Final EIS released for Iron Range boondoggle

Today, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released the long awaited final Environmental Impact Statement for the Mesaba Energy Project, a proposed (and beleaguered) Iron Range coal power plant. (WDIO has the story). The EIS is a large and nuanced document, but my cursory reading of the nuts and bolts reveal few surprises. The project’s fundamental problems remain.

The start-up company Excelsior Energy, an organization that grew out of power industry lobbyists and lawyers, still has no customer and no permits and almost no private investment. It’s been rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and faces stiff opposition from Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, two strong forces in the state’s energy industry. The whole project is based on the political support of “clean” coal technology, a technology that does not currently exist and that cannot practically be developed on the Iron Range because of our hard rock geology. Local politicians, state politicians, federal politicians and government bureaucrats of all political stripes have united behind a myth that could be built, the same way the Monorail was built in the satirical cartoon The Simpsons. This is not satire. The Mesaba Energy Project is a sad metaphor for everything that’s wrong with politics on the Iron Range and probably every place else where population loss and economic trouble fosters false hope. So many other ideas for entrepreneurship, technology and infrastructure could have better used the money and political energy burned, like a lump of coal, on this foolish snipe hunt.

Hey, I don’t lose sleep over coal. Lots of Range facilities burn coal. I don’t like coal, but hey, coal can just get in line with all the other things I don’t like, including state budget shifts, public education funded by local property taxes and beef casserole. It’s the principle of this thing still bothers me and always will. I haven’t written about this topic since July. That’s how I prefer it, frankly.


  1. I agree Aaron…no coal. But also no more windmills. Nuclear is the way to go.

  2. Uranium might not be forever either:

    Anonymous said…
    I agree Aaron…no coal. But also no more windmills. Nuclear is the way to go.

    NOVEMBER 16, 2009 10:01 PM

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