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]


  • 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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Filed under Canada permitting, Environmental Review, Hearings

Line 3 DEIS Meetings NOW!

I’m putting this map of Enbridge’s “Line 3” proposal because it has way too much in common with the “Not-so-Great” Northern Transmission Line route.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been released, and there’s a limited time to comment on it.  Commerce says the DEIS available here:

Department’s Line 3 website

Here’s the meeting schedule, starting tomorrow (this site was down, my server disappeared it, and it just came back after three messages to them!!):

If you can’t make it to the hearing, send comments by July 10th.  From the Notice:

And don’t forget that there will be Public Hearings on both the Need for this project and the pipeline route (note that these dates and locations may change):

To keep up on this, check out the eDockets for filings.  To do that, go HERE, and plug in dockets 14-916 (for Certificate of Need) and 15-137 (for Routing).  When you get there, have the docket pulled up, subscribe by clicking on the docket column square under “subscribe” and it will bring you to a screen to sign up.

And FYI, here’s a process chart, I added to the PUC’s official process chart, because opportunities for people to participate were not on the chart!

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Filed under Enbridge 3L pipeline

ALLETE, GRE & MISO Joint Answer


ALLETE, Great River Energy and MISO have filed a response to the Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) and Residents and Ratepayers Against the Not-so-Great Northern Transmission Line (RRANT) comments filed earlier this month:


Here are the previous filings in reverse chrono order:

Supplemental Protest_MRES_20160405-5187(31361348)






(search FERC dockets ER16-1107; ER16-1108 and ER16-1116 for initial filings)

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GNTL – FERC Docket and Comments


Looks like MP, GRE, and MISO are trying to shift things around through new “Zonal Agreements.  I learned about this scrolling through the junk box — those newsletters can be a great source of info, but getting to the wheat takes some wading.

So after learning about this docket, and getting the FERC_Notice_Extenstion_20160330-3021(31346379) filing, stating that the Comment period had been extended for interested parties, that TODAY was the deadline, I quick filed this on behalf of RRANT:


What’s this about?  MP, GRE and MISO have filed new “Zonal Agreements” which are:

  1. Coordinated Local Planning Agreement
  2. Joint Pricing Zone Revenue Allocation Agreement
  3. Revenue Credit Agreement for the Great Northern Transmission Line Project
  4. Wholesale Distribution Service Agreement

Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) objected, “protested” and filed a Motion to Intervene and I think they’ve got credible points, that these filings would/could have the impact of transferring GNTL costs to non-Minnesota Power ratepayers, despite this being a “participant funded” project.  Here’s their Motion:

MRES_Intrervention & Request for Extension_20160324-5182(31336403)

And to that, here’s their response:

MP & GRE_Joint Answer 2 MRES_20160329-5071(31343963)

To look at the proposed “Zonal Agreements” and everything filed in this docket, go HERE (FERC eLibrary) and scroll down to “Docket Number” and plug in “ER16-1116” (for cancellation docket) and “ER16-1107” and/or “ER16-1108” for the new agreements (BIG FILES).

What does all this mean?  I think they’re trying to circumvent the policies of FERC (and Minnesota PUC, too) regarding “participant funded” transmission projects, and/or trying to shift the costs of the Great Northern Transmission Project to other rate payers, beyond the “participants.”  Possible?  Yes.  Only time and SCRUTINY will tell if that’s the case.  As MRES notes, and of course MP and GRE objects to that characterization, these were negotiated “outside of Commission processes” and are inconsistent with MISO tariff and Commission precedent.  Let’s get it all out in the sun and give it a look-see!


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Watch the GNTL Commission deliberation NOW!


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


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


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!


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:

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
20158-113390-01 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:


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:


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:



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:


217NeighAnd in the Recommendation:

25_NeighCharlotte Neigh’s complete Comments:

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!


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!!


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

Federal Court says NO to appeal of a Presidential Permit


No, it’s the Enbridge Line 67 Expansion and not the Great Northern Transmission Line, but it’s relevant because the court says that because it’s a Presidential Permit, based on an Executive Order, it’s not an agency action, and it cannot be appealed.  Really:

Line 67 ruling Dec 2015

Here’s the full lineup from the Great Northern Transmission Line site (they’ve done a good job of thorough posting of documents under the “Resources” tab):

Presidential Permit 

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Filed under DOE (Dept of Energy), Presidential Permit

Concerns about hydro? Really, Fresh Energy?


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