Appeals court sides with wind company
The Minnesota Court of Appeals decided Monday that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission was accurate in throwing out a Goodhue County setback ordinance for wind projects.
Citizens have been arguing at various levels of government that the 10-rotor diameter setback developed by Goodhue County for wind projects is a necessary component to its zoning ordinance, but the PUC determined a 6-rotor diameter setback was sufficient.
After first asking for reconsideration from the PUC and not getting it, wind opposition group Coalition for Sensible Siting brought its issue to the appellate court in a case heard April 25. The court took only two-thirds of the 90 days allotted to come to a decision.
"Because substantial evidence supports the MPUC's factual findings and those facts constitute good cause to disregard the setback, we affirm," the court wrote in a decision released Monday.
CSS attorney Dan Schleck released a statement after the decision was made, saying:
"The Coalition for Sensible Siting is very disappointed that the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not agree with our contention that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission failed to follow the requirement of the Minnesota Legislature found in Minnesota Statutes 216F.081 which requires the PUC to respect validly adopted County Ordinances when permitting large wind energy conversion systems."
Members of CSS voiced their disappointment as well.
"I think it's quite unfortunate. I thought this was the judicial side so they would look at case law, and that's not really what they did," Ann Buck said. "It almost looks like they didn't want to set a precedent for being known for taking a wind project away and hurting the wind industry."
In addition to being worried about the actual wind project because of decreased setbacks, Buck is one of many area residents who are also fearful that Goodhue County's jurisdiction is getting eliminated entirely.
"It's not just about wind. It's about all county and township ordinances," she said. "I think it's very disturbing and downright scary to me that they're taking away local control."
With the appeal shot down, CSS could potentially take its case to the Minnesota Supreme Court -- but not without the financial means to do so.
"We'll have to assess if that will be an option," Buck said. "We've already spent six figures fighting this and of course (AWA Goodhue Wind seems) to have an unending supply of money."
If the funding can be figured out, Buck said she thinks the case has potential to be heard in a higher court.
"We have heard from different lawyers that this is a type of case that the Supreme Court would probably look at."