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Letter: Freeborn Wind tabled at PUC

Today, the Public Utilities Commission tabled Freeborn Wind’s project docket. Parties have 14 days to provide language and explanation of proposed noise permit requirements, with motions for reconsideration tabled for a future meeting. That also gives confused commissioners time to review recent party filings.

Recent party filings were triggered by a Freeborn Wind filing in January, which said:

“Freeborn Wind’s Sept. 19, 2018, late-filed Proposal for Special Conditions Related to Noise outlines the agreement reached between Freeborn Wind, the department and the MPCA on this issue.”

Agreement? Association of Freeborn County Landowners (AFCL) submitted Data Practices Act requests to MPCA and Department of Commerce to get the facts. Tuesday, the MPCA  responded, and yes, an agreement was reached: “Does the attached look acceptable to you? If so, I’d suggest we file this tomorrow and you file a short letter confirming you agree. Then we show up Thursday morning” from Freeborn’s Litchfield to Commerce’s Wachtler, Sept. 17, 2018. And Thursday morning, Sept. 20, at the PUC they showed up and acted in concert. 

The MPCA’s response also shows emails and a meeting in May, after the recommendation of the ALJ was released. Then there was a flurry of emails over the weekend of Sept. 14-17, triggered by the MPCA letter Sept. 11, explaining that ambient noise is to be included in noise modeling, that MPCA doesn’t have jurisdiction over wind noise (Commerce does), and offering a compromise of 1 dB(A), which resulted in “the agreement.”

AFCL filed this documentation Wednesday with the PUC.  At the same time Wednesday, Commerce’s Wachtler forwarded AFCL his data practices response, which said Commerce deletes emails after 90 days, and nothing else — no documentation at all. I forwarded Wachtler the MPCA’s response, and also filed his non-response with the PUC for the world to see.

At the PUC today, Commerce’s Davis angrily said there was no agreement and that AFCL’s claim was offensive. Objection! The emails and Freeborn Wind’s filings state otherwise, and it’s now a matter of public record. 

Freeborn Wind states they cannot meet the noise standard and proposed “garbage in — garbage out” changes for modeling assumptions: ground factor from 0.0 to 0.5, adding 3 dB(A) which doubles sound pressure; raise the dB(A) for wind contribution of noise to total noise, which “would result in a nonsignificant increase in total sound of less than 3 dB(A);” and when added to “margin of error” of ± 3 dB(A), it adds up. Non-significant? Objection!

Freeborn Wind has said it can’t move turbines away from residents to lower noise levels. Freeborn Wind has also said it has alternate sites in Iowa.

OK, Freeborn Wind, since you can’t comply with Minnesota noise standards, it’s time to move to Iowa. 

Carol A. Overland

lawyer

Association of Freeborn County Landowners