So if you look on p. 6 of the DRAFT ER Scoping document, now’s the time to, as Bill Storm says, to “fill in the details.”  Here’s the Draft Scope:

The environmental report will address/discuss the following matters:

1.0 INTRODUCTION
1.1 Purpose and Need
1.2 Regulatory requirements

2.0 PROJECT DESCRIPTION
2.1 General
2.2 Design
2.3 Right-of-Way Requirements and Acquisition
2.4 Construction
2.5 Operation and Maintenance
2.6 Permits

3.0 ALTERNATIVES TO THE PROPOSED HVTL
3.1 No-build Alternative
3.2 Demand Side Management
3.3 Purchase Power
3.3.1 Long term Purchase Power
3.3.2 Short term Purchase Power
3.5 Up-grading Existing Facilities
3.6 Facilities of a Different Size
3.7 New Generation

4.0 ENVIRONMENTAL AFFECTS
4.1 Air Quality
4.2 Biological Resources
4.3 Culture Resources
4.4 Geology and Soils
4.5 Health and Safety
4.6 Land Use
4.7 Noise
4.8 Socioeconomics
4.9 Transportation
4.10 Visual Impacts and Aesthetics
4.11 Water Resources (surface, groundwater, wetlands)
4.12 Waste Management and Disposal

For example, “3.5 Up-grading Existing Facilities” is one to think about, there are lines from Manitoba Hydro down to Minnesota Power territory, so why couldn’t they build those larger?  Reconductor, or raise the existing line voltage to 765 kV and that would increase the capacity.

Now David Leonhardt, and he’s the Chair of the Friends of the Big Bog State Recreation Area, which has the longest Bogwalk in the world!!  Concerned about impact of the line on the unspoiled view at the terminus of the bogwalk. He also suggests to follow the existing line that is there, but that’s in a SNAP area where they’re not allowed to put a line alongside the existing one.

John Paulsen – why can’t we follow one of the existing lines?  Bill Storm said that it’s a routing question, MP says that the routing through SNAP areas takes it off the table.  We’re following the existing as much as possible, and what we’re proposing is a much larger scale.

Charles Bruer – can you define Scientific and Natural Areas?  MP & B.S.: They’re designated tracts of lands due to characteristics, not altered by human activity.

Wendy Rogers – question about electro-magnetic force, how far does that go out from the line?  B.S.: This is one of the things I always must address in an Environmental Report.  What can we expect EMF for a 500 kV line and what do we know about it.  B.S.:  I get the normal levels from the Applicant, and then push it to failure, and report both.

Steve Weymore – wondering why the terminus east of Grand Rapids is need if it is needed for mining, I don’t see that as the terminus.  MP: Mining and expansion of load is the reason, and the number of lines going into Blackberry.

B.S.: Remember, this is need, and we’ll be getting into this again in the Routing, I expect it will probably be in May, and we’ll do a more detailed environmental review at that time.

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Filed under Certificate of Need, Environmental Review, Meetings, Open Houses

Thursday evening in Roseau

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As the unofficial greeter, I was first outside, and then in the large foyer (?) of this amazing building.  If you’re in Roseau, you must check out this building, and in particular, the Roseau library, which is just in the front door and to the right.  It is THE most inviting library I’ve ever encountered, with muted tones, chairs around a fireplace, two-sided fire place, so two areas for comfy reading (all they need is hot chocolate and coffee), and on the far side of the fireplace is the most beautiful mosaic table ever.  They have a patio off the library, local art displayed throughout the library, even in the study rooms, a conference room.  It looks more like the living room we’d all like to have.  WOW.

The area that our friends at MP had wasn’t to shabby either:

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Tomorrow is the last one this week, over in Baudette… on to some homework!

 

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Thursday on the transmission road show

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

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

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On to Roseau next…

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

The $20-billion question

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

By: Will Braun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it is time to back up the democratic wagon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

wbraun@inbox.com

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N-S-GNTL Open House and a tornado near Warroad!

DSC01666First, today’s Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line open house at the Community Center in Lancaster, Minnesota, just 12 miles from the Canadian border.

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At that meeting, the price of electricity came up, with a couple from the area who are customers saying the price is going up and up and up.  Now that’s retail, but we know the wholesale price of electricity is down, down, down…

TREND: Down go electricity prices

There’s also a heap of information at the DOE’s EIA site, and there’s the NERC Report, the latest is 2012 Long Term Reliability Assessment which addresses the state of the electrical system, whether it can handle demand, if there are shortages or surpluses.  The extreme surpluses in the electrical capacity can be found in the reserve margin charts, most with a reserve margin of at least twice what is needed, with the exception of Texas.

Here’s another cute graph about demand growth:

And not only that, there was a tornado just 25 miles away, sited near Graceton, right after the storm went through, the internet went down in the hotel and I had to move… grrrrrrrrrrrr, but found it just a few doors down.

WILLIAMS, Minn. — A September tornado has been spotted in far northern Minnesota.

The National Weather Service says a trained spotter reported the tornado two miles northwest of Williams in Lake of the Woods County before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Lake of the Woods Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Fish says no damage or injuries are reported from the tornado.

The storm dropped hail estimated at up to 1.5 inches in parts of the county. The weather service received a report from the public of hail covering the ground about an inch deep four miles south of Graceton.

Check the geese in this photo, the tiny dots in the background — that’s just a small percentage of the geese that were flying around, and their unusual behavior, flying around and around, and flapping to fly but just staying on one place for about 20 minutes or more, in the fierce wind, that’s what alerted me to the approaching bad weather.  Once the rain started pouring, they started landing near the trees along the field.  Click on the photo for a larger version, and look at the dots just over the roofs and street lights, squint and what you think are a lot of specs of dust are the geese.

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Filed under Meetings, Open Houses

This evening’s Open House

This evening was an open house in Thief River Falls, and tomorrow is Lancaster, Thursday is Greenbush and Roseau, Friday is Baudette:

Next time, I hope they put feet on the floor so people will know where to go — it was kind of a hike and more than a few were confused by in the door, across the lobby, into the hockey rink, around the corner, down the stairs, down some more stairs, and then down the hall a bit and to the right:

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Whew… made it down to the meeting!

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As the unofficial greeter, letting everyone know how to get to the meeting, and of course handing out a Flyer for Open Houses, I talked to everyone who came in, and it was well attended!  And of course, good treats!

The main thing that I learned is that they’ve “refined” the routes, meaning they’re now highly processed and there’s much less real estate at issue.  Here is their MAP PAGE.  The map is kinda weird, so you have to click on it to get the new big map, from which to select the smaller maps.

Check it out, more later… it’s been a long day.  Tomorrow will be better.

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Not-So-Great Northern Transmission

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Got that?  NO hockey sticks in the hotel!

Yesterday, both meetings, in Hermantown and in Grand Rapids, were well attended.  The Hermantown municipal building is new, nothing like that was there last time I was in town, it’s been a while.  Very nice building, wonder if Minnesota Power’s Arrowhead transmission line had anything to do with that?

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Here are copies of what I’ve been handing out:

Handout – November GNTL Meetings

Notice Plan Comment Form – click to download editable form

Notice Plan Comments are due November 19, 2012, and Reply Comments due December 10, 2012.  Send to burl.haar@state.mn.us, with “Great Northern Notice Plan Comments – Docket 12-1163” in subject line.

Minnesota Power’s Notice Plan for Great Northern Transmission Line

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I’ve been looking for the studies that support this line, made some progress, but not enough, MISO has a page on the Northern Area Study.  Here’s the kind of map I find interesting, one that shows the flows and areas where they want more, from 20120921 Northern Area Study Transmission Design:

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Here are the docs listed (hey MISO, don’t bother deleting them, I’ve got them saved…):

Northern Area Study TRG
NAS_LDE_Congestion_09212012
NAS_IntcInterfaceFlows_NASUn_CA_09282012
NAS_IncInterfaceFlows_NASUn_SS_09282012
NAS_IncInterfaceFlows_EastUn_SS_09282012
NAS_IncInterfaceFlows_EastUN_CA_09282012
NAS_HDE_Congestion_09212012
NAS_BAU_Congestion_09212012
20121102 Northern Area Study TRG Agenda
20121102 Northern Area Study Presentation
20120921 Northern Area Study Transmission Design
20120921 Northern Area Study Presentation
20120921 Northern Area Study FULL RESULTS
20120921 Northern Area Study Economic Factors
20120921 Northern Area Study Agenda
20120801 Northern Area Study Scope
20120711 Northern Area Study Presentation Scope Follow-up
20120607 Northern Area Study TRG Presentation
20120607 Northern Area Study TRG Agenda

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Filed under Open Houses, PUC Filings

Transmission on the Range!

Posted previously on www.legalectric.org on November 4, 2012:

 GNTL_XmsnCorridors

It never ends.  Last week, open house meetings began for Minnesota Power’s recently announced Great Northern Transmission Line.

Great Northern Transmission Line meetings this week

Great Northern?  I guess we’re either being railroaded or being sold beans…

 locomotive_great_northern_railway_us i-beans-grnorth

Wednesday, November 7th

11:00 am – 1pm

Hermantown Government Services Building, Training Center Room
5105 Maple Grove Road
Hermantown, MN 55811

 

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Sawmill Inn
2301 South Highway 169
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

Thursday, November 8th

11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Hibbing Memorial Building Arena, Downstairs Dining Room
400 East 23rd Street
Hibbing, MN 55746

5:00 – 7:00 pm

Meadowlands Community Center
7758 Western Avenue
Meadowlands, MN 55765

I have a few questions, of course, that’s my job, but first, in Minnesota, transmission corridors are to be used, routes that don’t utilize existing corridors.  From an old EQB transmission map, here’s what I’ve got in that general area:

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And from an old MAPP map, between Blackberry and Hermantown, two named substations that this line will connect:

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Again, this is an old map, and some things have changed…

  • one thing that’s clear from the MP map, if you zoom in, or go to google earth, the line going from Cohasset to Blackberry on the north, there are TWO lines in that corridor.  Need more info.
  • What are the conductor specs?  The line ratings are here in the MTEP 12 Appendix A, but why a 500kV line for so little MVA (click chart below for larger version)?

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To look at the Certificate of Need docket, go HERE – PUC’S SEARCH DOCKET PAGE and search for docket 121163.  After you look it up, you can subscribe for notice of future filings by clicking “SUBSCRIBE” and following the directions!

The Notice Plan is up for review:

Minnesota Power’s Notice Plan for Great Northern Transmission Line

This is the plan by which they’ll give people notice about the pending Certificate of Need application, and Comments are due by 4:30 p.m. November 19, 2012, and Reply Comments are due by 4:30 p.m. December 10, 2012. Email comments with “Notice Plan Comments  Docket 12-1163” in the subject and body of email to: burl.haar@state.mn.us.

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