At a specially scheduled meeting Monday night, the Belle Creek Town Board voted to appeal the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s decision to allow a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County.
Citizens stuffed themselves into available chairs and crowded in the back of the Belle Creek Town Hall to voice their opinions prior to the board’s vote.
Many of them encouraged board members to appeal, explaining their concerns surrounding wind turbines in the area.
Rochester resident Mary Hartman has been studying the possible effects of wind turbines on raptors and bats.
“You have a remarkable ecosystem here and I think it’s worth fighting for,” she told the board.
Hartman also said the wind project isn’t necessary for the state to reach its goal of getting 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
“This whole project is not about needs, it’s about wants,” Hartman said. “You need to tell this developer no in any way you can.”
Representatives from developer AWA Goodhue Wind and its legal counsel were at the Belle Creek Board meeting. Attorney Christy Brusven suggested that the board consider how much money an appeal would cost before jumping into it.
Local resident Larry Fox agreed. He asked Belle Creek Board Chair Chad Ryan how much the township has already spent to fight the wind project.
“I would guesstimate we’re probably $15,000 – probably in the ball park of that,” Ryan said, adding that an appeal would likely cost another $15,000 to $25,000.
“Where do you draw the line here? I’m sure they’ve got a lot deeper pockets than you guys do,” Fox said, referring to AWA Goodhue.
Still, the board was less concerned with finances and more focused on continuing its fight, regardless of the fact Belle Creek no longer has Goodhue County fighting alongside it.
“Nobody’s been on our side,” Ryan said. “It’s very disappointing when you have a county that can’t stand up for themselves.”
A lot of opposition
A handful of participating landowners that signed with AWA Goodhue to be part of the project recently decided they want out of their contracts, and several of them made sure the Belle Creek Board knew about their intentions.
Ryan said he had received many phone calls from participating landowners Monday and exactly half told him to appeal while the other half asked him not to appeal.
“That throws a huge flag up,” Ryan said. “How can 50 percent of the participants want to appeal?”
The final decision to appeal was approved with votes from Ryan and Supervisor Richard Buck. Jim Hadler, the board’s third member, abstained from the vote because he has signed a contract with AWA Goodhue to participate in the project.
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