Tomorrow is the day — oral arguments of the appeal of the Public Utility Commission’s Order granting AWA Goodhue a permit.

Notice of Oral Argument

PUC Order – AWA Goodhue Wind Project Permit

Arguments are scheduled for 11:15 a.m. in Room 100 at the Minnesota Judicial Center, 25 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul.

I don’t have electronic copies of the Public Utilities Commission and AWA Goodhue briefs, here’s what I do have:

Coalition for Sensible Siting – Initial Brief

Goodhue Wind Truth – Amicus Brief

Coalition for Sensible Siting – Reply Brief

There’s a lot at stake here, primarily local control — whether a county can regulate a wind project.  Under the Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA), local governments are typically pre-empted from regulating utility projects, except in a few narrow cases, for example power plants and transmission where the project applicant chooses local review having met the criteria  set forth in Minn. Stat. 216E.05.  Another way local governments have a say in regulating utility infrastructure is through a legislative tax exemption under Minn. Stat. 272.02 and  Host Fee Agreement in lieu of Utility Personal Property Tax, where the legislative mandate and the Host Fee Agreement can include non-tax material terms.  Neither of these options are available to wind projects or local governments wishing to regulate wind projects.

HOWEVER, the legislature did pass this gem — note “shall” in the language:


A county may adopt by ordinance standards for LWECS that are more stringent than standards in commission rules or in the commission’s permit standards. The commission, in considering a permit application for LWECS in a county that has adopted more stringent standards, shall consider and apply those more stringent standards, unless the commission finds good cause not to apply the standards.

And this is what this appeal is about – whether the Public Utilities Commission had good cause not to apply the standards, because where they do not have good cause, they SHALL apply the county standards.

We’ll see how it goes tomorrow…


“Double Trouble” taken by Marie McNamara on her organic dairy farm within the AWA Goodhue project footprint.

I know, too much alphabet soup in the title… but the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued the Order denying the AWA Goodhue Avian and Bat Protection Plan week before last, and I’ve been drowning in CapX and didn’t get it posted, so…


DNR Comments on ABPP

USFWS Comments on ABPP

Revised AWA Goodhue Avian and Bat Protection Plan

The DNR and USFWS wrote blisteringly negative comments, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and AWA revised their plan, but not enough.  This was the scenario where Commerce wrote staff briefing papers for the Commission and didn’t even tell them about the agency comments, and didn’t update their “recommendation” even after the meeting had been cancelled twice for their failure to allow time for comments on the Revised Plan and failure to disclose DNR and USFWS comments and then rescheduled yet again for the PUC’s failure to provide legal notice of the meeting, an amazing series of screw-ups.  Finally, the PUC meeting was held, it lasted almost all day, and they rejected it.


PUC Order Denying AWA Goodhue’s ABPP

AWA Goodhue did NOT expect this, that was obvious.  The PUC was pretty clear that AWA had not complied, that “good enough” just wasn’t.

The Commission, too, is concerned about the extent of missing bat data because collecting a full season of data prior to construction would enable the parties and the agencies to make determinations as accurately as possible about the presence of bat species. That process has been severely compromised, and the permit condition was not met. The Commission will therefore direct AWA Goodhue to complete the acoustic bat monitoring required under the site permit and to conduct an additional season of monitoring in 2013.

And trumpeter swans!  They’re paying attention to trumpeter swans!

In August 2011, the DNR confirmed a report of trumpeter swans nesting within a two mile buffer of the Project’s footprint. AWA Goodhue stated that it will visit the nest site early in the 2012 breeding season to determine whether it is again used for nesting. AWA Goodhue also stated, however, that the Project area encompasses very little habitat potentially suitable for nesting by trumpeter swans. The DNR stated that swans are not likely to move substantially during the breeding season and that monitoring should be conducted during the breeding season, summer post fledging, and fall migration.

The Commission must ensure that the potential impacts to trumpeter swans, which were previously considered eliminated in Minnesota, are understood and addressed. The Commission concurs that future monitoring will be useful in making those determinations.

DNR’s Non-Game Wildlife – Trumpeter Swan page

Bottom line?  Here ’tis:


1. The Commission hereby denies approval of the AWA Goodhue revised avian and bat protection plan.

2. AWA Goodhue shall conduct the bat monitoring required under the site permit.

3. AWA Goodhue shall conduct an additional season of acoustic bat monitoring in 2013 from July 1 to October 15 using the methods specified in site permit condition 13.1.2.

Busy day for Goodhue Wind Truth

February 2nd, 2012

Yesterday was a busy day for Goodhue Wind Truth.

First was a Motion to the Appellate Court:

Goodhue Wind Truth – Motion for Intervention/Request for Participation as Amicus Curiae

Next was our Petition for Rulemaking, filed yesterday as a part of our Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing Comments, and formally filed with Dr. Haar at the Public Utilities Commission.

Petition for Rulemaking

The PUC is in charge of the Wind siting rules, well, the EQB was directed by the legislature in 1995 to promulgate rules, and finally in January, 2008, the Commission finalized the siting rules for wind projects under 25 MW (and above 5 MW):

PUC Order – Siting of Wind Projects under 25 MW

And for projects 25 MW and above, they haven’t done anything, that was 17 years ago, so here we are… do we have to get a Writ of Mandamus?

WAKE UP PUC!  Time to do some wind rules!

216F.05 RULES.

The commission shall adopt rules governing the consideration of an application for a site permit for an LWECS that address the following:

(1) criteria that the commission shall use to designate LWECS sites, which must include the impact of LWECS on humans and the environment;

(2) procedures that the commission will follow in acting on an application for an LWECS;

(3) procedures for notification to the public of the application and for the conduct of a public information meeting and a public hearing on the proposed LWECS;

(4) requirements for environmental review of the LWECS;

(5) conditions in the site permit for turbine type and designs; site layout and construction; and operation and maintenance of the LWECS, including the requirement to restore, to the extent possible, the area affected by construction of the LWECS to the natural conditions that existed immediately before construction of the LWECS;

(6) revocation or suspension of a site permit when violations of the permit or other requirements occur; and

(7) payment of fees for the necessary and reasonable costs of the commission in acting on a permit application and carrying out the requirements of this chapter.


T. Boone Pickens’ AWA Goodhue AVIAN AND BAT PROTECTION PLAN was to be on the Public Utilities Commission agenda on Thursday.  That’s too soon, they just dumped hundreds of pages of info on us, and on the reviewing agencies, week before last:

AWA Goodhue Fall Migration Study

Revised AWA Goodhue Avian and Bat Protection Plan

And here’s the primary documents that caused the ruckus — the ABPP plan from hell and agency comments on it:


USFWS Comments on AWA Goodhue’s Avian and Bat Protection Plan

DNR Comments on AWA Goodhue Avian & Bat Protection Plan

Given the specificity and many pages of comments, it’d take a bit more than a week to analyze the Comments (WHICH WERE WITHHELD BY COMMERCE FOR A WEEK AND NOT FILED UNTIL JANUARY 19!) and determine whether AWA Goodhue had properly addressed them.

I was floored by their last minute filings, and filed a Motion with the PUC to take it off the agenda:

Goodhue Wind Truth Motion for Extension

And not too long after, day or two, the PUC did indeed pull it off the agenda and didn’t reschedule:

PUC Notice of Withdrawal of Agenda Item

Double trouble for AWA – taken in the AWA Goodhue wind project footprint:


to be clear, there are lots and lots of bald eagles here, and there are documented golden eagles too.  USFWS has said there are no permits available for golden eagles for this project.

ABPP – that’s Avian and Bat Protection Plan:


AWA Goodhue Fall Migration Study

U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources have filed comments on the Avian and Bat Protection Plan.  These are MUST READ Comments!

USFWS Comments on ABPP

DNR Comments on ABPP

And here is the response to my Data Request to the Board of Animal Health asking for copies of AWA Complaints to Board of Animal Health about Eagle Baiting and the reports of their investigations showing no violations found, that there is no basis for enforcement action:

Response to Data Request – Board of Animal Health

In the AWA Goodhue wind project footprint, T. Boone Pickens is at it again – the helicopters are flying today:


Does that look like 200 feet??  Is it the same one from Brainerd Helicopter Service?

Here they are by the met tower, that’s 197 feet tall,  just enough to keep under the lighting requirement, and the helicopter is just above:


Clients got the call from sheriff and utilized their phone tree to spread the word that AWA Goodhue helicopters would be flying today, notice came in at 10:00 a.m. and helicopter sighted at 10:30 a.m.  Sheriff did a good job in notifying as soon as notice came in, but come on AWA, how about letting the landowners know reasonably ahead of time, report it when you book the helicopter???  It’s not that hard!

Here it is near a communications tower – the lights are out on that tower, somebody call maintenance!