May 26, 2011

County attorney submits exceptions in wind case

By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle, 25 May 2011

About two weeks after administrative law Judge Kathleen Sheehy recommended Goodhue County not apply its wind power ordinance to a 78 megawatt, 52-turbine project proposed by AWA Goodhue Wind, area attorneys submitted exceptions to the judge’s findings.

Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher filed a response May 16 that provided an exception to nearly half of Sheehy’s 179 findings of fact and conclusions. Belle Creek Township agreed with every exception put forward by the county, and added supplemental exceptions in its own submission.

“We wanted to include more of the record – a more balanced picture of the record,” Betcher said. “I think the exceptions speak for themselves.”

Betcher developed an exception for Sheehy’s findings on topics ranging from shadow flicker to stray voltage to setbacks for wetlands.

One topic in particular that has many Goodhue County residents concerned is potential noise pollution.

Sheehy found that all turbine sites proposed by AWA Goodhue Wind are located far enough from dwellings to meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency noise standards.

Betcher provided an exception that said the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission concluded the MPCA nighttime noise standard does not adequately protect the health of citizens. He referenced a Minnesota Department of Health publication from 2009 that described how low-frequency sound generated by wind turbines could result in sleep deprivation because walls and windows of homes block out higher frequencies better than lower frequency noise.

“I believe the ALJ’s findings in this case are really more in the nature of a recommendation and the Public Utilities Commission will review that information and reach its own independent conclusion,” the county attorney said.

Betcher’s submission to the commission also requested Goodhue County have a chance to present an oral argument when the hearing for AWA Goodhue Wind’s permit application is held. The hearing date has not been set, but Betcher said he thinks it will come up in June.

“We are looking forward to that opportunity and hoping to persuade the PUC that there is more to the picture than the findings that were made by the ALJ,” he said.

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