AFCL’s MERA suit dismissed

November 29th, 2020

The judge’s Order arrived, and it’s disappointing, to put it mildly.

The judge’s decision focused on the belief that these matters had been litigated in another forum, so we couldn’t do it again. Litigated? Intervention is not necessarily litigation, though certainly AFCL intervened in the Freeborn Wind docket, and certainly did not in the Plum Creek, Three Waters or Buffalo Ridge dockets. And in this District Court proceeding, Lisa Agrimonti let me know that another attorney would be lead in this case, that their firm was putting a “litigator” on it. Hmmmm, Agrimonti’s not a litigator, and put Alethea Huyser on the job, so the firm admits that what we, Freeborn Wind and AFCL, were doing in those dockets was not litigation, right, I get it… uh-huh… sigh…

How do we deal with these systemic problems in wind siting? 25 years and still no rules? Setbacks aren’t sufficient to prevent noise standard violations and people need to leave their homes to be able to sleep, so far two families reached settlements and buyouts to get away from noisy turbines. Wind projects pay out for blinds so people can sit in the dark, or suggest going to Florida, to avoid shadow flicker inflicted on them. At the PPSA Annual Hearing last week, the DOT said it wants the 250 foot setback from roads reevaluated. The Public Utilities Commission has actual and constructive notice of these problems for years, yet nothing happens…

Let’s see… rulemaking Petitions denied over and over. The only time we’ve had a contested case, the judge recommended denial because developer had not demonstrated compliance with noise standard, and recommended a lower number of hours as “acceptable” for shadow flicker.

Once more with feeling — the ONLY time, the FIRST time, in Minnesota history where there was a contested case on a wind siting permit, the only time it could arguably be said the issues were “litigated,” the ALJ recommended that the permit be denied!

WE WON!!! ALJ Recommend Freeborn Permit be DENIED, or…

May 14th, 2018

The PUC turned that around in a private settlement with the developer, excluding intervenors.

Freeborn? PUC upends ALJ’s Freeborn Wind Recommendation

September 21st, 2018

Now what… How many more complaints, how many more landowner settlements, before they fix this mess?

What’s the point of intervening, becoming a party? What’s the point of raising issues at the Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing (for 23 years)? What’s the point of over and over raising the systemic problems in the PUC’s wind siting? How do we work “within the system” when the system is broken?

From observers on the scene:

“Another day and another truck that didn’t make their turn. 3 semis in the ditch in 2 days. Might not be the drivers. Photos from today (yesterday) at dusk. Not too safe for residents.”

Road and driveway blocked. Some have had to wait 40+ minutes to be able to get to their homes!

Perhaps it’s time to terminate the existing road agreement and revise it!

OOPS! Freeborn Wind…

November 20th, 2020

PPSA Annual Hearing NOW

November 20th, 2020

RIGHT NOW! It’s the PPSA Annual Hearing… sigh… here we go again.

Go to webex, Event # 146 311 2620. The powerpoint slides will be here (and will also be filed on eDockets).

To be able to comment, you have to get on the phone 866-609-6127, Conference ID: 4449079, and to comment, you need to press #1 and get in queue.

Here is the Commerce info about this year’s projects:

And for the record, folks, note that wind is not exempt from many of the parts of the PPSA:

Look at that photo above — see the tree stump just to the right of the right-hand orange cone??? See that new taller powerline pole plopped on the boulevard behind the truck??? It’s our friends at Xcel Energy again.

The City of Northfield’s Engineering Department permitted the mowing down of trees and installation of powerline poles without any notice or public process. WHAT?!?! Yes, really…

The day after election day I got a call, then went to check out the scene, and fired off a Data Practices Act Request, because I couldn’t find anything on any City agenda or anywhere on the interwebs… there was nothing before the Planning Commission or the City Council. This is what I got from the City:

Turns out it was a staff decision, no public process, no notice, no environmental review, nothing, nada…

This powerline project is a second part of a multi-part project, the first was from the Hubers Solar project (so the sign says) east of Northfield on Wall Street…

… with the first part going to 5th Street and Prairie. From there, they’d originally planned to go east on 5th Street…

It’s rather hard to see the yellow line representing the map, click for larger view, or go to p. 13 of Data Request Response) but in essence, it starts on the eastern side of this map at 5th and Prairie, heading west to Washington Street, south to 8th Street, then west to Water, north to 7th, cutting between an apartment building and a strip mall to the Cannon River, running northeasterly along the Cannon and crossing over to the Police/Fire station on south side of 5th, across 5th and straight north through Ames (“goose poop”) Park and heading across Highway 3 directly over an office building and across 3rd Street over or right next to the rehabbed Historic Depot, and across 2nd Street to the substation.

Here’s another problem… the City did push Xcel Energy to use 7th Street rather than 5th Street, ostensibly due to fewer trees to be cut on 5th Street, but there doesn’t seem to be any initiative to utilize the underground electric route under 4th Street. Why not?!?! AND, even more bizarre, the project as permitted ends in front of City Hall, a powerline to nowhere!

In a chat with City Engineering staff, it was readily admitted that this was only part of the powerline project, the first part was built from the solar project on Wall Street to 5th Street; that this was “Phase 2,” that it needed to go further and connect to the 2nd Street substation, and, well, “Phase 3” it seems they do not know how it’s going to get from 8th & Washington to the 2nd Street substation! So what about “Phase 3” and routing through other neighborhoods?

There’s also a big picture planning component here. Northfield requires undergrounding of distribution lines in new subdivisions, it’s been that way for a while. Northfield has also undergrounded powerlines under 4th Street, and I’d imagine others as well. Yet driving around 7th Street, Prairie and 5th, and around City Hall, across 7th to the river, down to Woodley, up Highway 3, Ames Park, there’s a jumble web of powerlines that the City needs to take a look at and develop a plan for getting them underground, for reliability and for aesthetics. Yes, people do tend to zone out and not see the powerlines in their every-day lives, but stop and look, and Northfield has a mess hanging in the air. Just look!

Anyway, here we go… shortly thereafter, yes, onward with a Minnesota Environmental Rights Action challenge to this mess, with an aim toward getting some notice, public process, and environmental review, to get it back to the City, as provided by Minn. Stat. 116B.10.

Summons and Complaint has been served. What a concept… guess it’s a foreign concept where Xcel Energy is concerned, City doesn’t want to look too closely. And after all, it’s for a solar project west of town. Come on, folks, we need to take a closer look here and consider the neighbors, the community. And Phase III of this project? Let’s consider the big picture here!

And some interesting background has floated up. Here’s the application for the USS Hubers Solar project, the one that’s depending on this upgrade and uprate through Northfield to interconnect:

Note that the application for a Rice County Conditional Use Permit says, on p. 22 of 44 (Application above):

Ummmm… I don’t think so… Xcel Energy needs to uprate the system and wants $359,921, p. 35 of 44:

There’s no indication in the Rice County Conditional Permit application or approval docs that they would need a permit from City of Northfield for the uprate. Most permit applications do list other permits that are needed. Not so here, just the Xcel notice that they have to pony up $$ and sign the interconnection agreement. I wouldn’t expect folks other than electric wonks to attach any meaning to that!!! (the application says that the interconnection agreement IS ATTACHED but it isn’t, just that notice of what the costs will be and that they need to sign GIA).

There was also no disclosure of the need for a Permit from City of Northfield to do the uprate work, though the County permit does require that all permits be obtained before starting construction at the project site.

FYI – Looks like they also got a $2.3 million grant for the solar project via the Rural Energy for America Program: