Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s soon-to-be Governor, has appointed Rebecca Cameron Valcq as the new head of PSC.
Sounds like at least one docket, the Badger Hollow buy/sell 5-BS-228, is up for a PSC Commissioner recusal when it’s before the Commission!  Why?  Quarles is Rebecca Cameron Valcq’s firm, where she’s big gun in their Energy division.  Quarles just happens to be representing MGE/WPSC, and they were over the top in objecting to Jewell Jinkins Intervenors participation in the MGE/WPSC “buy/sell” docket 5-BS-228, and the Commission blew them out of the water, denied their Motion for Interlocutory Review, with nary a comment”

MGE/WPSC were LOSERS in WI yesterday

Rebecca Cameron Valcq?

From her Quarles bio:

And from a little birdie in the inbox, the direction that Gov. Evers wants to go:

Public Service Commission key to Tony Evers’ climate agenda

This is reminding me of the appointment of Lauren Azar to the Commission…

Hoar Frost over Shell Rock River

December 10th, 2018

This is the Shell Rock River, covered with winter hoar frost today, and part of the DNR’s Shell Rock River State Water Trail, where Freeborn Wind wants to string a transmission line over the river!  Click for larger view:

It’s a State Water Trail – click for larger view:

Doesn’t this just look like the greatest place for transmission across the river?!?!  Good grief, what are they thinking?

We know who you are, and we saw what you did… and didn’t!

No surprise.  Today the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rejected Goodhue Wind Truth’s Petition for Reconsideration of the Commission’s denial of our Petition for Rulemaking.  Rules, who needs rules… about 2,500 MW of wind has been sited in Minnesota WITHOUT LARGE WIND SPECIFIC SITING RULES AND/OR STANDARDS!  Really!  And the Commission doesn’t seem to regard that as a problem.  Large wind is sited using SMALL WIND/COUNTY SITING STANDARDS, not intended for large wind.  And the Commission doesn’t seem to regard that as a problem.  Large wind is sited using MPCA’s industrial noise standards which were admittedly NOT designed with wind in mind.  And the Commission doesn’t seem to regard that as a problem.  Large wind is sited using a Commerce boilerplate site permit with 1,000 foot setbacks and staff has no idea where that 1,000 foot setback came from (it’s contrary to even the small wind standards, and there’s no rule or standard of 1,000 ft!).  And the Commission doesn’t seem to regard that as a problem.

GWT_Reconsideration_FINAL

Here’s the rest of the background information:

I often use this photo, because it represents one simple fact: Sometimes things go off the rails.  Wind siting in Minnesota is one of those things, we have no wind specific siting criteria!

Thursday, December 6th, we’re back at the Commission, where they’ll address Goodhue Wind Truth’s Petition for Reconsideration, or not (and toss it in the circular file).

PUC Notice – Agenda Meeting 12-6-2018

Here’s some background:

Wind Rulemaking — Petition for Reconsideration

     October 16th, 2018

Today’s Wind Rulemaking Comments

     August 24th, 2018

Freeborn Wind’s Transmission

October 26th, 2018

It’s worth taking a look at the Freeborn Wind transmission docket (PUC Docket 17-322). To check it out, go to eDockets and search for 17 (year) 322 (docket number).  Obviously the Commission’s decision is a problem here, and as we’re awaiting the written order, I’m pondering.

There’s a statute that applies to wind proceedings, specified expressly in the “Exemptions” statute  as part of the Power Plant Siting Act that DOES apply.  That’s found here:

216F.02 EXEMPTIONS.

(a) The requirements of chapter 216E do not apply to the siting of LWECS, except for sections 216E.01; 216E.03, subdivision 7; 216E.08; 216E.11; 216E.12; 216E.14; 216E.15; 216E.17; and 216E.18, subdivision 3, which do apply.

Note the seafoam green Minn. Stat. 216E.08:

Subd. 2.Other public participation.

The commission shall adopt broad spectrum citizen participation as a principal of operation. The form of public participation shall not be limited to public hearings and advisory task forces and shall be consistent with the commission’s rules and guidelines as provided for in section 216E.16.

Check out the first and only Prehearing Order issued by the ALJ:

20184-141685-01_PHO

To call it “minimalist” is too generous…  What does it say about public participation?  Where’s the boilerplate information about intervention, about participation and being a “participant,” etc?  M-I-S-S-I-N-G…

Here’s the siting docket’s Prehearing Order #1 as an example – see the difference?

Prehearing Order 1_20179-135781-01

Association of Freeborn County Landowners showed up on September 20, and let the ALJ know in technicolor what we thought, raised many issues in detail, and later submitted written comments, together with the written comments from many members, including information about land where Freeborn Wind was attempting to route over non-participants!

Before the hearing started, I’d approached the ALJ and requested that he swear people on oath or affirm, and he said something to the order of “I remember you” having requested that before.  He didn’t want to put people under oath.  I reiterated that I’d been present, twice, at Commission meetings where Commissioners asked if specific testimony had been provided under oath, and that the rules provide it as an option, so I want to assure that’s not an issue.  The ALJ was not happy but essentially agreed to swear people in if so requested.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

Minnesota Rules include swearing in as a duty of the ALJ:

1400.5500 DUTIES OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE.

Consistent with law, the judge shall perform the following duties:

…  F. administer oaths and affirmations;

That’s a “shall.”

Minnesota Rules have many provisions regarding being sworn in, and regarding testimony regarding “a fact at issue” in a contested case hearing:

All evidentiary testimony presented to prove or disprove a fact at issue shall be under oath or affirmation.

Minn. R. 1400.7800(g).  That’s a “shall.”  Here are a few citations regarding witnesses, oath/affirmation, and facts:

1400.7200 WITNESSES.

Any party may be a witness and may present witnesses on the party’s behalf at the hearing. All oral testimony at the hearing shall be under oath or affirmation. At the request of a party or upon the judge’s own motion, the judge shall exclude witnesses from the hearing room so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses.

1400.7800 CONDUCT OF HEARING, Subp. G.  Any party may be a witness or may present other persons as witnesses at the hearing. All evidentiary testimony presented to prove or disprove a fact at issue shall be under oath or affirmation.

1405.0800 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION, Subp. B.  … However, testimony which is offered without benefit of oath or affirmation, or written testimony which is not subject to cross-examination, shall be given such weight as the administrative law judge deems appropriate.

Oath?  Affirmation?  This is not something anyone should have to push about…

Every Association of Freeborn County Landowner participant requested to be sworn on oath and was.  Not one of the witnesses speaking in support of the project requested to be sworn on oath.

AFCL also filed extensive written comments:

AFCL_TransmissionComments_FINAL

Here’s the ALJ’s Recommendation, filed July 26, 2018:

20187-145230-01_Freeborn ALJ Recommendation

Looking at this recommendation, how are comments from the public laid out?  How are the many substantive comments of AFCL members and project opponents positioned against the few, and with few exceptions, the comments of supports that had no content? Search the Recommendation for “AFCL” and/or “Association of Freeborn County Landowners” and what do ya get?

20187-145230-01_Freeborn ALJ Recommendation

Another point — do you see anywhere the boilerplate language regarding opportunity for any affected party to file Exceptions?  Yeah, this language (example from Docket 17-568):

NOTICE
Notice is hereby given that exceptions to this Report, if any, by any party
adversely affected must be filed under the time frames established in the Commission’s
rules of practice and procedure, Minn. R. 7829.2700, .3100 (2017), unless otherwise
directed by the Commission. Exceptions should be specific and stated and numbered
separately. Oral argument before a majority of the Commission will be permitted
pursuant to Minn. R. 7829.2700, subp. 3. The Commission will make the final
determination of the matter after the expiration of the period for filing exceptions, or after oral argument, if an oral argument is held.
That’s right, it’s not there in the Freeborn Wind transmission docket.
Association of Freeborn County Landowners did file exceptions, filed August 10, 2018, 15 days after the ALJ’s Recommendation:
Yet when the Commission listed “Relevant Documents” in Staff Briefing Papers, ahem… no mention of AFCL Exceptions — it’s as if we didn’t weigh in:
And on the PUC’s calendar and agenda, AFCL Exceptions were also not linked for consideration:
File #: Details 2018-190    Version: 1 Name:
Type: M – Miscellaneous Status: Agenda Ready
File created: 8/30/2018 In control: PUC Agenda Meeting
On agenda: 9/20/2018 Final action:
Title: * IP6946/TL-17-322 Freeborn Wind Energy LLC In the Matter of the Application of Freeborn Wind Energy LLC for a Route Permit for the Freeborn Wind Transmission Line in Freeborn County. 1. Should the Commission adopt the Administrative Law Judge’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation? 2. Should the Commission find that the environmental assessment and the record created at the public hearing adequately address the issues identified in the scoping decision? 3. Should the Commission issue a route permit identifying a specific route and permit conditions for the Freeborn Wind 115 kV Transmission Line Project? (PUC: Kaluzniak)
Attachments: 1. COMBINED files of the Route Permit Application – 9-20-2017, 2. Order Finding Application Complete -12-5-2017, 3. Environmental Assessment Scoping Decision – 3-8-2018, 4. COMBINED files of the Environmental Assessment – 5-14-2018, 5. COMBINED files of the Freeborn Wind Reply Comments – 6-18-2018, 6. COMBINED files of the Freeborn Wind Reply Comments – 6-19-2018, 7. DOC EERA Comments and Proposed Findings of Fact – 6-28-2018, 8. AJI Report – 7-26-2018, 9. DOC EERA Exceptions – 8-8-2018, 10. Briefing Papers