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Goodhue County will ask PUC to reconsider wind permit

By a 4-1 vote, Goodhue County commissioners decided Tuesday that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission should be asked to reconsider the wind permit it approved for AWA Goodhue Wind in June.

AWA Goodhue Wind received a certificate of need and site permit from the PUC for a 48-turbine wind farm that would be located near Goodhue and Zumbrota, but some citizens have fought the creation of the wind farm from the start.

The permitting process has been drawn out for more than a year and a half, while many wind farms are approved in six to 12 months in Minnesota.

While county commissioners contemplated at their meeting Tuesday the need for reconsideration, they wondered how much more cost this would incur for the county.

"Most of the efforts have already been invested in this. It is a long-term effort," Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher replied, adding that asking for reconsideration would require filing a document. The rest is in the hands of the PUC, including whether the county is granted another opportunity to present an oral argument.

But the county attorney won't be alone in filing for reconsideration. Those who previously filed as interveners -- the Coalition for Sensible Siting, Belle Creek Township and Goodhue Wind Truth -- also have the opportunity to ask for reconsideration, and all three groups are taking advantage of it.

"We are filing a reconsideration with the PUC," Belle Creek Township Board Chair Chad Ryan confirmed. "That is complete and it will be filed on Monday."

Against the rest

Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel was the only one of five commissioners who preferred not to ask for reconsideration.

"I just see this as round two of a battle that's not going to end and is going to get continually more expensive," Rechtzigel said.

He also said that the county needs to recognize that the state legislators are the ones who put the requirement in place that says utility companies need to provide 25 percent of their total electrical generation from renewable sources by 2025.

"Maybe I don't like the 55 mph speed limit either, but the fact is it's there," he explained. "Whether we like it or not, the state of Minnesota has been given the authority to regulate these. The state is going to do what they want to do."

Although he voted in favor of reconsideration, Commissioner Richard Samuelson hesitated to continue the fight. He said he doesn't think Betcher should go to the PUC with a long list of things to reconsider, but instead simply focus on the 10-rotor diameter setback that the county wants to enforce but which was decreased by the PUC to 6 RD.

Even with narrowing the field of reconsideration, Samuelson was skeptical of how much success the county will have this time around.

"I'm sure that you're going to come back with some news that will require an appeal," Samuelson told Betcher.

If the PUC rejects Betcher's request for reconsideration, he said he will bring the issue back to the County Board and see if it would like to appeal, though that route could get lengthy and expensive.

"It would be a new process as opposed to a continuation of the existing process," the county attorney noted.

Asking for an appeal would include filing a new court case with the Minnesota Appellate Court, providing every document that will be part of the record in that case and being at any hearings the appellate court wanted to have.