CapX2020 expands the upper Midwest transmission corridor—bringing power from North Dakota’s coal, natural gas, and wind farm reserves through Minnesota, into the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant, and on to Milwaukee and Chicago. The CapX2020 proposal comes from an alliance of three utilities collectively known as The Applicants: Northern States Power Company, Xcel Energy, and Great River Energy. The proposed routes include a preferred route, an alternate route, and five segment alternatives along the preferred route. Public hearings were held throughout 2010 and 2011 for public comment.
During these hearings it became clear that the proposed routes—which by law are supposed to follow existing power line or railroad corridors—were actually projected onto section lines and half-section lines, AKA political and property boundaries, farming and logging roads, not existing or appropriate corridors. The section and half-section lines were widened to the width of a county road (63 ft road right away access and 93 ft road right of way access) and labeled as pre-existing corridors—thus diluting the statutes on corridors and exaggerating the route information as a way to skirt the responsibilities to the law and the community. In this way The Applicants tried to use misleading maps to expand the list of acceptable corridors which, had they succeeded, would have resulted in an increased proliferation of corridor expansion—not to mention extensive damage to the environment and the community.
Community involvement played a pivotal role in identifying false or misleading information and providing accurate maps with new routes that would have the least amount of impact on the environment and community. The health risks due to line lossage (stray voltage) make it so no human dwelling can exist within 150 feet of the CapX2020 power lines (150 ft. being the minimum because the line poles are 140 ft. tall and would devastate whatever was in their path if they fell). The full impact of line lossage is not known, but the result is serious enough that had one of the proposed routes been permitted to pass through the backyard of an epileptic child on a neighboring property it is thought that the stray voltage would have triggered seizures in the child. Impact on wildlife and watershed was similarly ignored in The Applicants’ route proposal although some wetlands, flora, and fauna were identified in the Draft EIS.
No recent discussion has adequately addressed the issues that could arise from reliance on a single nuclear site not only for the production of nuclear power but also as a major transfer point. Even in the 1980s the Pentagon was referencing Amory Lovins’ “Brittle Power” in National Security briefings regarding the risks and increased vulnerability associated with the concentration of power sources and production. If Monticello has a nuclear shutdown or accident how will this affect the energy transfer to Chicago? The recent CapX2020 expansion of the transmission corridor has only increased the need for higher standards of accountability from the utility companies and their regulators.
Here is a letter introducing the CapX2020 project and the process behind permit application:
October 1, 2009
TO: Local government units in or near the proposed routes included in the CapX2020 Fargo-St. Cloud 345 kV Transmission Line Project Permit application.
RE: Notice of filing a Route Permit application for the Fargo-St. Cloud 345 kV Transmission Line Project by Northern States Power Company and Great River Energy with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC Docket Number: ET2, E002/TL-09-1056)
Letter and CD-ROM containing the Route Permit application sent via certified US mail. For additional copies of the CD-ROM or for a print copy of the Route Permit application please call 1-866-876-2869 or email email@example.com
Northern States Power Company, a Minnesota corporation (Xcel Energy), and Great River Energy, a Minnesota cooperative corporation (collectively, the Applicants), on behalf of themselves and other CapX2020 utilities, filed a Route Permit application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) on October 1, 2009 for the Fargo-St. Cloud 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line project (Project). This letter, which was sent on October 1, 2009 to approximately 2,300 landowners whose property is within the proposed routes, provides information on the Project and on the routing process as well as how to register your name, agency or organization with the Commission on the Project contact list to ensure that you’ll receive further notices.
As part of the Minnesota Route Permit process, the Commission determines the final route and design of the transmission line. Under the full permitting process, the rules require that an applicant for a Route Permit identify at least two routes and state a preference for one of them. A series of route maps showing the proposed routes for the Fargo-St. Cloud 345 kV line are enclosed. The proposed routes include a preferred route, an alternate route, and five segment alternatives along the preferred route. These proposals were developed based on a thorough analysis of the state’s routing criteria and input received from interested stakeholders, including state agencies, local government officials and landowners in the Project area.
Public Notification and Involvement
The Project is one of three 345 kV transmission lines proposed by CapX2020, a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region. The initiative is designed to expand the electricity infrastructure to ensure continued reliable service, meet the growth in electricity demand and support renewable energy expansion. The CapX2020 utilities include cooperatives and investor-owned and municipal utilities.
A Certificate of Need from the Commission is required for the Project. Great River Energy and Xcel Energy filed a Certificate of Need application (MN PUC Docket No. ET-2/E-002/CN-06-1115) for the three 345 kV projects with the Commission on August 16, 2007 pursuant to Minnesota Statues Section 216B.243. Prior to filing the Certificate of Need application, the CapX2020 utilities mailed notice letters detailing the proposed projects to approximately 73,000 landowners and 400 local government officials and placed ads in more than 100 local newspapers.
The CapX2020 utilities have been and continue to be committed to working with all interested parties during the need and routing processes. In the past two years the utilities have pursued an aggressive public outreach effort that has provided opportunities for potentially affected landowners, local governments and other to be involved in the process. These efforts have helped the utilities provide information and answer questions on the need for the three 345 kV lines and to gather local information to assist in the development of route options.
As part of the statute regulatory process for the Certificate of Need, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security (OES) hosted 10 public environmental scoping meetings on the Projects in December 2007 and the Commission held 19 public hearings in 13 cities in June and July 2008. The Commission unanimously approved the Certificate of Need application, which establishes the size, type and timing of the Project on May 22, 2009.
The proposed Fargo-St.Cloud project includes approximately 211 miles of 345 kV transmission line between a new Quarry Substation west of St. Cloud and a substation west of Fargo, North Dakota. The proposed line will interconnect with the existing Alexandria Switching Station south of Alexandria. The Minnesota Route Permit application includes the portion of the project between the Quarry Substation and the Red River.
The Applicants will negotiate easements with landowners for all required right-of-way. There may be circumstances where Applicants will be required to exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire easements for the Project in accordance with their authority under state law pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Chapter 117.
The Route Permit Process
A Route Permit from the Commission will be required before the Project can be constructed. The Power Plant Siting Act (Minnesota Statues Chapter 216E) and implementing rules in Minnesota Rules Chapter 7849 establish the requirements for submitting and processing a Route Permit application. The statues and rules also establish notice requirements for various stages of the process.
The Route Permit application will be considered under the full permitting process in Minnesota Statues Section 216E.03 and Minnesota Rules parts 7850.1000 to 7850.5600. The Commission has up to one year from the time the Route Permit application is accepted to complete its process and make a decision according to Minnesota Statues Section 216E.03, subdivision 1 and Minnesota Rule 7849.5340, Subpart 1.
Within 60 days after the Commission accepts the application as complete, the OES will hold public meetings on behalf of the Commission to provide information and seek public comment. At the meetings, members of the public may propose additional route alternative for consideration in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the OES will prepare.
After the draft EIS is prepared, the OES will hold an informational meeting to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the document. A public hearing (conducted by an administrative law judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings) will be held once the draft EIS is issued. Anyone may speak at the public hearing, present documentary evidence, ask questions of the Applicants and OES staff, and submit comments.
The Project Contact List
As you represent an area in or near the routes shown on the enclosed map, the Applicants will provide you written notice of the initial public meetings, the informational meeting, and the public hearing. If you wish to receive written notice of Project milestones regarding the environmental review process, including notice of the availability of the draft EIS, please sign up for the Project contact list.
Register for the Project contact list at http://energyfacilities.puc.state.mn.us/ or by contacting the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security:
David Birkholz, OES Permitting Staff Project Manager (651) 296-2878 firstname.lastname@example.org
Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101 P): 1-800-657-3794 (F): (651) 297-7891 or 1-800-627-3529 or 711 (TTY: Minnesota Relay Service)
If you have questions about the Project, contact Mr. Birkholz at the OES or Mr. Bret Eknes at the Commission:
Bret Eknes, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101 P): (651) 201-2236 (E): email@example.com (W): www.puc.state.mn.us
Enclosed is a CD-ROM copy of the Route Permit application filed on October 1, 2009. If you would like a print copy of the application, please contact Xcel Energy at 1-866-876-2869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Xcel Energy, PO Box 9451, Minneapolis, MN 55440-9451, P): 1-866-876-2869, (E): email@example.com