Carol Overland - Legalectric

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Carol A. Overland, Overland Law Office -- Utility Regulatory and Land Use Advocacy
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

Motion for Reconsideration DENIED!

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:53pm

Today we were before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, moi and my clients, Residents of Getty and Raymond Townships, asking that the Commission reconsider its permit amendment for the Black Oak and Getty wind projects:

Residents of Getty and Raymond Twps_Motion for Reconsideration

Given Staff’s position, well:

Reconsideration_Staff Briefing Papers

So yeah, that was a unanimous refusal to reconsider, and then a unanimous vote to deny.  But there was a ray of sunshine this morning!  Chair Heydinger did indeed recuse herself.

Imagine living on the farm right there in the middle of this in Section 18?  And it’s not “just” people who live there, but bald eagles too.  We’ll see what US Fish & Wildlife has had to say, my FOIA request to them is slowly-at-a-snail’s-pace moving forward:

Categories: Citizens

Zip Rail EIS Scoping Decision Released

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:19pm

Hot off the press, here is the Zip Rail Scoping Decision and Alternatives:

Final Scoping Decision Document Reports Jan 20, 2015 3 MB Final Scoping Decision Document Appendix A Reports Jan 20, 2015 22 MB Final Scoping Decision Document Appendix B Reports Jan 20, 2015 21 MB

Sign in sheets for meetings are in Appendix A.  Comments received are in Appendix B.

In addition to the requisite “No Build Alternative,” the route options they’re looking at in the EIS will include:

I wonder if they’ve considered the big natural gas pipeline that runs across Hwy. 14 along the pink/purple route between Dodge Center and Rochester?

Also looks like a potential problem by Cannon Falls and Hwy. 19… Wild & Scenic River designation, sandwiched in between the Byllesby Dam, Hwy. 52 and the City of Cannon Falls.  Can’t see how that would work, particularly with that CapX 2020 transmission line right there and the DOT restrictions on putting that through.  I… DON’T… THINK… SO…

The Draft EIS is supposed to be completed in 2015.  Something tells me that’s a bit overambitious…

Categories: Citizens

“Invitation to Consult” on Great Northern Transmission

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:55am

Interesting letter arrived today:

GNTL_Invitation to Consult

It says that “DOE is contacting you because you submitted comment(s) related to cultural resources during the open NEPA public scoping period for the proposed GNTL project.”

RRANT Scoping Comment

???

So what does that mean? What’s involved?  Sending info to them?  Sending more Comments?  Attending meetings? A free trip to D.C?  A self-funded trip to International Falls in February?

“Consultation” is a term of art in federal permitting, and is required with all Indian tribes, of which there are several in the area of the project.  In this case, they also specify “the State Historic Preservation Officer” and “the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation,” and also “certain individuals and organizations…”

Here’s the  National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA)

Working with Section 106

Energy Development, Transmission and Historic Preservation

Are “historical resources” all that they’re concerned about, is there a special category for “cultural resources?”  Or are different people invited to consult on different categories?

And if this is something I want to do, and it is, I have to “include information about your demonstrated legal or economic relation to the undertaking” … (odd word, that)… ” or to properties potentially affected by the proposed GNTL project…”

Guess I’d better figure out what I said in those comments first!

Categories: Citizens

PUC 1/22 — Getty & Black Oak Wind

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 8:19pm

Eagle photo by Jason Jennissen, on the Jennissen property in Stearns County

Notice just came out that our Motion for Reconsideration of Amendment of the Siting Permit, issued November 14, 2014, for the Getty and Black Oak wind projects is before the Public Utilities Commission on January 22, next Thursday:

PUC – January 22, 2015 Meeting Notice  20151-106031-01

The Commission will either do nothing, take it up and make no changes, or “Reconsider,” which could mean taking action then, or pushing it forward to revisit.

We were before them in the Certificate of Need docket a couple of weeks ago, where they were saying it’s a 78 MW project (and there’s an exemption to Commission reconsideration of a Certificate of Need if it’s under 80 MW, funny how that works).  78 MW?  Yes, that’s what they say in their request for Extension of the In-Service Date:

But their permit, just amended is for 21 – 2 MW turbines and 20 – 2 MW turbines which equals 82 MW…

So which is it, 78 MW, where Recertification by the Commission is exempted, or is it 82 MW as stated in the permit, and where Recertification is not exempted because it’s over 80 MW?

And let’s look a little closer at potential impacts of this project:

See that red dot just above the Padua Wildlife Management Area?  That’s an eagle nest, recognized as such by HDR when it did the Avian Study for the Black Oak and Getty wind projects:

Revised Avian and Bat Protection Plan (ABPP) 20127-76674-01

What’s very strange about this project is that although the DNR has submitted numerous comments in the record, and although there are references to US Fish & Wildlife by Applicants in the ABPP, there are no USFWS comments in the record that I can find.

So I fired off a FOIA request to USFWS, and they weren’t real happy with it, so I fired off another a couple days ago:

FOIA and Fee Waiver Requst to USFWS  1-14-2015

Hoping to get some good info, because as you can see above, there is an eagle nest, and as you can see on the map below, well, count the wind turbines within two miles of that eagle nest:

Here are the project siting maps:

An off the cuff review of the map shows the following affected turbines in Getty, where turbines are located within a two mile radius of an eagle nest:

Section 7: Turbines 14 & 38;

Section 8: Turbine 35;

Section 16: Turbine 18, and Turbine 36 RD area affected;

Section 1: Turbines 19, 20 and 21.

A similar review of the affected turbines in Black Oak:

Section 1: Turbine 40;

Section 11: Turbine 17;

Section 12: Turbines 12, 13, 14 and 16;

Section 13: Turbine 11;

Section 14: Turbines 28, 9, 10;

Section 23: Turbine 29.

 Eagle photo by Jason Jennissen, on the Jennissen property in Stearns County

 

Categories: Citizens

Delmarva Power to rebuild transmission in DE?

Sat, 01/03/2015 - 5:57pm

Delaware’s a small state, and it’s just the wrong shape for getting a good transmission map.  Click the above one for a larger view, but it’s still hard to see.  But check it out!  Take a look at that black line, stretching from Red Lion down to Milford.  That’s the 230 kV line that Delmarva Power wants to rebuild.  If they play this as I think they will (please prove me wrong), they could use this “rebuild” to significantly increase transfer capacity, which given the withdrawal of the Mid-Alantic Power Pathway (MAPP) transmission project, that’s something to watch for.

Public meeting about transmission line rebuild

7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015

Odessa Fire Company

304 Main St., Odessa, Delaware

Hosted by Delmarva Power

There’s essentially no regulation of transmission in Delaware, a fact that’s hard to believe given the impacts and power associated with transmission.  This project is intended to go right down an existing easement, but the original line was built 50 years ago, and there’s been a lot of development in Delaware since then.  Look at the map, and there’s a lot of development right next to this transmission line.  Do you think these folks know anything about this transmission plan?  Do you think anyone along that easement is getting direct notice about this???

At first glance, a couple of things occur to me.

  • Rebuild?  As always, I want to know the details.  they say it will still be at 230 kV.  Let’s have the conductor specs, particularly.  How big a conductor are they using, ACSR or ACSS or higher capacity?  Will they be rebuild as a single or double circuit, and will it be bundled or not?  Here’s the photo of the line, photo from Snooze Urinal, and it’s as it looks to me from driving under it numerous times on the way to/fro Port Penn:

Photo from The News Journal, delawareonline.com

  • Use of existing easement or extending beyond?  In their press release, there’s something disturbing about how they say they’re going to build this thing:

The replacement transmission line will be built along the eastern border of the existing right-of-way so that service will not be affected during construction. The original transmission line will be removed once the entire project is completed.

So looking at this photo above, it’s facing north, the H-frames are on the east side, the monopole on the west, and the News Journal report says:

The project will take place in the current line’s right of way, so no property purchases will be required, Tedesco added.

How is that possible?  The H-frames have been there a long time, and rather recently they added the monopole next to it.  Now now this will be “built along the eastern border of the existing right-of-way.”  EH?  Here’s an example, at the intersection of Port Penn Rd. and the line, the “east” is on right on this photo/map (click photo for larger version):

This is what it looks like at the road, looking down the easement with home on the left:

And here’s another example, at the intersection of Pole Bridge Rd. and the transmission lines, also on the way to/fro Port Penn, note the new subdivision roads, Waterbird Lane and Marsh Hawk Court:

Here’s another at 955 Vance Neck Rd (the road is just to the south):

Let’s keep going further south along the easement.  Here are homes along Old Corbett Rd. near the intersection of Hwy. 9 — note it’s turned around to fit better, the “easterly” direction they’ll build into is the area towards the homes:

Here’s another subdivision on the other side of Hwy. 9, and the homes along Middessa Drive:

Just a little further south, where the line turns southwesterly, the line is abutted by the homes on Mailly Drive and Corbit Sharp Drive:

Here’s what that easement looks like — build this new thing on the easterly border of the easement?  I think not!

And this northern Red Lion to Milford section of the transmission “rebuild” terminates at the Cedar Creek substation, technically in Townsend:

Again, do you think these folks know anything about this transmission plan?  Do you think anyone along that easement is getting direct notice about this???

Here’s Delmarva’s Press Release:

 Press Release 12/23/2014 – Delmarva Power Project to Benefit Delaware

Here’s the report from the News Journal:

Delmarva to brief public on transmission line rehab Xerxes Wilson, The News Journal 12:11 a.m. EST January 3, 2015

The electrical spine of Delaware is set for a $70 million rehabilitation.

This summer, Delmarva Power will begin replacing its transmission line running from the substation in Red Lion 58 miles south to the Milford substation in Sussex County.

The utility will host a public meeting to brief the community on the project on Wednesday in Odessa.

Transmission lines serve as electrical highways carrying power from generation plants to substations before the electricity flows to homes through local lines.

The bulk of this particular project will involve removing the towering H-frame double wood poles that currently support the line. Those poles will be replaced with single steel poles towering up to 140 feet above the landscape.

The new supports will be able to withstand 100 mph winds and will replace infrastructure that was built more than half a century ago. The new line will carry the same voltage, some 230,000 volts, as the old line.

The rehabilitation will not effect customer’s power supply. Though requirements of road crossing permits are not final, the company does not expect the project will necessitate any road closings, according to Frank Tedesco, spokesman for Delmarva.

The project will take place in the current line’s right of way, so no property purchases will be required, Tedesco added.

The company will seek leasing agreements with individual property owners for space temporarily needed for construction.

“This project will strengthen our system and ensure that we can continue to meet our customers’ energy need,” Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power region president, said in a written statement.

The company noted the rehabilitation will ensure it meets reliability standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

The project will be divided into two phases, the first stretching 15 miles between Red Lion and Cedar Creek. That phase will begin later this year with the second beginning in summer 2016.

Contact Staff Writer Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson@delawareonline.com.

 For more information: Delmarva Power will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, at the Odessa Fire Company, 304 Main St. in Odessa.

 

Categories: Citizens

Speaking of rail, NTSB Safety Alert and Reports

Sat, 01/03/2015 - 1:59pm

Some rail safety reports and issues hot off the press from NTSB.

And from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board, the report on the Lac Megantic derailment and massive explosion published in August, 2014 (can’t find that I’d posted it, how can that be?  Well, here it is.)

 

 

Categories: Citizens

DNR Rail Hearing – January 7 in La Crosse

Thu, 01/01/2015 - 7:06pm

Please attend the DNR hearing on Burlington Northern’s request to build a second rail line in the La Crosse River Marsh.  2-5 p.m., Wednesday January 7 Black River Beach Center
1433 Rose Street
La Crosse, WI
And submit written comments/questions by January 17

 Click here for help drafting a letter

This notice has been posted on behalf of CARS — Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (with a few edits — any errors are mine!  Apologies for cross posting, trying to get word out far and wide.).  Forward to your family, friends, and neighbors, post on Facebook.  Spread the word! For timely news on rail safety: DOT-111 READER Facebook: CARS, Citizens for Rail Safety Website: Citizens Acting for Rail Safety Email:  citizensforrailsafety@gmail.com CALL TO ACTION VIDEO:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgyAe2SnyUQ

More history — a stunning video:

http://insideclimatenews.org/video/boom-north-americas-explosive-oil-rail-problem

The Marsh is a centerpiece of La Crosse’s beauty, recreation, and identity.  It is a floodplain that protects us.  It is part of the Mississippi Flyway, with about 40% of migratory birds in North America flying past our back door.  The Marsh is at risk. BNSF needs DNR approval to build a second rail and a service road in the Marsh.  The stated purpose is to increase efficiency.  But it opens us to the possibility of over 100 trains per day in the Marsh and throughout the region.  BNSF says speeds will increase to 45 mph in both directions.  But by law, the second rail would allow speeds of up to 60 mph. How would rail expansion for high-risk Bakken oil trains increase chances for oil and other toxic spills that could devastate the marsh – and how would construction and expansion impact marsh ecology?  The DNR needs to hear your questions!  Keep in mind that this is a DNR hearing, and issues related to the La Crosse River Marsh are what the hearing is about.  Comments directly on point will have the most impact on the DNR’s decision. The purpose of the hearing is for the DNR to hear public input and concerns.  THIS HEARING WILL BE OUR BEST CHANCE TO AFFECT WHAT HAPPENS TO THE LA CROSSE RIVER MARSH AND PERHAPS WETLANDS THROUGHOUT THE REGION. YOUR ATTENDANCE IS CRUCIAL FOR YOUR VOICE TO BE HEARD AND TO MAKE THE HEARING MEANINGFUL AND WORTHWHILE! What can you do?
  • Attend the meeting and bring friends:  A room filled with concerned citizens has an impact.  The press and DNR will take note.  We can have an impact on the discussion and decision.
  • Speak at the meeting if you are willing.  You don’t have to be expert.  Just say why the marsh is important to you and what your concerns are about train traffic, more of it, and the risks involved.  Keep on point about the La Crosse River Marsh and the BNSF rail.  This is what the meeting is for.
  • Ask for an “Environmental Impact Statement” (EIS).  This project warrants an EIS because of it scale, implications for safety and health, and broad public concern.  An environmental expert would be hired at BNSF’s expense to assess the current use and health of the marsh, provide a baseline for future cumulative impact studies, and result in the best possible solutions if approval is given.  It would be paid for BNSF.
  • There is no guarantee that money BNSF pays for loss of flood plain will return to La Crosse.  Ask the DNR to find a way for BNSF to pay for improvements to the Marsh to minimize the impact of lost flood plain.
  • Provide written comments to the DNR before, during, or within 10 days after the meeting.   A paper trail has significant impact now and for the future.  Here is a link to help:  Click here for help on drafting a letter.
CARS goals for the hearing are:
  • For citizens to make the DNR aware of the importance of the Marsh and risks of this project, to share concerns, and to ask questions.
  • To provide the DNR with information to make well-informed decisions that would prevent construction of a second rail or reduce the risks and impacts.
Risks to the Marsh — the basics:
  • Rail transport of Bakken crude in unsafe DOT-111 tankers has skyrocketed to about six 100-car trains daily (430,000 barrels).  Enbrige’s Alberta Clipper Pipeline carries 450,000 barrels per day.  Essentially BNSF railway is a “rolling pipeline” through the Upper Mississippi Refuge and the Marsh.
  • Spills are over 3 times more likely per mile by rail oil transport than by pipeline.  There has been more than one spill per day from tankers this year in the US.  Some have destroyed marshes and seriously polluted rivers.
  • Spills into marshes are virtually impossible to clean up.  There is no effective, acting model for marsh spill containment. A large spill would destroy the Marsh’s ecosystem.
  • Proposed expansion would eliminate 7.28 acres of marsh, which will not be replaced in or near Myrick marsh, and may not even happen within the La Crosse watershed.
A few of many questions:
  • Could increased vibration, noise, and pollution threaten habitat for species such as rare black terns and yellow headed blackbirds as well as many other species?
  • Floodplain will be removed.  With the increased occurrence of local flooding, is the 100-year flood criteria used by the DNR still sufficient to protect citizens?  To prevent flood insurance increases?
  • Could our local Hazmat team prevent a spill from spreading to the Mississippi?
  • Who will pay for training for first responders?
  • Who would pay for any clean-up should there be a problem?
It is so easy to think, “It could never happen here.”  But remember it has happened elsewhere.  It’s happened recently in Lynchburg, Aliceville, Lac Megantic, and Casselton (twice in one year!).  Imagine La Crosse with a fouled, dead Marsh and oil-contaminated La Crosse River flowing through the city to Riverside Park and into the Mississippi.  That is the risk. Let’s do all we can to prevent it!  See you at 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, January 7th.  And please forward this email to friends! Sincerely, CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety Ralph Knudson, Nancy Heerens-Knudson, Irv Balto, Marina Dvorak, Maureen Freedland, Bruce Kuehmichel, Chuck Lee, Carolyn Mahlum-Jenkins, Curtis Miller, Fred Nicklaus, George Nygaard, Rich Pein, Karen Ringstrom, Jeff Sexton, Jan Stack, Alan Stankevitz,  Guy Wolf For timely news on rail safety: DOT-111 READER Facebook: CARS, Citizens for Rail Safety Website: Citizens Acting for Rail Safety Email:  citizensforrailsafety@gmail.com To help defray costs of flyers, copies, ink, photos, etc, please send a check for any amount.  Please be aware that CARS does not have tax-exempt status for deductions.Thank you! CARS
Citizens Acting For Rail Safety
Jeff Sexton, Treasurer 
2820 Cass Street
La Crosse,‎ WI‎    54601 
Categories: Citizens

e21 Initiative — Xcel is at it again, yet another scam

Sat, 12/27/2014 - 3:51pm

Xcel Energy has filed its “e21_Initiative_Phase_I_Report_2014: Charting a Path to a 21st Century Energy System in Minnesota  as a part of a filing entitled “INITIAL FILING–REQUEST FOR PLANNING MTG AND DIALOGUE IN SUPPORT OF E21 INITIATIVE” (now PUC Docket 14-1055) in which they make a request for consideration at a Public Utilities Commission planning meeting:

Request for Planning Mtg and Dialogue – Roadmap to Support e21 Initiative

It’s not just Xcel, but they’re the ringleaders filing the request.  So what is this and why support it? Well, first, let’s look at the basic plan — “stakeholders” and Xcel are proposing things be done differently.  Why?  Well, here’s an egregious example.  How about circumventing all that pesky criteria that they must meet to get a Certificate of Need, and we know how hard that is to prove up need when there is none… so will someone tell me what the relationship is between “use of, and give additional weight to, settlement agreements among the parties” and criteria for a Commission on anything, be it a Certificate of Need or a Rate Case?

Can you believe that?  But wait, how many Certificate of Need applications have ever been denied?  Oh well, maybe it makes them work at it too hard to fabricate some need claim? And we know how rate cases have been going lately, not exactly in a way that Xcel wants!

Another points they’re looking for:

Don’t want those pesky intervenors in individual cases, after all.  Multiple dockets for multiple projects, how on earth could people receive notice, participate and find representation in this scenario?  And how about not doing anything until they’ve addressed the 09-845 “Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines” docket that’s been languishing for five years now?

And look who the “stakeholders” are, and clearly some are more equal than others.  Look who’s involved, the same utility interests, or the toadies that have sold out to the utility interests:

Note that not one of these “stakeholders” have bothered to join, participate, attend, or file comments on the PUC rulemaking for Minn. R. Ch. 7849 Certificate of Need and 7850 Site or Route Permt. None of them bothered to weigh in on the Office of Administrative Hearings Minn. R. Ch. 1400 and 1405 Rulemaking trial balloon either (it’s on hold, and comments have not been published and I had to file a FOIA Request to get the Comments of others).

And given what Gov. Dayton had floated as his trial ballon, it gets a little scary:

What is Gov. Dayton thinking?

AAAARGH!  Anyway, back to the “stakeholders.”  Utility toadies all… except I don’t know of toadying on the part of Ron Elwood, who’s often been participating on behalf of ratepayers in ratecases, and did a great report on nuclear ages ago.  But the vast majority are either utility employees or have been a clear benefactor of “agreements” with utilities and are actively advocating positions beneficial to utilities, a revolving door of personnel and employers.  Mikey Bull’s been on every side of this multi-party love-fest, Betsy Engelking too.  Beth Soholt and Matt Schuerger, then of the Waltons and ME3, are the ones who asked 7 or 8 of us likely intervenors “what would it take for you to approve this project” just before the SW MN 345 kV transmission line 01-1958 docket was applied for, searching for a sell-out but not offering anything or disclosing what exactly they were getting:

$8.1 Million Wind on Wires grant from McKnight/Energy Foundation

$4.5 Million to WOW

And looking back on some of the deals… for example:

1994 “Prairie Island Bill”  Session Laws Ch. 641

Merger Stipulation Dec 15 1999

This “Merger Stipulation” shows the beginning of not just the wind promotion but the transmission toadyism:

Who can forget the 01-1958 SW MN 345 kV 4 Certificates of Need docket, where parties, well, SOME parties, were actively encourage to “negotiate” by then ALJ and now PUC Chair Heydinger, and Crocker and Krikava were so busy winking at each other?

ALJ Recommendation – Nov 8 2002 PUC Docket 01-1958

Then on p. 1 of the Commission’s Order:

PUC ORDER SW MN 345 kV Docket 01-1958

Throughout that proceeding, ALJ, now PUC Chair Heydinger, encouraged certain parties to negotiate, and negotiate they did and a couple of settlements occurred at that time, one was the Community Wind agreement incorporated into that docket, and the other the TRANSLink agreement:

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT 02-2152 ME3 Waltons MCEA NAWO

And shortly thereafter, let’s not forget the dough to promote transmission — once more with feeling:

$8.1 Million Wind on Wires grant from McKnight/Energy Foundation

$4.5 Million to WOW

Then we have these same folks at the legislature lobbying for the Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell giving Xcel everything they ever wanted:

2005 – Session Laws Chapter 97 – Revisor of Statutes

Well, apparently not everything they wanted, because now they want more.  We saw how promotion of transmission worked on this ITC Midwest MN/IA 345 kV case.  And don’t forget, the Walton’s Bill Grant is now Deputy Commissioner of Commerce in charge of Energy permitting and “environmental review,” and the Walton’s Nancy Lange is now on the Public Utilities Commission.

Wonder what kind of review their “e21 Initiative” will get!

Where is the public interest in this?

 

Categories: Citizens

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