November 29th, 2010
Right now, the Northfield Planning Commission is reviewing the idea of the Spring Creek LLC wind turbine planned for the Northfield Urban Reserve district. Here’s some on that from Tracy Davis:
In another exciting development, Tom Dunnwald filed for a Writ of Mandamus, to tell Rice County to follow the law, and damned if he didn’t get it! In this case, the County didn’t provide proper notice for the Conditional Use hearing, and they have to do it over.
This is the same county where I had a laundry list of instances where they had not followed the law and the judge said, “They know they should follow the law so I’m not going to tell them to follow the law” and tossed us out. So perhaps Mandamus is the way to go rather than a Declaratory Judgment?!?! Go figure…
Here’s the poop from the Northfield News:
A county judge ordered a writ of mandamus earlier this month, which could force Rice County officials to re-notify dozens of individuals affected by the proposed construction of wind turbines in Northfield Township — and delay any county action on turbine construction approval.
Relatively rare in the course of legal proceedings, mandamuses are “[I]ssued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary.
Gro Wind LLC is trying to move forward with a pair of 326-foot-tall commercial wind turbines, slated to be built in the southeastern corner of Northfield Township. The approval of conditional use permits for the agriculturally zoned land has been postponed due to legal action taken by several residents.
Similar to an injunction, the mandamus forces Rice County officials to send out individual notices to properties near the proposed site, notices that residents in the area say they did not receive within the legal time frame.
The judge issues a mandamus after a evaluating the “clear intent” of a law that a governmental body needs to uphold, said Tom Dunnwald, an attorney representing one of the residents in Northfield Township. In this case, the issue was the notification of local residents about a public hearing.
The county is required to notify residences of public hearings regarding certain high-impact projects 10 days before they occur. The county put a notification in the paper, but some residents were not notified by mail until three days before the hearing, Dunnwald said.
November 23rd, 2010
Today on the PUC’s agenda? AWA Goodhue’s request for Reconsideration of the PUC’s remand to an Administrative Law Judge.
Here’s their remand Order and subsequent filings:
And from that Order, here’s what the PUC wants from the ALJ:
1. The ALJ assigned to this matter is requested to develop a record on every standard in Article 18 that is more stringent than what the Commission has heretofore applied to LWECS and make recommendations regarding each such standard whether the Commission should adopt it for Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems in Goodhue County. The Commission has identified two such standards in this Order (Section 4 and Section 6) but is not by this Order restricting the ALJ from developing the record and making recommendations regarding additional standards in Article 18 that upon further examination meet the “more stringent” qualification.
2. The ALJ assigned to this matter is requested to allow the parties to develop a factual record on the question of “good cause” as that term appears in Minn. Stat. § 216F.081 and to provide recommendations on whether, with respect to each standard in Article 18 identified in the course of her review as “more stringent” than what the Commission has heretofore applied to LWECS, there is “good cause” for the Commission to not apply the standard to siting LWECS in Goodhue County.
3. As the ALJ addresses the issues identified in the previous two sections, the ALJ is requested to include (but not limited to, by this Order) whether there is sufficient evidence regarding health and safety to support a 10 rotor diameter set-back for non-participating residents and the stray voltage requirements.
To which AWA Goodhue said …. “NOOOO, we want you to undo that decision” …
… and to which we said, “PPFFFFFFFFFFFFFBBBBBT!” …
… including a section you really ought to read:
… and from Goodhue County:
… and then the AWA Goodhue’s Reply – quite pissy, eh?
… and some others on behalf of AWA:
… and PUC staff weighs in:
… and then at 8:21 a.m. this morning, served by eFiling, and Document Properties show it wasn’t pdf’d until 4:03… TODD GUERERRO, WHATEVER ARE YOU THINKING… this from AWA Goodhue trying to wiggle into mediation somehow rather than a proceeding before the Administrative Law Judge. Mediation??? Mediation has it’s place, but… well, anyway, here’s what they said:
The Commission was probably not pleased, the timing of that latest filing was duly noted, and after a short discussion about the availability of mediation in any contested case, under the administrative rules it’s always an option, the discussion led by Commissioner Reha, who as an ALJ had mediated the Chisago Transmission Project (were any of the Commissioners around then? Perhaps Pugh?):
That’s one result of that mediation, one which I certainly wouldn’t be proud of, because though it did underground down the banks of the St. Croix River, it DOUBLED the capacity, and I don’t think anyone other than our friends at NSP had any clue what dropping voltage but bundling BIG conductors meant. Well, Art Hughes, Ph. D., of course, but he’s dead… And at the time, it was disturbing the way ALJ Phyllis Reha and George Crocker were on the stage of the Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls stumping for the deal and urging Concerned River Valley Citizens to adopt the deal. WHY, what’s in it for them? For CRVC, nothing! And why would Reha and Crocker want CRVC to adopt that deal? Enough to be promoting it on stage before CRVC? CRVC said NO, and the rest is history…
So anyway, to make a short story long, the PUC talked about Reconsideration and the referral to OAH a bit, Commissioner Reha mentioned some things she is concerned about as material facts at issue, they expressly stated they did not want to Reconsider, and they all (4, Betsy Wergin was missing) said NO to AWA Goodhue’s Motion for Reconsideration.
November 21st, 2010
Yesterday we put in an offer … garage, basement and shop are much needed! Initially I was looking at building a garage on my lot across the street, and whew, it’s cheaper to buy another house! Needs work, but it’s a solid classic. the basement is amazing, at least a 9 foot ceiling. Driveway and attached garage, plus a separate two car garage, what a concept. Now getting my big beautiful tub up to the attic could be interesting, but the stairs are wide and the electrical, insulating and some of the sheetrock is already done. There’s room in the mudroom for a half-bath… With some work, this could work!
Plus attached garage and huge office with windows, windows, and more windows with the most amazing view…
November 17th, 2010
I got word a couple days ago that the MAPP transmission line, Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (not Mid-Continent Area Power Pool) application has been filed in Maryland.
Here is the Maryland Public Service Commission page for this project.
The Sierra Club has been on the front lines fighting MAPP. Here’s the SIERRA CLUB MAPP & PATH PAGE.
This is Travis Miller/Morningstar’s take on PEPCO and MAPP:
In our first meeting since the Conectiv sale to Calpine, management detailed its goal of 12% compound annual growth rate in total rate base at power delivery, with transmission rate base more than doubling and distribution rate base climbing $1.4 billion (37%) behind $5.2 billion of capital expenditures the next five years. Of that, its Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway project represents $1.2 billion. The project has been delayed but now appears set to go forward with an in-service date in 2015. Line capacity would be the equivalent of a large coal plant entering the region on an energy basis. Management estimated $150 million-$200 million of energy savings for Maryland customers as a result of the project, all of which is lost margin for area merchant generators.
Why isn’t this application reported anywhere? Well, anywhere that google picks up?
November 9th, 2010
In yesterday’s STrib there was a Commentary written by Dr. Gary Carlson, of Northfield. He gave a very accurate impression of what it is to go to a Rice County Planning Commission meeting. FRUSTRATING! To put it mildly. He also has started digging into health impacts of wind. He’s put himself out as a canary:
Here’s his Commentary:
I just returned from a meeting of my county planning committee, where we debated the pros and cons of our neighbor’s proposal to put up two 400-foot wind turbines, with the closest about 1,300 feet from our property line. My family lives on a bluff on the edge of Northfield. I cannot sleep. It was my first contact with any kind of city or county planning, and the four-hour meeting was surreal. But let me step back and provide the background to this story.
I am an integrative physician who mainly works with patients suffering chronic problems. Often, they have seen many traditional doctors who have not been able to help them; they come to me as a last resort. They have “functional problems” — irritable bowel syndrome, chronic headaches, fibromyalgia. Often their doctors “can’t find anything wrong” with X-rays, blood tests or biopsies. But nonetheless these people are sick. Many of them are very sensitive to environmental stimuli, probably as an adaptive reaction to their chronic problems.
So back to the wind on the bluff. I also fancy myself an environmentalist. We placed a geothermal heat pump in our house 12 years ago when most people didn’t know what they were. I regularly walk the 6-mile round trip to work to save on CO2 emissions. So six weeks ago when we heard about the plan to put up these turbines, I was a little ambivalent. My brother, who lives nearby, didn’t like it. I have always liked wind power, and though I didn’t really want such large structures in my morning sky, I kind of let it go.
Then I got hit over the head. I was reading the New York Times and came upon an article about multiple lawsuits against wind farms all over the United States because of health concerns, and I said to myself, “What health concerns?” Three hours of intense Internet research later, I was shocked.
The last four weeks have been a blur. Getting up to speed on the science of sound and the medical research related to wind turbines has been exhausting, and in the process I have discovered the dark medical underbelly of industrial-sized turbines. They produce a lot of infrasonic and low-frequency noise. You don’t hear it, but it can make you sick. It is hard to put a number on how many people are affected, but some experts suggest that 15 percent of people living within one-half to one mile of one of these turbines will develop some sort of symptom. Sleep disturbance is the most common problem. If you are old, or young, tend to get carsick easily, or have a chronic medical disease, you are at higher risk. Some are affected so severely that they have to move.
Minnesota’s wind turbine setbacks are ridiculously outdated, although the Public Utilities Commission is trying to catch up. Some European countries have listened to their citizens and have moved setbacks to between half a mile and a mile. We listen to the big wind energy companies and are stuck around 500 feet.
There were five wind projects on the docket at the planning meeting, and I kept standing up with my two minutes of time for each of them trying to educate about infrasonic noise and about why we need to protect people with these setbacks. I think they thought I was a madman. I felt like a canary in the mine yelling, “Please, please — we can have wind turbines, but don’t place them closer then one-half mile from residences, or these people, especially vulnerable people, will get sick!”
Gary Carlson is board-certified in family medicine, holistic medicine and medical acupuncture. He works at the Allina Medical Clinic in Northfield and the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at the Abbott Northwestern Hospital.