Denies Xcel request for continuance
Public hearings on the proposed Hollydale 115 kV high voltage power transmission line are taking place as scheduled at the Grand Ballroom of the Medina Entertainment Center, 500 Highway 55 in Medina. Hearing times are 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 and 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7.
For several days, it was uncertain whether hearings on the certificate of need for the power line would be held, thanks to actions of four Medina/Plymouth area state senators and Xcel Energy. At that point people interested in the issue were waiting to hear whether Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman would approve Xcel’s request for continuance of the public hearings based upon the senators’ proposed legislation.
Then at mid day, Monday, March 4, Mike Kalusniak, of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), spread the word that the hearings would take place.
The proposed Hollydale project of Xcel Energy/Great River Energy has been going through a complicated approval process spanning a couple of years. Residents and business owners in both Plymouth and Medina have expressed concerns about the power transmission upgrades because the high voltage transmission line is proposed to travel through both cities. For this reason, area citizens have been poised to attend the certificate of need hearings.
However, in rapid fashion, four area state senators and Xcel Energy threw the Hollydale approval process into uncertainty. State Senators Terri Bonoff (DFL, Minnetonka), Ann Rest (DFL, New Hope), Warren Limmer (R, Maple Grove) and David Osmek (R, Mound) on Feb. 25 introduced Senate Bill S.F. No. 716 which directly affects the proposed Hollydale high voltage power line. In response to introduction of the bill, Xcel Energy Feb. 27 asked Judge Lipman to order a continuance of the certificate of need hearing.
The approval process for the Hollydale project has been forging ahead on two paths. The PUC has jurisdiction over the certificate of need process which normally is invoked when a power transmission line is proposed for a distance of 10 miles or more. Originally, the Hollydale proposal spanned a shorter distance, but residents and business owners in Medina and Plymouth proposed alternate routes. Some of them would traverse more than 10 miles. So the certificate of need process went into effect for the Hollydale Project.
The certificate of need process is the first path of approval.
The second path falls under the purview of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which has been looking at proposed routes for the Hollydale power line. Xcel Energy and Great River Energy proposed one route, but residents and businesses in Plymouth and Medina proposed 12 alternate routes.
Senate Bill 716 essentially says, “Hold it. Hold it.” regarding the routing proceedings. The bill requires that the pending proceeding for the routing permit be suspended until the PUC determines whether the transmission line is needed.
The Senate bill says about the certificate of need, “The certificate of need may be approved only if the commission finds by clear and convincing evidence that there is no feasible and available distribution level alternative to the transmission line.”
After looking at the Senate bill and consulting with her clients, Mara Koeller, attorney for Xcel Energy, wrote to Judge Lipman and asked for a continuance of the certificate of need hearings. Her letter said, “If enacted, this bill would change the review process for the Certificate of Need for the Hollydale Project. Given the uncertainties surrounding this pending legislation and its potential impact on Applicants’ Certificate of Need request, Applicants believe there is good cause to continue the proceeding.”
Xcel Energy requested that the Certificate of Need proceeding be continued “until the legislation is acted upon by the Governor or until it becomes apparent that a route over 10 miles in length may be selected by the Commission,” Koeller said in her letter.
Meanwhile, the Western Plymouth Neighborhood Alliance (WPNA) in a March 4 letter told Judge Lipman that it opposed a continuance because Minnesota Rule 1400.7500 requires “a showing of good cause” for continuance of hearings. The WPNA contended that Xcel had not shown good cause.
“It is debatable whether the introduction of a bill at the Legislature, without more, constitutes good cause,” the letter said. “Many bills are introduced and are not enacted into law.”
The letter continued, “More troubling, the referenced legislation, even if it were to be enacted, calls for suspension of the routing proceeding until the question of need is determined, not a delay in the Certificate of Need proceeding so that Applicants can proceed with routing without addressing need. The proposed continuance would subvert rather than respect the legislative process.”
The PUC has on its web site a list of documents that have been filed pertaining to the Hollydale project. The list is available at tinyurl.com/crw7rak