In the Matter of Xcel Energy's Application for a Route Permit for the CapX 2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse High Voltage Transmission Line
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission File No. E-002/TL-09-1448
Kay Nord Hunt, Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Phillip R. Krass, Rachel R. Myers, Malkerson Gunn Martin LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relator Oronoco Township)
Carol A. Overland, Overland Law Office, Red Wing, Minnesota (for relators St. Paul's Lutheran School and Church and Cannon Falls Landowners and respondents No CapX 2020 and Laymen for Christ o/o Woodland Camp)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Gary R. Cunningham, Anna E. Jenks, Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission)
Lisa M. Agrimonti, Valerie T. Herring, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Jennifer Thulien Smith, Xcel Energy Services, Inc. (for respondent Northern States Power Company)
Brian Michael Meloy, Leonard Street and Deinard, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent American Transmission Company, LLC)
Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
These consolidated certiorari appeals challenge a high-voltage-transmission-line (HVTL) route permit issued by respondent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to respondent Northern States Power Company, doing business as Xcel Energy (Xcel). The appeal of relator-church and relators-landowners concerns the first segment of the permitted route. The church and landowners argue that the MPUC erred by designating Xcel's preferred route for that segment because (1) Xcel improperly modified its proposed route late in the application process, which violated statutory notice and environmental-review requirements; (2) the route violates Minnesota's nonproliferation policy; and (3) the MPUC relied on extrarecord information in designating the route. Relator-township's appeal concerns the third segment of the route. The township argues that the MPUC improperly considered testimony as to that segment that was offered after the record closed. We affirm.
On January 19, 2010, Xcel applied to the MPUC for a route permit for the Minnesota portion of a proposed HVTL from Hampton, through Rochester, to La Crosse, Wisconsin. The HVTL consists of three distinct segments: Segment 1 includes a 345 kV transmission line extending southeast from a substation near Hampton to a proposed North Rochester substation between Zumbrota and Pine Island; segment 2 includes a new 161 kV transmission line in the Rochester area; and segment 3 consists of a new 345 kV transmission line extending east from the proposed North Rochester substation, across the Zumbro River, and across the Mississippi River near Alma, Wisconsin. Only the first and third segments are at issue in this appeal.
The MPUC accepted Xcel's application as complete in March 2010 and referred it to the office of administrative hearings for a contested-case hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ scheduled public and evidentiary hearings for mid-2011, to follow a period for independent environmental review and an opportunity for interested entities to intervene.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce, through its energy-facility permitting staff (EFP), conducted the environmental review, which included identifying alternative route options and preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS). See Minn. R. 7850.2500 (2011). The EFP consulted with two citizen advisory task forces and considered input from the public and relevant state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The EFP issued a draft EIS on March 21, 2011. The draft EIS addressed 17 route alternatives for segment 1, with several variations on Xcel's preferred route along U.S. Highway 52 (US 52) and several variations on an alternative route following field divisions and property boundaries through agricultural land west of U.S. 52. For segment 3, the draft EIS addressed 31 route alternatives, including three options for crossing the Zumbro River: Xcel's preferred crossing at County Road 12/White Bridge Road, a middle crossing at the Zumbro Dam, and a northern crossing.
Five entities intervened in the contested case as parties: relator Oronoco Township (township); citizen groups respondent No CapX 2020 (No CapX), United Citizens Action Network, and the North Route Group; and American Transmission Company, LLC (ATC), a Wisconsin company that ...