Construction in Minnesota by Minnesota Power, but they are not the owner?
In 2002, it came to the attention of SOUL and North American Water Office (NAWO) that Minnesota Power (MP) no longer intended to own or operate the line. While the shareholders had been told since the projects announcement that this was a real money maker...the safe $$ must have been in construction of the transmission line, as that is all MP proposes to do, for the American Transmission Company.
It perplexed us that a utility given an exemption to construct and operate the transmission line could turn those rights over to an out of state (foreign) utility without any notification of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). We raised this question with the Commission through a filing in July of 2004. Since that time, here is what has happened:
July (04)---Filings made to Minnesota PUC, SOUL and NAWO and 89 customers of MP open docket number Docket No. E105/C-04-955. This explained to the PUC that MP was acting as a proxy for ATC.
August(04)---Condemnation hearing is convened for land in Midway Township. SOUL representative makes argument to wait for PUC ruling. Court considers this, and officers are appointed...
September(04)---PUC's Sept. 9 meeting covers the Docket issue. MP states to Commission that they do not have any agreement yet---Commission orders them to notify the Commission of any agreements for transfer under MN stat. 216B.50. Notice of a hearing date is provided at the Commission meeting by MP, Court decides to move forward.
October(04)---Asking for guidance from the Attorney General Of Minnesota, SOUL receives an answer that case should be returned to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (MEQB)to reopen with new information. At the minimum, the AG's office thinks the transfer should trigger the "Buy the Farm" provision of the law, which was exempted along with the transmission line.
December(04)---SOUL and NAWO return to the MEQB asking to reopen. One SOUL member is served with a restraining order, and is not allowed to go near the construction on their property, and gagged from speaking about the matter in public. What about the first amendment?
January(05)---An answer from the Chair of MEQB allows SOUL/NAWO more time to comment, but denies hearing. We are informed that MP has filed at the PUC. (They must have forgotten to mention it to us?) We enter into Docket No. E015/PA-04-2020 as a party.
February(05)---SOUL answers the MEQB attends meetings to appeal to the staff involved, and maintains that we are tired of being passed from agency to agency. We vow not to rest until someone, somewhere gives these folks their due process. Comments filed to PUC.
March(05)---Letter sent to Army Corps of Engineers documenting breach in permits sent to all agencies.
May (05)--- Oral arguments to be heard at PUC, 1:00 pm
June (05)---PUC takes jurisdiction (control) over the transfer.
June (05)---Minnesota Power files Motion to Reconsider over jurisdiction of the transfer of 345kV line to ATC, Commission later tables this to be decided at the time the issue of "is this transmission line in the public interest of Minnesota"
June (05)--Minnesota Power delivers documentation of transmission line construction. Guess what as SOUL has been concerned all along MP has a use for the additional strands of fiber...wow!!
August (05)--Commission court set to decide on whether landowner's on AW route are supported by the "buy the farm" provision of 116.c of the Power Plant Siting act. Judge rules no, appeal expected.
October (05)--Commission to meet October 6 to reconsider its jurisdiction of transfer, and if the line is in the public interest.
AGAIN, SOUL will continue to ask the regulators to regulate this transmission line, and do so following all of the rules in place, just as we have. We still say this is not a project in the best interest of Minnesota, as does our Minnesota membership. We applaud them for their tenacity!! SOUL also applauds the staff at the PUC for all of their work on this case. Read what they have to say about it:
STAFF BRIEFING COMMENTS