June 20th, 2013
PUC pulls plug on Goodhue Wind project!
‘Bout time this project went down… What a thorny long drawn-out heated and circular discussion, but after a long five years, the Public Utilities Commission said no to Peter Mastic’s New Era and its request for an extension of time to get the project in service and operational. Did I mention this has been a long journey? It took five long years of persistent work on so many fronts, dogged work on the part of so many people! L-O-N-G! I first met with Goodhue Wind Truth and started representing them in late 2008, early 2009.
Just from today I have 12 pages of notes, so here’s the nutshell version, from the two page Revised Decision Options:
- After a protracted discussion, they first voted to DENY Todd Guererro’s Motion for another two weeks to prepare as he was just hired on. Nope, says the Commission, we don’t buy it, New Era f/k/a/ f/k/a has had plenty of time.
- And after an even longer more protracted and circular discussion, the Commission voted UNANIMOUSLY decision options 2 I & J:
- Then came their vote on the Extension Request as a housekeeping matter:
- And then, at the bottom of page 2, adding “August 23, 2013” as the date certain for a response:
Todd Guererro, representing Peter Mastic f/k/a f/k/a, did a valiant job given what he had to work with, a client who didn’t bother to comply with PUC Orders, Information Requests, and laws — he deserves battle pay for taking the hits hurled by the Commissioners, deserved, but he did the best job possible… well, except he apparently didn’t know that the Commission had made the determination that the project was a C-BED project many years ago, that it was not the Commissioner of Commerce.
I kept my trap shut, thinking “less is more.”
IT’S REALLY DONE!
And an interesting sidebar, NSP had its crew there to monitor its interests (Verified Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, and what a delightful Complaint it is!), and I learned that my arch-nemesis Mike Krikava is a horn player, has a big band of reknown, Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (not Les Brown, perhaps Minnesota’s Toshiko Akiyoshi??), and even played with Ed Berger. Mike brought it up, wondering how I knew the “real outside” Ed, but folks, it’s a small, small world… who knew?!?
And that after he ruins his reputation with his “heart-shaped” dot in his signature as noted by at least two of my GWT client’s cohorts:
Kinda skews my view, though the blustery honking of Bari fits him well. It’s sort of like Mark Dayton being a shep nut — I will have higher expectations — we shall see… but if Krikava were a trumpet player, well, that’d be another matter entirely.
In the Rochester Post Bulletin tonight:
After lengthy discussion during Thursday’s PUC hearing — including a few testy exchanges between commissioners and New Era attorney Todd Guerrero — the PUC unanimously approved five motions that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the project to move forward in its current form.
“I think this is definitely a David and Goliath story,” said rural Goodhue farmer Ann Buck, one of the project’s critics, who have spent six figures battling the project over health, environmental and aesthetic concerns. “But I don’t think it was one rock that got the giant. It was many over the last four, five years.”
• New Era violated Minnesota’s transfer provision law when Peter Mastic purchased the project from Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens in 2012, which prohibits the transfer of power purchase agreements previously approved with Xcel Energy. It’s unclear how this ruling will affect Xcel’s recent lawsuit against New Era that seeks to end its PPA agreements and collect monetary damages.
• New Era’s request to extend the project’s Certificate of Need was denied because Mastic’s group failed to show it was prepared to move forward, which includes a failure to specify an in-service date.
• New Era has 14 days when the PUC’s written order is released to surrender its Site Permit or show cause that it intends to begin construction by Aug. 23. The applicant must also demonstrate it is able to commence construction by that date, which appears to be impossible.
In other rulings, the PUC requested “a more comprehensive response” to the investigation of public claims in the project area and a summary of the March 27 site visit. Steve Betcher, Goodhue County attorney, also urged the commission to re-examine the project’s status as a community-based energy development (C-BED), but the PUC chose to avoid that issue.
Guerrero was the lone New Era proponent to attend Thursday’s meeting. Mastic was busy out-of-state, he said, so it remains unclear what the future holds for the 78-megawatt project sited near Zumbrota.
“Obviously, it’s not good … but I don’t know what the client plans to do, to be honest with you,” Guerrero said afterward. “I guess Mr. Mastic will have to review his options and has some decisions to make.”
Mastic replaced longtime legal counsel Christine Brusven on Monday with Guerrero, who almost immediately requested a two-week delay to familiarize himself with the extensive record. PUC staff responded by keeping the issue on the agenda, and commissioners denied the same request from Guerrero on Thursday morning after a drawn-out plea.
And in the STrib:
The eagles in Goodhue County may not know it, but they won a victory Thursday. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission pulled the plug on a controversial wind energy project that was stalled for years by a fierce and well-organized local opposition that successfully used its potential impact on eagles to help derail it.
Concerns about the eagles and other wildlife emerged late in the development process, well after the PUC had given the company legal authority and a permit to build. But it’s an example of how concerns about wildlife and other environmental siting issues have become a concern nationally. Once largely ignored, the impact on birds and bats, which die by the many thousands when they run into turbine blades, has now become a focus for both the industry and conservation groups nationally.
The developer, New Era Wind Farm, could try to revive the $180 million project after resolving legal issues with Xcel Energy, its attorney said. But after years of delay caused in part by the wildlife issues, the PUC commissioners voted unanimously not to extend the company’s legal authority to build the 78 megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County.