Working remotely?

June 30th, 2022

Is that sort of like the “working hard” v. “hardly working” conundrum?

Last week was almost a pre-COVID “back to normal” with a trip to Freeborn County to meet with two clients, new pipeline and long-time wind. I so miss being on the road, miss trucking, and miss travel out and about to meet with folks. Timing worked so well, it was a good opportunity to take out the trailer and continue to debate about whether it’s time for the trailer to go on to new owners (oh, that mpg hurts!), to debate whether a tent is really workable. And the debate is over. Now to clean it out and sell… sigh…

Site 19 at Bessey Recreational Area, Nebraska National Forest

The Freeborn Wind project is up at the PUC next Thursday, July 7, to address the noise studies, not that they’ll do anything — seems the primary goal is to duck and cover, not deal with noisy turbines.

And the pipeline is going to be a recurring issue. There’s the “little” line going in under Northern Natural Gas’ FERC blanket authority (seems cost/size of project determines whether NNG applies to FERC); there’s the Ventura North E-Line, part of NNG’s Northern Lights 2023 Expansion applied for at FERC earlier this year; and supposedly this month, the “Albert Lea” project. We’ll see how this goes. I know there’s natural gas storage under the Prehn home along Hwy 13, below Hwy. 60, north of Waseca, and DOH, that gas has to get there somehow. And there’s the east/west gas transmission line along Hwy. 14, through my client’s yard in Kasson (and TOO MANY others). But check the map — I didn’t know that there are this many lines.

More to follow…

Recently, I learned that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decided that an “informal” process was to be used in reviewing the three NextEra Dodge County Wind applications and three dockets — Certificate of Need (20-865), Wind Siting (20-866), and Transmission (20-867).

This notion that an “informal” process is appropriate is bizarre — this is exactly the sort of project that needs a contested case!. A few years ago, NextEra had applied for permits for Dodge County Wind, and that project as proposed was so unworkable that they withdrew all three of the applications:

… though for sure it was also hampered by an equally bizarre proposal by Commissioner Tuma that they run a 345kV transmission line through the backyard of homes in Dodge Center! Regular folks stood up and weighed in and stopped this massive transmission line from going through their yards (in many cases, the easement would have included their homes, and many homeowners would have been displaced!).

What are these Commissioners thinking? They’re supposed to be regulators, not enablers.

Anyway, the task at this point is to file comments before the May 25 deadline. In addition to the areas above, it’s important to request a “contested case” and request that an advisory task force be established.

NEXT STEPS:

First, the easy one — Request an advisory task force, as provided by Minn. Stat. 216E.08:

So far, the Commission has not ordered an advisory task force for wind, EVER! Commerce-EERA has always used a very narrow definition of “siting” to argue against it. However, an advisory task force is exactly what’s needed to point out environmental issues and the impacts of both micro and macro siting of the wind project and transmission, i.e., this is LARGE Wind Energy Conversion System (LWECS) sited using small wind standards (Order Establishing General Wind Permit Standards, Docket No. E, G999/M-07-1102 (MPUC 2008); are all the homes (“receptors”) identified on the map; are wetlands and flood areas shown; are the maps sufficiently detailed to show 3×5 and 5×5 rotor setbacks; are easements identified and secured by this private corporation that is not a utility; impact of blinking red lights and use of new motion detected lighting system; impacts on nearby Rice Lake State Park; transmission and distribution lines identified; are all airports there, including private airports for spraying; are all sloughs and wetlands identified; all FAA applications in application; are participating and non-participating landowners regarded equally in siting and modeling; etc.

Second TO DO, and more complicated. In your own words (cut & pasting doesn’t cut it) REQUEST a referral to the Office of Administrative Hearings for a CONTESTED CASE PROCEEDING, and explain what material issues of fact need to be addressed in a contested case. Commenters thus far have raised issues that need to be addressed, the record developed, before any decision can be made. Some clues were above, and now rehashed below:

  • This is LARGE Wind Energy Conversion System (LWECS) sited using small wind standards (Order Establishing General Wind Permit Standards, Docket No. E, G999/M-07-1102 (MPUC 2008) — small wind standards are not relevant to a LWECS project;
  • Most wind projects miss homes in the project footprint — are all the homes (“receptors”) identified on the map and considered in siting;
  • Does the project have all land rights for wind turbines (“targeted, pending, no status, and not interested” do not count, only leased. It appears that land rights are needed for 14 turbines.
  • Does the project have all land rights for transmission. This is a private company with no right of eminent domain.
  • Are all wetlands, calcareous fens, sloughs, and flood areas accurately mapped and impacts considered;
  • Are the maps sufficiently detailed to accurately depict the 3×5 and 5×5 rotor setbacks;
  • Are impacts of blinking red lights considered;
  • Is the use of new motion detected lighting system approved and is FAA applications for this system and for all turbine lighting in the application;
  • What are impacts on nearby Rice Lake State Park and other state land, easements, waters;
  • NextEra has been fined by USFWS and is “on probation” for killing at least 150 bald eagles. Is NextEra’s eagle survey and Avian and Bat Protection Plan sufficient;
  • Are all existing transmission and distribution lines identified and considered;
  • Is noise modeling predictive of ability to comply with noise standards;
  • Will shadow flicker be inflicted on residents?
  • Has use of storage rather than transmission been evaluated;
  • Is this the highest and best use for agricultural land;
  • Does utility scale central station wind fit with county and township land use plans;
  • Are claims that energy generated will be used in Minnesota credible, particularly considering typical powerflows to the east and south;
  • Will this project directly reduce generation of CO2;
  • Are all airports identified, including private airports for spraying, and are impacts considered;
  • Are the impacts, risks, and costs of the turbines on aerial crop and insect spraying, medical, and hazmat helicopter flights identified and considered;
  • Are participating and non-participating landowners regarded equally in siting and modeling impacts and avoidance;
  • Is there a binding road use agreement with townships and counties;
  • Does the decommissioning plan sufficiently protect landowners from burden of decommissioning and cost recovery in the event of operator’s failure to decommission, bankruptcy, and/or abandonment of the project;
  • etc., etc., etc.

Comments are due by 4:30 p.m. on May 25th. DON’T MISS THIS DEADLINE!!

In addition to sending in your comments using options below, I also STRONGLY ADVISE you post them in eDockets. Registration is easy and immediate, and by posting to all three dockets, others will know about issues you’re concerned with and can join in and amplify these concerns.

OK, let’s get to work — it’s time to print out those documents, the revised application, later filings of maps, etc.

To access the PUC dockets go HERE to eDockets Project Database, then search for dockets 20-865 (Certificate of Need), 20-866 (Wind Siting), and 20-867 (Transmission). Just plug “20” into the “year” space, and “865” or “866” or “867” into the “docket” space.

Subscribe to the docket to get notice of filings — subscribe by clicking on a box under the “Subscribe” column heading, then click the grey “Subscribe” button, and follow the directions:

Here are links to some of the NextEra “Dodge County Wind” docket filings:

Certificate of Need Application – Docket CN-20-865:

Wind Site Permit Application & Filings – Docket WS-20 866:

Transmission Route Permit Application – Docket TL-20-867

Initial noise testing at Madsons’ home — Xcel refuses to release results!

Freeborn Wind permit (and standard language in all permits) has noise limits, the state standard (Minn. R. 7030.0040) and permit condition limits:

Xcel’s conslutant’s noise monitoring report (2 parts):

And then Commerce-EERA wants to review and “analyze” it and here’s the result, released yesterday:

Despite documented noise exceedences, they craft it to this result:

… sigh… it starts out promising:

What it looks like is that the measurements of noise monitoring aren’t taken seriously, and that “binning” is used to obfuscate and dismiss testing and monitoring results that show noise levels above those permitted.

Remember the ALJ’s recommendation for this project, that the permit be denied because Freeborn had not demonstrated it could comply with noise standards?

OAH+80-2500-34633+Final+Order

WE WON!!! ALJ Recommend Freeborn Permit be DENIED, or… May 14th, 2018

And then the PUC bends over and gives Freeborn/Xcel what it wants:

Freeborn? PUC upends ALJ’s Freeborn Wind Recommendation September 21st, 2018

To challenge this, hiring a noise expert is necessary, and then it’s time to sue their collective asses. It becomes the responsibility of those affected by the wind project’s incursion on their land to raise the objections and foot the bill. Fair? Equity? Justice? In what world…

It’s out, the Prairie Island Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, here are the pieces from the Commerce-EERA site. Check it out and register your comments by May 10, 2022:

Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) — Prairie Island Nuclear Plant

There doesn’t seem to be a link to a “one stop shopping” pdf of the entire thing.

You can also find the SEIS at the Red Wing Library.

Next steps? Comments on adequacy of the SEIS.

COMMENTS DUE MAY 10, 2022

Grant Merritt in the STrib:

Counterpoint: Case still powerful against nuclear energy

It would be unsafe and costly for Minnesota to reverse the moratorium. 

By Grant J. Merritt April 13, 2022

In response to “Times change. Minnesota nuclear moratorium must end” (Opinion Exchange, April 11), there are five reasons to retain Minnesota’s moratorium on building any more fission nuclear power plants.

The first is that ever since the Atomic Energy Commission began promoting them back in the post-World War II days, and over the ensuing 75 years, no acceptable storage locations have been found for the radioactive wastes.

The second reason is that these plants are prone to accidents, such as we had at the Monticello NSP nuclear plant on Nov. 19, 1971, when 50,000 gallons of radioactive water flowed into the Mississippi River. This caused the commissioner of the Minnesota Health Department to close the water intakes in the metro due to the threat to human health. That catapulted the accident into national news. Serious accidents occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant followed by the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear plants.

The third reason to oppose any more of these plants here or elsewhere in the U.S. is the threat of terrorism, now being experienced at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

The fourth reason is that licensing nukes is difficult due to opposition by many people, even though the U.S. government has preempted state regulation of potential exposure to water discharges. Thanks to action by former Gov. Wendell Anderson when he was a U.S. senator, air emissions are not preempted, so the state can hold hearings on air emission permits, which would no doubt be hotly opposed.

The final reason for continuing the moratorium is that building nuclear power plants is so excessively costly that the nuclear plant that was well underway to being built on the Savannah River in South Carolina was abandoned by voters.

For these reasons the Minnesota Legislature should not reverse the nuclear moratorium.

Grant J. Merritt, of New Hope, is a retired attorney. He was executive director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 1971-75.