The Public Service Commission will decide in less than a week whether to approve a 4.5-mile reroute of Minnkota Power Cooperative’s wind power transmission line near the farm of Edward and Jeanne Olson, rural Argusville, N.D.
The Olsons testified at a PSC hearing Tuesday that the company’s proposed reroute isn’t satisfactory and still brings the high-voltage line adjacent to a rented section where they graze their prize Angus cattle.
They fear their customers will blame stray voltage from the line for any health problems their cattle might develop in the future and quit buying from them. The Olsons sell cattle in 22 states.
Edward Olson said they are afraid of the line because of what they have heard about stray voltage affecting farm livestock near Minnesota power lines.
Minnkota has not been truthful and is “picking on us” because of their request, he said. The co-op won’t tell them why they picked the route they did, he said.
Gerad Paul, a staff attorney for Minnkota, said after the hearing that the Olsons are members of the cooperative, and it is obligated to treat them well. He said they have been treated “fairly and honestly in all dealings.”
Co-op spokesman Mike Nisbet said after the hearing that there never has been credible evidence that electromagnetic fields from power lines are harmful. He said the stray voltage cases elsewhere involved distribution lines that lead to individual farms and their various buildings, not transmission lines.
Minnkota said the proposed reroute around the Olsons’ farm was picked based on the wishes Edward Olson expressed at a PSC hearing in Casselton, N.D., on May 22. A Minnkota lawyer read Olson his own testimony in which he said he wanted the line at least 1.5 miles away from his farm.
Olson said Tuesday it is not 1.5 miles away from a section adjoining their farm that his family has rented and farmed and put cattle on for 50 years. He said they would prefer it be five miles away and would accept two miles away.
Jeanne Olson also testified. She said they want to know how tall the structures are that hold the lines and want to know if it is going to be upgraded to carry more power in the future.
“We aren’t jerks, and we aren’t against progress, but this is going to hurt us,” she said. She left the hearing in tears.
The PSC already has approved the route except for the section near the Olsons’ farm. Tuesday’s hearing was a supplemental hearing only on the proposed Olson farm reroute. Nisbet said the reroute Minnkota has proposed already has added $40 million in costs to the line.
The 230-kilovolt line will carry electric power from the new Ashtabula Wind Farm north of Valley City, N.D., to Minnkota’s distribution station near Reile’s Acres, a development northwest of Fargo. The distribution station is a major hub sending power from the west to all of the Minnkota service area.
Minnkota provides power to several rural electric cooperatives in North Dakota and Minnesota whose territories cover eastern North Dakota from Cass County to the Canadian border. Minnkota also supplies Northern Municipal Power, which provides electricity in Park River and Grafton, N.D., as well as 10 cities in Minnesota, including Halstad, Hawley, Warren and Stephen.
Commission President Susan Wefald said after the meeting that Minnkota wants the PSC to decide the issue before next Wednesday.
The line and the wind farm have to be operational by the end of the year in order to qualify for a federal wind power production tax credit that expires Dec. 31.
Janell Cole, North Dakota Capitol Bureau
9 July 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding