Very interesting meeting last night, a meeting of the Planning Advisory Committee of Goodhue County.   It’s unfortunate there weren’t more people there.  I wasn’t going to go, but I went to support Marie McNamara’s request to the PAC to send a letter to the Environmental Quality Board, Pollution Control Agency, and Dept. of Natural Resources to appoint a Rulemaking Advisory Committee.  Getting the local governments and public involved in the state process is something I’ve been on for a long time, and it needs to have a better result than the composition of the PUC’s Certificate of Need and Siting/Routing rulemaking committee which has only one member of the public, one attorney who represented a township in a transmission proceeding, two attorneys (including moi) who represent citizens groups, and 18-20 representatives of utilities.

It was a quick request:

McNamara Request to Goodhue County

Requests for an Advisory Committee must be made because the MPCA and DNR stated in their Notice that they didn’t anticipate having an Advisory Committee:

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources_Notice of Rulemaking


EQB Request for Comments_SilicaSandMining

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency_Notice of Rulemaking

So now the next step at the County is to get Board approval and get a request out in time for the EQB’s September 18 meeting, which should not be a problem.

You can send a request too!  Send a short email, with Subject line “EQB, MPCA and DNR Silica Sand Rulemaking” to:

heather.arends@state.mn.us; tom.landwehr@state.mn.us; nathan.cooley@state.mn.us; John.Stine@state.mn.us; Jeff.Smyser@state.mn.us; bob.patton@state.mn.us; kate.frantz@state.mn.us; dave.frederickson@state.mn.us

Marie McNamara has done a superb job over the five years she’s been working on wind issues.  We’ve been working together for a long time now, and she’s always keeping the big picture in mind.  She’s worked hard to educate regulatory bodies, from Goodhue County to the PUC, DNR, USFWS, FAA, and has done so with the utmost integrity.  One of her mantra’s is “how will this affect my neighbors,” and she’s felt an obligation to keep in this fight, deal with the big policy issues and assist others in similar situations in Minnesota and across the country to participate in the process.  Watching her address the PAC Committee, explaining her work on the PUC’s Rulemaking Advisory Committee, how it is the place for people to have their ideas heard, relating it to their work on the County wind ordinance, I was so gratified to see her increasing ability to independently navigate the system and encourage others to step up.  She’s open and transparent in her approach and has a broad range of knowledge of process and specifics.  She’s been before the PAC and County Board so many times, and has worked hard to inform the record and done a good job of it.  She’s been there, done that, and is just the one to ask them to support an Advisory Committee for silica sand rulemaking.

Dan Rechtzigel and Bernie Overby were agin’ it, and Bernie was convinced that people who participate do so from one point of view, and his concern was it is only opposition to projects point of view at the table, HELLO — reality is that it’s severely weighted in favor of industry.  He should go to a rulemaking committee and check it out.

I appreciated Joan Volz’ explanation that rulemaking input has to happen soon, because once it’s released, it’s pretty tough to change.  In my experience, and actually, as established in the rulemaking process, the public comment period after the release of the draft is not an opportunity to do much other than generate some dead trees or use some electrons and brain cells, and that the draft is pretty much set in stone because they cannot approve a rule that is “significantly” different from the draft.  That’s how it is.

Bottom line: The PAC asked staff to check it out and report to the Board, which meets the first week of September, ample time to get a request to the EQB prior to their meeting on September 18, 2013 — motion passed unanimously.  I’m confident they’ll get it done.

As for the Save the Bluff’s Application, they had an “alternative approach” on the agenda based on a letter dated August 12 regarding a past meeting between the Applicants and two commissioners (click for larger version):

Pages from StBStaffReport-2


It’s good that there was a discussion in public about this “alternative approach” as it was a result of private negotiations between Keith Fossen and Jody McIlrath, and Dan Rechtzigel and Jim Bryant, alluded to on p. 11 of the packet in the letter above.  Dan went too far, who at one point discussing these negotiations said, “on behalf of the Board…”  He’s the swing vote in this situation, but he can’t speak for the board, particularly on an Application where’s there’s action pending.  He should know that.  The good news is that at the very beginning, Lisa Hanni provided an opening where Save the Bluffs could avoid withdrawing the original Application.  They said they did not want to withdraw the application, but to focus on the 4 items, see if that can resolve the issues.

Dan Rechtzigel said that the Applicants reached out to him to talk about whether there was any possible resolution and that they came up with four areas they could talk about and come to agreement, with the acceptable items of agreement being:

This is where Dan said (rough quote), “these four areas are where we could find some common ground, on behalf of the Board…” and that these points are not intended to be final wording.  In discussion of the cost-benefit analysis, Dan said, “I’m not hearing an urgent request for that.”

At one point, Bernie Overby said, “I think discussions were very productive.”  Was he part of this?

There were a few comments from the public, first from a contingent from Belvidere who were very upset about not getting notice that the public hearing was cancelled.  Also, after they spoke, Planning Advisory Commission Brandon Schrader, who had recused himself, tried to speak, and I had to shout out an objection, because someone who recuses himself can’t be participating, not just in the decision, but also in the discussion.  That’s pretty basic procedure, but Rich Bauer, the current chair, didn’t stop him at the last PAC meeting I went to and didn’t here.  No choice but to do it, and thankfully Marie knows him and had a chat about that which I hope he heard, I think he really didn’t know that wasn’t permissible.  Bernie Overby didn’t understand either and started on a “free speech” rant.  He needs some procedural instruction.

Belle Creek’s Township Supervisor Tom Gale was there too, and he said he didn’t receive notice and wasn’t too pleased.  Bernie Overby made a remark about people showing up for the first time, and apparently he didn’t know Belle Creek township is interested, is interested in water protections, and has had a representative, usually Tom, at most of the sand related county meetings.  He had a copy of the packet and wanted to know more about the “alternate approach” and what it does for Goodhue County.  Belle Creek was one of the townships asked to develop a supportive resolution, as Belle Creek had requested of others during their struggle about the AWA Goodhue/New Era wind project.  Belle Creek township is a farming township and they are very concerned about water, the surface water and the aquifer, and assuring safe and sufficient water for the farms in the township.  Belle Creek Watershed District is one of the few, three, I think, formal Watershed Districts in the state.  The Watershed District is a formal local unit of government, and should be included in the “consultation” by the state about silica sand mining Standards and Criteria, but that’s another topic…  Belle Creek Township would likely  be very supportive of regulations that protect the water supply.

Alan Muller brought up the point that #1 of the four points is a one mile setback from R-1 Suburban Residential, and asked what percentage of R-1 Suburban Residential land was in Goodhue County, what percentage of residents/landowners.  Get out your magnifying glass and look for the tan R-1 Suburban Residential areas (click for larger map):

Ultimately, Bernie Overby made the motion to table the Save the Bluff’s request, to send it to the Mining Study Committee, to add the four items to the agenda, and the Applicants were to be directed to work with the Committee.  It was passed unanimously.

There will be two public hearings on both the original Application and the 4 additional points, first before the Planning Advisory Committee and then before the County Board.  These public hearings will be noticed, hopefully better than this meeting and the cancellation of the public hearing!

By the way, Bernie Overby, what’s Ryan hauling in that stainless trailer behind the shiny lime green truck with “Overby Trucking” on the door?

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