Area residents concerned with proposed power line

Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

Approximately 70 people attended a public hearing in New Prague Wednesday, June 25, to help determine whether the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should issue a Certificate of Need for the proposed CapX 2020 Powerline project.

The meeting, held at the New Prague High School auditorium, was one of 19 held throughout the proposed project area. Xcel Energy and Great River Energy lead a consortium of utility businesses asking for permission to build three stretches of 345 kilovolt (kV) power lines, one from Fargo, ND, to Monticello, one from Brookings, SD, to Hampton and another from Hampton to LaCrosse, WI.

Administrative law judge Beverly Heydinger conducted the hearing. She explained that this meeting was part of a bigger process involving evidentiary hearings, and that after the hearings are completed she will issue a report that will include a finding of fact, a conclusion and a recommendation. This report will be send to the PUC as it will make the final decision. She also noted that the hearing last week did not include information on the route of the line. CapX officials have identified a corridor through which the proposed powerline would take, with New Prague in the middle of the Brookings to Hampton line.

Heydinger said there were four criteria she would be using in her recommendation They included the effect of denial on the adequacy, reliability and efficiency of the state's energy supply, whether more reasonable and prudent alternatives exist, whether the lines would benefit society and whether the applicants can comply with state and federal rules and regulations.

Representatives from the utilities testified that a study done several years ago showed the regional electrical system is reaching its capacity, and that the CapX 2020 project is necessary to maintain the electrical system given the growing demand. The project deals with infrastructure to address capacity issues and will interconnect additional power generating facilities. In addition, the CapX project will help to realize the goals established by the 2007 state legislature by connecting wind generation on the Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota to the system.

Beth Soholt, representing the group Wind on the Wires, gave testimony in support of the project, but with conditions that promote renewable energy. These lines run through some of the richest wind areas in the region

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