December 5, 2011

County board drives last nail into coffin of wind case

By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle, 4 December 2011

Even after a second vote on whether Goodhue County should appeal in the case regarding the AWA Goodhue Wind project, the same answer remains – no.

The original vote from the County Board’s meeting Nov. 15 resulted in a 2-2 tie to appeal the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s decision to approve a 78-megawatt wind project in Goodhue County. Without a majority ruling, the motion failed.

However, since Commissioner Richard Samuelson was absent, he asked his fellow commissioners at their meeting Thursday to consider voting again.

Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher explained that only those who had previously voted no – either Commissioner Jim Bryant or Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel – were allowed to bring the vote back to the table. Bryant made a motion to reconsider, saying the original vote should have been delayed until Samuelson could be present.

“Commissioner Samuelson is entitled to have a vote in this,” he said. “We should have waited.”

Samuelson represents District 2, where a majority of the wind turbines are planned.

Samuelson said he received several emails asking him to bring the issue back up to the board so his opinion would be officially included.

“To clear the air, make it here in the minutes,” he explained.

At a Belle Creek Town Board meeting Monday night, Samuelson was criticized for his absence during the important vote. He told citizens at the meeting he would have voted no had he been present, explaining that an appeal would cost too much money and he couldn’t put that burden on taxpayers.

Belle Creek Town Board voted that night to continue with its appeals process, but a room full of angry residents verbally attacked Samuelson for the County Board’s decision not to stand behind the county ordinance that requires a 10-rotor diameter setback for turbines from non-participating residents.

The gathering became so heated, in fact, that Samuelson called law enforcement officials upon leaving that night.

Just as he said he would at the Town Board meeting, Samuelson voted no Thursday in the final consideration of a county appeal, contributing to the 3-2 failure of the motion.

After months of reviewing the county’s ordinance, determining unwanted aspects of a large wind farm, asking the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its approval of the project and voting several times on whether to appeal, it seems the end of the road for the County Board’s involvement in the wind case has finally come.

“There isn’t anything procedurally that allows a reconsideration of a reconsidered vote. Not that I’m aware of,” Betcher said.

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