Check the PUC filings yesterday — there goes Todd Guererro with his disposition problem!

(Todd & cronies checking out an electric car at the fair!  Or was it Living Green Expo?)

As you know, the PUC issued an PUC’s Order – Referral to OAH in which the AWA Goodhue wind project was sent to an Administrative Law Judge to address the following issues:

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.

AWA Goodhue is not happy about this, and have filed this:

AWA Goodhue’s Motion for Summary Disposition

Here are a couple snippets for the gist of their argument:

… the county’s ordinance applies only to small wind projects up to 5 MW and therefore does not set standards that apply to the AWA Goodhue project. In addition, because the county has chosen not to regulate wind projects up to 25 MW, it has no authority under Minn. Stat. § 216F.081 to adopt “more stringent wind standards” and, as a result, there are no county standards for the Commission to consider or apply…

Interpreting the statute so that it is limited only to counties that have assumed permitting authority for projects up to 25 MWs is the most reasonable interpretation in light of the established regulatory framework for siting wind turbines in Minnesota. The legislature has designated the Commission as the primary siting authority for large energy projects, including LWECS.13 Even in the limited circumstance where a county assumes responsibility for permitting LWECS under 25 MWs, the default under section 216F.08(c) is that the Commission’s general siting standards (which are based on the Commission’s
expertise and past experience) apply unless the county adopts more stringent standards.

It is wholly inconsistent with this framework to then read section 216F.081 to require the Commission, when making a decision on a project located in a county that has not adopted permitting authority, to apply the county’s more stringent standards. Moreover, it makes little sense for a county to adopt standards for LWECS if the county has no intention of regulating LWECS (up to 25 MW) in the first place. And, it makes even less sense for the Commission to have to apply those standards if the county itself is not inclined to do so.

Last, interpreting section 216B.081 to allow any county to adopt more stringent standards is at odds with section 216F.07, which expressly states that a site permit from the Commission preempts all county rules, regulations and ordinances. Rules of statutory construction require that every law be interpreted, to the extent possible, to give effect to all of its related provisions.14 Accordingly, to give effect to section 216F.07, county standards must be applied only where a county has assumed permitting authority for LWECS up to 25 MW. Any other interpretation would allow the exception to swallow the general rule.

We have to respond by January 14, 2010!

To check out the full docket, go to and then to “Search eDockets” and search for docket 08-1233.

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