Range project loan payments were extended as favor to company

Another Excelsior Energy audit story ran Sunday in the Hibbing Daily Tribune. This one focused on the decision by Iron Range Resources Commissioner Sandy Layman to unilaterally extend the interest payment deadline for this company a couple different times. The story seems fairly benign, but the bigger story for me is that the DFL dominated Iron Range Resources board is passing on a golden opportunity to attack or even dislodge one of their favorite foes, Layman. That tells us that the Excelsior Energy issue is radioactive on a bipartisan basis.

Stepping out of my oft-repeated opposition to Excelsior’s Mesaba Energy Project, I’ll say this. Many members of the IRR board were trying to do something good for the Iron Range. I was at the editor’s desk of the Hibbing Daily Tribune when this project was first suggested. My thoughts after the first mention of a clean coal power plant that would “free us from foreign oil” and “employ a thousand Iron Rangers” was that this was too good to be true. Indeed, I later concluded that it was too good to be true, but the original motives of exploring the project weren’t necessarily nefarious. The key problem was the judgment to loan massive amounts of Iron Range money to this company without keeping better tabs on them or the market forces that will ultimately determine this project’s viability. And the truth is that projects like these aren’t getting built, nor should they.

This loan was a mistake. The strong temptation for many will be to stick with the project long enough to get the money back, but the truth is that the loan language is clear: this money isn’t coming back if the PUC says “no go,” as they probably will. Excelsior should be made to pay their interest payments on time.


  1. Anonymous says

    Hurray! They are finally taking a closer look at where our tax dollars are going. Everyone I have spoken to about this project is opposed to it or doesn’t know much about it. That’s a lot of our tax dollars devoted to nothing or giving us 3% more cancer risk!

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