Carol Overland - Legalectric

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Carol A. Overland, Overland Law Office -- Utility Regulatory and Land Use Advocacy
Updated: 48 min 30 sec ago

CARS – Last night in La Crosse

4 hours 15 min ago

Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) held a meeting last night in La Crosse, WI, to discuss the proposal to build a second rail line in the middle of La Crosse.  It was packed, over 300 people, standing room only.  The comments of those attending shows the level of concern over   The rail company, BNSF, claims a second line is necessary due to increased traffic.  We’ve seen the increase, I’ve experienced it here in Red Wing, watching the trains rumble through the heart of town.  Well, folks, it’s time for us to rumble!

Residents express concerns over new rail line

Rail expansion prompts worries about dangerous cargo, unsafe rail cars

STrib article about the unsafe rail cars:

Failure rates raising new fears over use of aging oil tankers

And more on the La Crosse proposal:

Local group tries to stop train

New tracks could cause change to local golf course


Categories: Citizens

Dayton bellyflops into the frac sand fracas

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:06pm

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the “Green Chameleon,” but Gov. Mark Dayton doesn’t even pretend to be green.  Today, he showed his true colors, delivering a harsh undercutting “rebuff” of a statement just prior to petitions being delivered to his office, petitions with 6,000 signatures, obtained with a lot of effort from a lot of citizens, requesting he enact a moratorium to stop new frac sand mines in Southeast Minnesota.  To deliver this message in the way that he did says a lot for his regard for his constituents and their concerns.  How hard would it have been to meet with those delivering the Petitions, to graciously accept them, and at least consider the request, take it under advisement?

I sure hope everyone is talking about our Governor.  WOW!

6,000 signatures… how many does it take for a recall election?!?!?!?!

Here’s his statement:

“During the 2013 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton strongly supported a moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota. Unfortunately, that proposal was not supported by the Minnesota Legislature. Legal Counsel has advised that, absent legislative enactment of the moratorium, the Governor lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his own moratorium.
“However, local jurisdictions, such as counties, cities, and townships, have authority under existing Minnesota Statutes to declare moratoriums on frac sand mining and processing within their jurisdictions. Citizens living in those areas should urge those local officials to enact the measures they favor.
“Last year’s law did greatly strengthen state agencies’ authority to impose stringent requirements on any frac sand mining in that region. The Environmental Quality Board, DNR, and MPCA are all actively engaged in establishing and enforcing those restrictions.”


As for the “Critical Areas Act” as the basis for a moratorium, well, I’m not so sure about that…  There are a few steps that have to happen before it goes to the Governor.   Minn. Stat. 116G.06.

Here’s where you can tell him directly what you think of his treatment of concerned Minnesotans:

Contact Form

Telephone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717

The report on MPR:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium

The report in the STrib:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium in southeastern Minn.

Says he lacks authority for the southeastern Minnesota ban sought by mining opponents

March 7, 2012: A lightening rod for recent protests about sand mining is this 50,000 ton pile of sand, referred to as “Mt. Frac” in downtown Winona. The Winona County Law Enforcement Center is in the background.


Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he can’t personally block the frac sand industry from expanding in southeastern Minnesota, rebuffing a group of mining opponents who delivered a moratorium petition to St. Paul as part of an Earth Day rally at the Capitol.

Bobby King, policy program organizer for the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project, said a rarely-used statute called the Critical Areas Act allows the governor to engage the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB), without action by the Legislature, in a process that could lead to a two-year moratorium against frac sand development.

The area they seek to protect is the ecologically sensitive limestone and bluffs region stretching south of Red Wing and inland from the Mississippi River.

But Dayton’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, issued a statement saying the governor “lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his own moratorium.’’ Swenson said the position was based on the advice of Micah Hines, the governor’s legal counsel.

Swenson said Dayton supported a moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota during the 2013 legislative session. The proposal died, but lawmakers passed a bill that gives local jurisdictions authority to declare their own temporary frac sand bans. In addition, any company proposing to mine frac sand near a trout stream in southeastern Minnesota must obtain a special permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as meeting other regulations.

Meanwhile, the EQB, DNR and state Pollution Control Agency are developing air quality standards, land reclamation standards and revisions to the environmental review process for frac sand mining and processing in the state.

King was part of a group of 80 to 90 citizens who rallied at the Capitol, calling on Dayton to issue a moratorium. The group’s petition, started in mid-January, carried more than 6,000 signatures and was delivered to the governor’s office.

“We want the governor to use all the tools he has,’’ King said. “We believe he has the ability to act.’’

 Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213

Categories: Citizens

DEIS Meetings for ITC Midwest’s MN/IA line

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 3:24pm

This week we have three days of DEIS meetings, that’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the uninitiated.  The schedule:

Fairmont Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Knights of Columbus Hall 920 East 10th Street Fairmont, MN 56031   Jackson Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. National Guard Armory 108 County Road 51 Jackson, MN 56143   Blue Earth Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Hamilton Hall 209 South Main Street Blue Earth, MN 56013

This project is important because, well, look at the red line in the map above that represents this project.  It connects on the west to the Split Rock-Lakefield Jct. line from a decade ago, and then goes east, and drops down into Iowa, to become part of a web headed toward Chicago.  The red and green on that map constitute MISO designated MVP3, and to the east, the orange and blue are MVP 4, and further to the east, 1/2 of which is Badger Coulee, is MVP 5.  Important to note that there are 17 MVP projects, and all 17 must be built to offer the benefits touted, the modeling included all 17.  Not only that, but cost apportionment also included costs to states beyond just the percentage of the one project under review, i.e., there are claims of benefits of MVP 3, but those benefits require MVP 4 and MVP 5, and in fact, ALL the 17 MVP projects.  Costs to Minnesota ratepayers are “just” a portion of MVP 3, but there are also costs to Minnesota of MVP 4, MVP 5, and I think ALL of the 17 MVP projects.  So the benefits that are reliant on all the 17 projects being built must be balanced against the costs attributable to Minnesota for all 17 projects!  See, that wasn’t so hard, was it!

Here’s the DEIS from the Commerce ITC MN/IA DEIS page, it’s easier to cut and paste, though it’s a good idea to download because you never know when links will be changed or disappear:

Draft Environmental Impact Statement Text



Categories: Citizens

Minnesota’s Next Gen Energy Act unconstitutional

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 8:21am



Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued an order yesterday declaring Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act unconstitutional because it “constitutes impermissible extraterritorial legislation and is a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.”

I finally found a copy of the decision, I was looking in all the wrong places.  Here’s the Order (thanks to the STrib for posting it):

April 18 2014 Order – Next Generation Energy Act Suit Minn. Stat. 216H.03

It’ll likely be appealed, but I wouldn’t bet on any success.  The impact of this decision will be what I’ve been expecting — dreadful — the doors are open for even more coal plants (note the discussion of surplus capacity in the decision) and with CapX mostly built, we’ve got the infrastructure for 50+ years of coal generated electricity exports across Minnesota to market, and 50+ years of mercury for our fish, and all those emissions for us to breathe.  Great, just great.


Categories: Citizens

Bakken BOOM and rail safety

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 3:48pm

There are more and more aspects of rail safety coming into question as people learn about life with the many Bakken oil trains rolling through our communities.

What about the greatly increased air emissions due to the increased rail traffic?  Locomotive emissions are regulated:

EPA Control of Emissions from Idling Locomotives 420f13050

The short version, from the EPA:

General Information

That regulates individual locomotives, but how are the cumulative impacts of so many trains addressed, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley, the “land of inversions?”

There’s continued talk about the new DOT111 rail cars, but how will that address the problem of volatility, that the Bakken crude contains a much higher level of gas than other crude, and that although regulators have said that the Bakken crude should be degasified before it is shipped, whether by rail or pipeline, this is not yet incorporated into standard practice.  And it bears repeating — this is an issue for Bakken crude in pipelines!  Pipelines are not a miracle cure for the Bakken crude volatility problem!

1-2-14 DOT Rail Safety Alert

It can happen here.  It has happened here.  It will happen here.  What do we do to protect ourselves?

This is a train incident in September, 2013 just across the river in Hager City, WI:

And in Red Wing:

A Wisconsin town’s fire chief was part of a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recently regarding rail safety.  The station is one block from the river and the railroad tracks.  Congressman Kind asked the fire chief what the impact of a Bakken oil wreck would be on his community, if the fire unit could respond, and the fire chief said, “I doubt it, we’d be vaporized.”

If a Lac Megantic level explosion occurred in Red Wing, presuming that buildings two blocks from the explosion would be leveled, and maybe three blocks, it would reach to Main Street, and perhaps the block beyond:

This is how it is in all the communities along the Mississippi River, a disaster waiting to happen for us, for the River.

There’s a reason it’s called the “Bakken Boom.”  BOOM!

And in the La Crosse Tribune:

Meeting set on rail expansion plan

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

Some people worry that a planned Burlington Northern track expansion in La Crosse will greatly increase oil tanker traffic through the area. These cars were rolling through Sioux City, S.D., this week.

5 hours ago  •  BETSY BLOOM (7) Comments If you go

WHAT: Public meeting on rail line expansion in La Crosse, organized by Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Commons room, La Crosse Central High School, 1801 S. Losey Blvd.

FOR MORE INFO: Email or go on Facebook to CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

The prospect of more rail cars carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids through the region has prompted a public meeting Tuesday to air concerns about BNSF Railway Co.’s plans to add a second, parallel line on La Crosse’s east side.

The expansion would eliminate the rail company’s last segment of single track in La Crosse County and reduce train delays in La Crosse, BNSF officials said.

But Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, contends the second track would raise the risk of a serious rail accident in a residential area or a major spill in the La Crosse River Marsh and other nearby waterways and sensitive habitat.

About 60 trains a day use the BNSF line in La Crosse, which now narrows to a single track from its yard near Gillette Street in north La Crosse to just south of Farnam Street. U.S. rail traffic has increased in recent years, primarily triggered by the surge in Bakken oil being shipped from North Dakota and Montana to refineries in the east and south. U.S. railroads were expected to haul 400,000 carloads of oil in 2013, almost 40 times the number seen in 2009.

That rail surge has come at a cost, though, with at least four major oil train explosions in North America in less than a year, one of which killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013.

The region has seen three derailments and spills within about 90 miles of La Crosse since February, CARS members said.

“They’re shipping hazardous materials through La Crosse,” George Nygaard said, “and it’s in containers not made for hazardous materials.”

The rail industry has persisted in using outdated tank cars known to be more prone to puncture or rupture in an accident to carry the more volatile Bakken light crude, he said.

CARS members maintain the increased traffic also produces more noise, vibrations, diesel emissions and other effects on air quality along the line.

The city, too, faces a substantial cost — perhaps six or seven figures — to adjust road and trail crossings and the Forest Hills Golf Course to accommodate the second track, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who lives less than a block from the BNSF line. He plans to be at the meeting along with other local legislators.

The city council recently approved funding for a title search to determine whether BNSF really does own the strip of Forest Hills land where it wants to install the new line.

The potential for some type of accident was highlighted in February when a malfunctioning Canadian Pacific Railway tanker dribbled more than 12,000 gallons of crude oil along a stretch of tracks near Winona, Minn., with some falling into area waterways and trout streams.

“There’s some real concerns — what if it happens in La Crosse?” Kabat said.

Categories: Citizens

Hollydale yesterday… interesting…

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:43pm

This is the Hollydale Project proposed route, the one that Xcel Energy couldn’t demonstrate need for if their Certificate of Need depended on it, and it did, and they didn’t.  Hence their petition to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for withdrawal of Applications for both their Certificate of Need (12-113) and their Routing Permit (11-152).  I love it when that happens…

This was a great victory to get Xcel to acknowledge that this project was in trouble, that they couldn’t demonstrate need, not that they admitted it outright, but close enough.  The down side is that they are persistent, and when they want something, they keep trying, sometimes the same thing, sometimes something different.  What will they do here?  Who knows, but I doubt they’ll disappear.

There was a surprise filing letter and proposed decision option sent by Paula Maccabee on behalf of WPNA at 8:37 a.m., less than an hour before the meeting began, and half an  hour after we’d already left for St. Paul, first I learned of it was when it was passed out at the meeting.

WPNA Decision Recommendations

Here are the changes that were requested:

D. Future Filing Requirements

2. Require the company to file a discussion on their public outreach efforts and an update on improvements made to the load serving capacity of the distribution system serving the area six months from the date of the order granting withdrawal and quarterly thereafter.

I don’t get it… why?  And no, that doesn’t work.  Where Xcel is saying they’ll be back, after developing a more palatable option through discussions with stakeholders, why eliminate the disclosure of its “public outreach efforts?   Thankfully, this was not adopted.

From Xcel’s filings, it’s clear that the Hollydale Project is “desired,” strongly desired, despite that it’s not “needed” in any criteria-based sense.  Xcel wants this project so badly that it has stated that if permitted to withdraw this application, it is coming back, and that:

The residents of Plymouth and Medina, as well as other key stakeholders, have expressed serious concerns about the potential impacts of this Project…

… that “it may take some time to collaborate with stakeholders on developing a new solution…”     

… and that it “intends to work with the community and stakeholders on developing a more widely supported electrical solution…”

Withdrawal Comments January 29, 2014

Xcel Reply Comments February 19, 2014

Those words get me more than a little concerned, particularly where at a meeting organized by Commerce at Plymouth City Hall, after we’d gone around the room in introductions, Sen. Bonhoff said, very pointedly to me, “Who are you?”  “Why are you here?”  “Who is the Barry Family?”  I got the idea that she though I shouldn’t be there, that it was to be a more private party, and I shouldn’t have been invited.  And yesterday, a woman present in support of WPNA asked the same questions.  Hmmmm… Oh well.  We’re parties to this party!

This Hollydale Project was an odd project, in ways that weren’t fully addressed in the proceeding:

  • First is the inherent legal definition of transmission – this project, as proposed, would change this line from a relatively unregulated 69 kV line to a highly regulated “High Voltage Transmission Line” as defined in statute.
  • The project as proposed represents a significant physical and electrical change, from an inactive 69 kV line to a high capacity HTVL that is an operating part of the grid.
  • This project would require a change in ownership – Xcel is requesting to buy the easement, gain the powers that ownership of easement interests represents, and planned to use the easement to build a line of a very different character than what was built under the original easement.
  • This project would change the purpose of the line through Plymouth and Medina, from a purpose of rare emergency backup for the local distribution system, to a high capacity grid support for the 345 kV system.

Now the application has been withdrawn.  Xcel says it’s going to work collaboratively to come up with a “new solution.”  Let’s see what happens next!

Categories: Citizens

Hollydale at the PUC tomorrow!

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 3:56pm

Xcel’s request for withdrawal of its Hollydale Transmission Project Certificate of Need and Route Permit Application is before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission tomorrow.  We’re 4th on the agenda.  Come on down, or watch it live!

Live Webcast Public Utilities Commission Meeting PUC Large Meeting Room 121 7th Place East, Suite 350 St. Paul, MN


And look how a decision came down in Chino, California!  There was a transmission line through the community for a long, long time, and it was “inactive” for a long, long time.  Then one day, the utility started taking down the towers that weren’t being used, and stuck new bigger ones in their place.  Thankfully, the story didn’t end there — they had to take the poles down and underground that transmission line:

Chino Hills wins battle against So Cal Edison


Here’s the Chino Hills group’s website:

Hope for the Hills

Categories: Citizens


Tue, 04/08/2014 - 4:05pm

The primer stuck on the walls!  YES!!!  And the new paint is sitting there in the corner waiting, “Stream of Silver” for the walls, to match the grease and such, and “White Lullaby” for the ceiling, but lots of plastering up there, so that may happen first, before the walls are painted.

A van load over to the scrap yard, and another van load over to the Humane Society’s garage sale, and… sigh… I gave up all my truck stuff, a coffee pot, cooking pot, and my CB!  It’ll be there at the sale, the end of an era… sigh…  I still have my license, and in cleaning out the office, I found my file box full of directions which I still haven’t thrown out (if you want to know how to get to Jacmar Sales in Alhambra, CA, or Seaside Cold Storage in Hayward, CA, well, just let me know!).

It’s so nice to have a little time off to get these stupid things done!

Categories: Citizens

A simple project — NOT!

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 9:13pm

The mudroom has been driving me crazy, the color is this dark depressing BLUE, and we tore out the awful laminate flooring that was in there, the vinyl underneath isn’t too bad, so in went the toilet, in went the washer dryer… oh, and did I mention that during that project, we found the “bonus room” underneath — a coal bin 1/2 full of coal!!!  Holiday gifts for all my friends!  But the blue of this room has persisted, same blue that my office was before I painted it and stripped the darker blue and purple off the woodwork, but been there, done that, and now on to the mudroom.

… and now, to get rid of those ugly blue walls now that it’s warm enough to paint.  Something green/grey to make the floor look greenish flecked, not so grey.  No problem, so I thought, until I scraped at a few bumps on the wall, and two layers of paint fell off, it’s just in the middle, not way at the top and not way at the bottom.  Go figure.  So now it’s an utter mess, but scraped, sanded, patched, and tomorrow, sand some more, and slap on the primer.

It’ll look better soon… floor cleans up well, need to put the quarterround in, and it’ll be painted, at least this corner and to the right where the dog food bin goes, and put up a cabinet here way up to the ceiling, and a shelf for all the crap that comes in the door and ends up on the “dog station” just inside the kitchen.  There’s a snazzy RED double decker toolbox below — but maybe grey spray paint is called for… what to do…).  And then after it’s all painted, the little sink goes in the far corner.


Categories: Citizens

What Misery — Grain Belt Express Transmission!

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 5:54pm

No, unfortunately it is NOT about the beer.  The Grain Belt Express Transmission Line is moving forward, now in Missouri.  Yesterday they filed their “application” and I’ve never seen anything so light on substance.  But there’s more… A big pile o’ testimony was filed yesterday, and today there’s the first prehearing order, setting an intervention deadline of April 25, 2014.

Missouri Public Service Commission Code of State Regulations

Missouri CSR – Chapter 2 – Practice and Procedure

Missouri CSR – Chapter 3 – Filing and Reporting Requirements

Missouri CSR – Chapter 4 – Code of Conduct (i.e., ex parte!)

To keep up with the docket CLICK HERE and plug in “EA-2014-0207″ and you’ll get all the filings — here’s what’s been filed thus far:

Item No.

Date Filed

Title of Filing

Filed on Behalf Of

14 3/27/2014 Order Directing Notice, Setting Intervention Deadline, and Directing Filing of Staff Recommendation Commission-(All) 13 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Robert M. Zavadil Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 12 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Michael P. Skelly Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 11 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Gary Moland Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 10 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Dr. David G. Loomis Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 9 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Mark O. Lawlor Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 8 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Timothy B. Gaul Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 7 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of Dr. Anthony Wayne Galli Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 6 3/26/2014 Direct Testimony of David Berry Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 5 3/26/2014 Application of Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 4 2/25/2014 Order Granting Leave To Withdraw As Counsel Commission-(All) 3 2/25/2014 Notice of Withdrawal Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 2 2/25/2014 Entry of Appearance Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric) 1 1/13/2014 Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC Notice of Intended Case Filing Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC-(Electric)
Categories: Citizens

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