News Day: Dumb power lines, smart grids / Woodchucks and logrolling / Immigrant parents, citizen children / Porch couch saga continues / more

Dumb power lines, smart grids The MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is set to decide on yet another power line this week, reports MPR. For those of you keeping score, the power line proposals include:

• CapX 2020 — roughly 600 miles and $2 billion.
• “Green Power Express” from ITC Holdings Group — “a series of 765 kV transmission lines across seven states, including Minnesota”
• Xcel Energy — “upgrade a power line from Granite Falls to Shakopee from the current 230 kV line to a double-circuit 345 kV”
• And don’t forget Big Stone II — already approved by the PUC “to construct and upgrade 112 miles of transmission lines in western Minnesota.”

Big Stone II is all about energy from burning coal, but the other proposals claim they are about wind energy — with no promises, of course. Power line proponents say there’s a need for more energy, but MPR notes that the Citizens Energy Task Force research found Xcel Energy’s “energy demands dropped by 12 percent from 2006 through 2008.”

Power line opponents say that (1) there’s no need for added transmission capacity; (2) if the companies are really about wind energy, they should be required to commit to that as a condition of any permit; (3) the lines are an environmental and health hazard; and (4) increased capacity should come from “smart grids,” a concept that is part of the Obama administration energy policy, involving updated technology that can monitor energy use and send energy where it is needed, reducing the need for increased generation and transmission capacity.

Woodchucks and logrolling Politics in Minnesota has the best headline of the day, topping an explanation of legislative deadlines and omnibus bills. The legislature’s web site has all the details:

The first deadline, March 27, 2009, at 8:00 p.m., is for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin.

The second deadline, April 7, 2009, at 11:59 p.m., is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house.

The third deadline, April 16, 2009, is for divisions of the House and Senate Committees on Finance to act favorably on omnibus appropriation bills.

The fourth deadline, April 22, 2009, is for the House and Senate Committees on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the House and Senate Committees on Taxes to act favorably on omnibus appropriation and tax bills.

The fifth deadline, May 7, 2009, is for conference committees on omnibus appropriation and tax bills to report bills to the floor.

And, of course, the final deadline is the date for adjournment — May 18.

Thumbs down on Caroline Kennedy The Vatican rejected three Obama administration nominees for U.S. ambassador, including Caroline Kennedy, reports BBC, objecting to past pro-choice statements. Since the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984, we have always sent a pro-life Catholic to serve as Vatican ambassador. This year? Wait and see.

Ambassador to Texas? Maybe the Obama administration will need to appoint an ambassador to Texas next, reports the Daily Kos. In a press conference, TX Governor Rick Perry asserted “sovereignty” from the federal government, invoking states’ rights and “saying that the time has come to ‘draw the line in the sand’ against the federal government. ‘No longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas.'”

Daily dose of Douglas Paul Douglas is back! MinnPost will feature a daily essay by the noted MN meteorologist, formerly of WCCO and the Star Tribune.

Wells Fargo rollercoaster On the heels of a report of increased first-quarter earnings that drove share prices up last week, Wells Fargo now faces a downgraded share rating (from “market perform” to “underperform”) from the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, according to Bloomberg News. The investment bank report said that, “Details were scarce and we believe that much of the positive news in the preliminary results had to do with merger accounting, revised accounting standards and mortgage default moratoriums, rather than underlying trends.”

Cargill’s numbers Cargill reported profits for the quarter ending February 28, 2009 down a dramatic 68 percent from the same quarter in 2008. BUT — 2008 was a record year with “eye-popping” earnings, writes the PiPress, and even though Cargill earnings are down, the company is still reporting profits, not losses.

Citizen children, immigrant parents Minnesota business, labor, religious leaders called for immigration reform and an end to immigration raids at a press conference on Monday, as attention focused on a report on the plight of the children of undocumented immigrants. Download the PDF of the 100+ page report, researched and written by the Minneapolis-based law firm of Dorsey & Whitney for the non-partisan Urban Institute, and read my article in the TC Daily Planet.

In a very personal look at the issues facing citizen children of undocumented immigrants, MPR offers an in-depth interview with a 17-year-old Minnesota child of immigrants, who lost her home when her father was deported and fears that her mother, too, might be deported.

Celia feels an obligation toward her siblings that most teens don’t even have to consider.

“You can’t just say ‘Oh, I’m not going to go to college,'” she said. “I want to go to college and I want to do really good. I want to get a good job, and someday get a house, so we can all be happy again.”

Porch couch saga You may remember that the Minneapolis City Council was considering a ban on porch couches — actually, on all upholstered or non-outdoor-type furniture on porches, front lawns, and, presumably, back yards. The issue stirred up a storm of protest, complete with sentimental memories of couches of the past, defense of diverse aesthetics, and denunciation of dictated decor. The upshot, reports the Minnesota Daily came on Friday, with an 11-4 City Council vote to let the couches alone. So, with sunshine and seventies in the forecast for today, go out and enjoy that porch!

MN Job Watch About 200 workers have lost their jobs as North Star Beef, a slaughtering plant in Buffalo Lake, closed its doors, reports the Strib. The plant owner said he couldn’t afford to fix a problem with water that contained excessive levels of arsenic, but that, said the Strib, was just “the final blow for a plant that in recent months had fallen behind in payments to its suppliers, suffered a fire that caused at least $1.1 million in damage and racked up back taxes to the county.”

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