Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Notice of Proposed Floodplain and Wetlands Involvement for the Mesaba Energy Project Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) Demonstration Plant Northern Minnesota Iron Range, Itasca County, MN
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality NEPA regulations (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] parts 1500-1508), and the DOE NEPA regulations (10 CFR part 1021) to assess the potential environmental impacts of a project proposed by Excelsior Energy Inc. (Excelsior), to design, construct, and operate (potentially under an agreement with an operating company) a coal-based, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) electric generating facility on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota (hereafter termed the ``Mesaba Energy Project'' or the ``Project''). The proposed Project, selected for further consideration under DOE's Clean Coal Power Initiative competitive solicitation, would demonstrate advanced technologies to produce electricity via the IGCC process, including advanced gasification and air separation systems, feedstock flexibility, improved environmental performance, and improved thermal efficiency. The Project would represent the first phase of a proposed two-phase generating station, each phase of which would nominally generate 600 megawatts of electricity (MWe) for export to the electrical grid. The EIS will consider the impacts of both phases, even though DOE's potential funding would only be provided in support of phase one. The EIS will evaluate the proposed Project and reasonable alternatives. Because the proposed Project may affect floodplains and wetlands on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota, the EIS will include a floodplain and wetlands assessment, and DOE will prepare a statement of findings in accordance with DOE regulations for Compliance with Floodplain and Wetlands Environmental Review Requirements (10 CFR part 1022). Wetland permitting and mitigation would be conducted in accordance with the rules and policies of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and under the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act. The EIS will help DOE decide whether to provide approximately $36 million in cost-shared funding (the estimated total Project cost is $1.97 billion). DOE may also provide a loan guarantee, pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, to guarantee a portion of the private sector financing for the Project. The purpose of this Notice of Intent is to inform the public about the proposed Project; invite public participation in the EIS process; announce the plans for a public scoping meeting; explain the EIS scoping process; and solicit public comments for consideration in establishing the proposed scope of the EIS. Because the proposed facility is considered a Large Electric Power Generating Plant, the Project is subject to the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act (Minnesota Statutes 116C.51-.69), which requires the preparation of a state- equivalent EIS. The EIS requirements under NEPA and the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act are substantially similar, and it is DOE's intent to prepare, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, an EIS that will fulfill the requirements of both laws.