County questions C-BED status of wind projectThe Goodhue County Board followed advice from its legal counsel Tuesday and chose not to withdraw a resolution supporting the C-BED status of an area wind project — at least not yet.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
The Goodhue County Board followed advice from its legal counsel Tuesday and chose not to withdraw a resolution supporting the C-BED status of an area wind project — at least not yet.
Commissioner Ron Allen made a motion to rescind a resolution of support that said a 78-megawatt wind project planned near Goodhue met the requirements for Community-Based Energy Development status. The board adopted the resolution in 2008, but changes with the project’s management and ownership since then have had some citizens speculating as to whether C-BED status is still warranted.
“It’s not what I voted for in 2008,” Allen said.
Commissioner Ted Seifert agreed and seconded the motion, saying that because the project is no longer being run by the same company, it requires “a re-look.”
“And we would invite the current owners to reapply,” Seifert said.
The project has been owned by Peter J. Mastic Holdings II, LLC, since Oct. 2. In the past, it has been under the ownership of American Wind Alliance, a subsidiary of a Texas-based company, and National Wind, which was recently acquired by an India-based company.
“I can’t imagine it met C-BED being owned by somebody in Texas,” Allen said.
His motion was the opposite of what Goodhue County Attorney Steve Betcher advised commissioners to do at the meeting. Betcher warned that rescinding the resolution of support could result in civil lawsuits against the county because C-BED projects can sell energy at a higher rate than those without C-BED status.
“This is significant because any kind of lawsuit that came up … could allege that the loss in revenue from being a non-C-BED project … could be the basis for any kind of damage claim that could be filed against the county,” Betcher explained.
Additionally, Betcher said that the county’s insurance provider has stated it would not provide coverage or legal representation for board actions to rescind the resolution.
While Allen and Seifert wanted to withdraw county support, other board members sided with Betcher.
“I don’t know how you can read the county attorney’s recommendation and vote for the motion and second that you’re offering today,” Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. “You’re putting the entire county at risk to make some political statement that’s going to fall on deaf ears.”
“If the board chooses to revoke this resolution at this time it will be … something that has potentially very substantial legal implications for the county of Goodhue,” Betcher said.
Instead of taking immediate action, the county could wait until the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Office of Energy Security make their decisions as to whether the project still qualifies for C-BED status. The PUC is the governing body that regulates large wind energy conversion systems throughout the state.
County Administrator Scott Arneson suggested the board advise staff and the county attorney to direct correspondence to the PUC and make it aware of the county’s concerns.
Betcher said that would be a much safer option than rescinding the resolution immediately, especially since the PUC can investigate the question of C-BED status.
“And, I would argue, (has) the obligation to investigate further,” Betcher added.
The board decided to send a request to the PUC asking it to research whether the project meets C-BED status, and voted unanimously to table the matter to a future meeting after the PUC makes its decision.
“If it is determined that they no longer meet the C-BED statute, then we rescind the resolution. That’s a no-brainer,” Rechtzigel said. “I’m all in favor of us taking the approach that doesn’t land us in years of litigation, which would be to urge the PUC and OES to conduct a thorough investigation.”