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A message from MEQB staff member, Bob Cupit (651-296-2096):

A brief description as to how the process works The MEQB ordered public hearings on the Exemption Application of Minnesota Power (MP) back in November 1999. Typically, when the Board orders a public hearing, an independent Law Judge manages the hearing process without any further involvement by the agency until the final decision. In this case however, the Judge, after having her scope of hearing challenged, has referred the question of scope back to the MEQB. After the MEQB makes a decision on the scope, the Judge will then restart the hearing process, and after the hearing record is complete, the MEQB will then decide whether to grant or deny the exemption application.

At the scheduled MEQB meeting on March 30, the Board will again take up the hearing scope question. It had been laid over from the February 17th meeting after lengthy discussion. At this point, staff expects that the Board will have essentially the same arguments before it, and that the discussion will continue where it left off before. We are uncertain how much additional testimony, if any, the Chair will allow at this second meeting. Any pertinent written materials received by noon on March 23 will be forwarded to each of the Board members (the Board will be made aware of the large volume of Wisconsin citizen comments received to date).

The two options that staff has presented to the Board are to either expand the scope of hearing to include impacts outside the state of Minnesota, or to limit the scope to impacts inside the state of Minnesota. The Board discussed a third option at the February meeting, which would deny the exemption application now on a finding that the project would create significant human and environmental impact. Presumably, MP would then file a new application for the full route designation process, which would include consideration of alternatives, preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment (same as an EIS), and mandatory public hearings. Staff expects this option to be discussed again on March 30, but cannot speculate as to whether it has majority support.