Another friend has died…

March 7th, 2019

A year ago, we were dogsitting Jackie, and we got quite worried about her.  She was an OLD dog, and we had a hard time getting her to eat. Alan spent a lot of time “reading with the dog” and feeding her. Only way was by hand feeding to prime her, and it took a lot, and then she would only eat a few bites out of her bowl.  And then she wouldn’t poop, for days and days, and we were in a panic, and never so glad to see an old grrrrrrrl poop after what, FOUR DAYS?!?!

While Lisa was on vacation, we’d post daily photos of her grrrrrrrrl, which got more likes than any other photos there!  She had a big group of fans.

Jackie has been in declining health, refusing to eat, having a very hard time walking, and was fading away. Today, Lisa said goodbye to her Jackie.

It’s a sad day in Red Wing.

I wanna be a Camp Host!!!

March 5th, 2019

I’ve wanted to do be a DNR Camp Host since we got our pop-up, and this year, I signed up, and just got invite to a Potluck for potential Camp Hosts!  At many state parks, there’s sufficient phone access to have internet access and work from campsite — how cool is that.  And some are right in the neighborhood of work, so I can meet with clients in my “office” and be close to hearings. Spend a month in a campground, do nominal work, some meet & greet, whatever, I’m ready!  And Alan could bring the van with a boat on top, or a trailer, and get out in the water.

Except for Big Bog State Park, what a hell-hole that was, SO hot, and bugs by the millions, plus a campground filled with big RVs and trailers, just awful.  Excellent bathrooms and solar at the park couldn’t make up for the heat and bugs.

The only cool thing about it was back behind the trailer, there were docks for boats, one for each of the campsites along the river into Red Lake.  But the bugs were so bad, and there was one hell of a storm, we were there for the “Not-so-Great Northern Transmission Line” USDA-RUS hearings in July… Big Bog? NEVER AGAIN!

I digress… anyway, I hope to be able to be a Camp Host this year.  We shall see!!

Area should not be subject to projects that can’t meet standards

I’m wondering what is going on in Freeborn County with the Freeborn Wind project.  It was great to see that the county commissioners did not move on giving the wind company public access as if they were a public utility.  They are not. Good decision, Freeborn County.

And what is going on at the state? First, Freeborn Wind LLC has not provided information on a decommissioning plan in their application.  It is required by MN Statute 7854.0500 that an applicant in their wind application provide: a.) Anticipated life of the project, b.) Estimated decommissioning costs in current dollars (clock is ticking here), c.) Method and schedule for updating those costs (clock still ticking), d.) Method of ensuring funds will be available for decommissioning, e.) Anticipated manner in which the project will be decommissioned and the site restored.  This has never been enforced.  The state is affording the public no chance to comment on the missing decommissioning plan. This is counter to law. 

Second, we now learn of secret meetings prior to the reconsideration hearing for the permit at the PUC Sept. 20, 2018. Despite the administrative law judge’s recommendation the permit be denied, secret meetings were held and the agreements paved the way for a permit. Freeborn Wind’s own admission in their Request for Clarification exposed the deal. These emails between Department of Commerce, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the wind company contain admissions that the Minnesota noise standard cannot be met.

MPCA earlier wrote of their disagreement with the wind company’s position that noise is comprised of only turbine noise, absent other noise. And MPCA consistently interpreted and applied noise standards as “total sound,” noting that the total sound levels at any receptor should “meet state standards in Minnesota Rule Chapter 7030.0040, regardless of the sources contributing to the total sound levels.” 

Maybe that is why Freeborn Wind produced a chart, proposing changes to ground absorption. Minnesota frozen ground is at zero six months a year. Wind turbines are high off the ground, making sound travel. The new chart shows 0.0 changed to 0.5, hiding 3 dB(A), and allowing a doubling sound. Ah, this would allow the noise standard to be met. That’s what’s going on.   

Third, there’s improper political pressure. Gov. Walz, then Congressman Walz, submitted a letter supporting Freeborn Wind project and supporting “his constituent,” a wind company employee with an Illinois address. The congressman’s staff claimed it was a clerical error. That’s a handy excuse.

Looking at the missing decommissioning plans, secret meetings with a surprise manufactured new ground factor and letters supporting Illinois constituents has all worn thin — as the public and the DNR with environmental concerns are shut out. Oh, did I mention the wind company doesn’t have all the land secured?  High time for the PUC to pull the plug on this project and for Gov. Walz to listen to real constituents in Greater Minnesota. Freeborn Wind Project must not be permitted.  Freeborn County and other rural Minnesota communities, like my Goodhue County community, should not be subjected to unwanted projects that cannot meet state standards.

Marie McNamara

Goodhue

Letter: Freeborn Wind tabled at PUC

Today, the Public Utilities Commission tabled Freeborn Wind’s project docket. Parties have 14 days to provide language and explanation of proposed noise permit requirements, with motions for reconsideration tabled for a future meeting. That also gives confused commissioners time to review recent party filings.

Recent party filings were triggered by a Freeborn Wind filing in January, which said:

“Freeborn Wind’s Sept. 19, 2018, late-filed Proposal for Special Conditions Related to Noise outlines the agreement reached between Freeborn Wind, the department and the MPCA on this issue.”

Agreement? Association of Freeborn County Landowners (AFCL) submitted Data Practices Act requests to MPCA and Department of Commerce to get the facts. Tuesday, the MPCA  responded, and yes, an agreement was reached: “Does the attached look acceptable to you? If so, I’d suggest we file this tomorrow and you file a short letter confirming you agree. Then we show up Thursday morning” from Freeborn’s Litchfield to Commerce’s Wachtler, Sept. 17, 2018. And Thursday morning, Sept. 20, at the PUC they showed up and acted in concert. 

The MPCA’s response also shows emails and a meeting in May, after the recommendation of the ALJ was released. Then there was a flurry of emails over the weekend of Sept. 14-17, triggered by the MPCA letter Sept. 11, explaining that ambient noise is to be included in noise modeling, that MPCA doesn’t have jurisdiction over wind noise (Commerce does), and offering a compromise of 1 dB(A), which resulted in “the agreement.”

AFCL filed this documentation Wednesday with the PUC.  At the same time Wednesday, Commerce’s Wachtler forwarded AFCL his data practices response, which said Commerce deletes emails after 90 days, and nothing else — no documentation at all. I forwarded Wachtler the MPCA’s response, and also filed his non-response with the PUC for the world to see.

At the PUC today, Commerce’s Davis angrily said there was no agreement and that AFCL’s claim was offensive. Objection! The emails and Freeborn Wind’s filings state otherwise, and it’s now a matter of public record. 

Freeborn Wind states they cannot meet the noise standard and proposed “garbage in — garbage out” changes for modeling assumptions: ground factor from 0.0 to 0.5, adding 3 dB(A) which doubles sound pressure; raise the dB(A) for wind contribution of noise to total noise, which “would result in a nonsignificant increase in total sound of less than 3 dB(A);” and when added to “margin of error” of ± 3 dB(A), it adds up. Non-significant? Objection!

Freeborn Wind has said it can’t move turbines away from residents to lower noise levels. Freeborn Wind has also said it has alternate sites in Iowa.

OK, Freeborn Wind, since you can’t comply with Minnesota noise standards, it’s time to move to Iowa. 

Carol A. Overland, Attorney for

Association of Freeborn County Landowners

Solar? WI Regulators Punt

February 26th, 2019

 

Carol A. Overland: Big solar projects need guidance, but regulators punt

Bill Berry’s recent op/ed column said it clearly — the Public Service Commission and solar industry need guidance for siting solar projects. Wisconsin has none. There’s specific wind-siting guidance, but none for solar.

How would “guidance” happen? Typically, that’s “rulemaking,” which can occur by legislative mandate, on the commission’s initiative, or by citizen petition.

Without “guidance,” projects are sited willy-nilly, without regard for setbacks from properties and homes, impacts on agriculture and “exclusive agriculture” land, community purpose and character. When a project moves into an established community, it’s a set-up for a “nuisance” that interferes with another’s use of their property, interferes with their lives.

Jewell Jinkins Intervenors, landowners who are intervening in the Badger Hollow solar project dockets, filed a petition for rulemaking for solar rules and environmental update, and were joined by landowners in Jefferson County. In filing this petition, we were hoping to head off largely irreversible siting problems. Once it’s built, if problems occur, then what?

However, the PSC declared that “rulemaking is not necessary at this time.” Isn’t any other time too late? The commission chose to abdicate its power and claims a legislative mandate is needed for rulemaking. The commission said an update of environmental rules wasn’t necessary, although “solar” doesn’t require any environmental review. A solar project with a lifespan of 30-50 years, with a PSC staff-admitted “dramatic” impact of industrial infrastructure covering prime ag land, doesn’t require environmental review! The commission claims there’s “flexibility in order to ensure that large-scale solar projects get an appropriate level of environmental review.” That didn’t occur for Badger Hollow.

Work within the system? Sure, we’re trying, but with as dysfunctional and absent a regulatory system as this, well — how’s that working for us?

Carol A. Overland, attorney for Jewell Jinkins Intervenors, of Iowa County, WI

Red Wing, Minnesota