Subpoena request for US Fish & Wildlife

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on December 18, 2009 @ 2:50 am

I’m sick, can’t sleep at all, and so I got something done that’s needed doing for a while now, since that Henderson hearing last week when the April 30, 2009 US Fish & Wildlife letter was disclosed.  Here’s the letter:

April 30 USFWS letter

So based on that, and a later disclosed November 30, 2009 letter and a couple of others too, October 6 or so, and maybe one from March (don’t have them here… sigh…) here’s the Subpoena Request, just filed:

Subpoena Request Cover Letter

Subpoena Request – USFWS

Their testimony is important – and to think it took a citizen to stand up and get this info in the record!  Without Delores Hagen and her 4×5 posterboard of the April 30, 2009 letter, we’d never have known.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s the notes from yesterdayDecember 17 ROUGH hearing notes – check out Dave Seykora, DOT, at the end:

Wednesday at the PUC

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on December 16, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

It’s more of the Brookings CapX 2020 routing hearing, seems like it never ends!  And again, ROUGH notes. 

ROUGH notes for December 16

And apologies, I spent a lot of time trying to catch up on prep, or read the piles of exhibits, so notetaking was not good today.

Evidentiary Hearing – Dec 15 in St. Paul

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on @ 6:06 am

Here are notes from yesterday’s Brookings CapX 2020 evidentiary hearing in St. Paul.

Two interesting things revealed – one, defensive as they are, expansion of the Lake Marion substation could instead be plopped down at the southern most part of “alternate” route and then use route proposal going east from that point. THey’re claiming that the Lake Marion substation is nailed down in Certificate of Need, but it is NOT, we’re doing siting and routing NOW, not then.

Two – they still can/will not declare who or what entity will own the line at time of operation.

Evidentiary Hearing Notes – December 15

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Buy the Farm and eminent domain

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on December 11, 2009 @ 10:12 am

There have been many questions about eminent domain at the hearings over the last two weeks.  And Buy the Farm.  So here’s a quick primer on a couple aspects of those issues.

Buy the Farm

Buy the farm is a statutory provision that grew out of the late 1970’s transmission struggles.  What’s important about Buy the Farm is that it allows people to get out from under the transmission line if there’s one planned for their property.  Rather than establish an easement, either through negotiations and a settlement or condemnation, this option allows a landowner to elect to tell the utility to “Buy the Farm.”   This law has been on the books for around 30 years, but not used because there have not been large transmission lines across Minnesota for decades.  They learned their lesson back in the late 70s, early 80s, see Powerline by Wellstone and Casper, but institutional memory is fading as those involved in those transmission struggles have retired, sold out, gotten government jobs, died, and so now here we are, they’re trying to do it again.

Subd. 4.Contiguous land.

When private real property that is an agricultural or nonagricultural homestead, nonhomestead agricultural land, rental residential property, and both commercial and noncommercial seasonal residential recreational property, as those terms are defined in section 273.13 is proposed to be acquired for the construction of a site or route for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more by eminent domain proceedings, the fee owner, or when applicable, the fee owner with the written consent of the contract for deed vendee, or the contract for deed vendee with the written consent of the fee owner, shall have the option to require the utility to condemn a fee interest in any amount of contiguous, commercially viable land which the owner or vendee wholly owns or has contracted to own in undivided fee and elects in writing to transfer to the utility within 60 days after receipt of the notice of the objects of the petition filed pursuant to section 117.055. Commercial viability shall be determined without regard to the presence of the utility route or site. The owner or, when applicable, the contract vendee shall have only one such option and may not expand or otherwise modify an election without the consent of the utility. The required acquisition of land pursuant to this subdivision shall be considered an acquisition for a public purpose and for use in the utility’s business, for purposes of chapter 117 and section 500.24, respectively; provided that a utility shall divest itself completely of all such lands used for farming or capable of being used for farming not later than the time it can receive the market value paid at the time of acquisition of lands less any diminution in value by reason of the presence of the utility route or site. Upon the owner’s election made under this subdivision, the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee, sought in the condemnation petition for a right-of-way for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more shall automatically be converted into a fee taking.

There’s only one case regarding Buy the Farm, which supports the option, the court noting that the legislature specifically intended to give landowners an out if faced with transmission.   What does the Minnesota Supreme Court have to say about “Buy the Farm?”

The enactment of §116C.63, subd. 4 reflects a creative legislative response to a conflict between rural landowners and utilities concerning HVTL right-of-ways.  Opponents of the utilities, resisting further encroachments upon the rural landscape and fearing the effects upon the rural environment and public health, not only challenge the placement and erection of high voltage transmission lines, but question whether the rural community’s sacrifice to the commonweal serves a greater social good.  The legislature, sensitive to these concerns but perceiving the occasion as demanding the construction of additional power-generating plants and high voltage transmission lines, enacted §116C.63, subd. 4 in partial response.

Section 116C.63, subd. 4 requires as a condition precedent to the exercise of the power of eminent domain delegated to utilities, the additional purchase from landowners electing under the statute of any property contiguous to easements condemned for the purpose of a HVTL right-of-way.  The statute defines such acquisitions to be for a public purpose.  In this manner, the legislature affords landowners not wishing to be adjacent to such right-of-ways the opportunity to obtain expeditiously the fair market value of their property and go elsewhere.  The statute, in so doing, responds to parties most affected by the operation of high voltage transmission lines; the statute eases the difficulties of relocation by shifting the transaction cost of locating a willing purchaser for the burdened property from landowner to utility.

Cooperative Power Ass’n ex rel. Bd. Of Dirs. v. Assand, 288 N.W. 2d 697, 698 (Minn. 1980).

Then there’s the matter of utility exemptions from the laws of eminent domain:

117.189 PUBLIC
SERVICE CORPORATION EXCEPTIONS.

Sections 117.031; 117.036; 117.055, subdivision 2, paragraph (b); 117.186; 117.187; 117.188; and 117.52,  subdivisions 1a and 4, do not apply to public service corporations. For purposes of an award of appraisal fees under section 117.085, the fees awarded may not exceed $1,500 for all types of property except for a public service corporation’s use of eminent domain for a high-voltage transmission line, where the award may not exceed $3,000.

Click on the links in the statute for the related statutory provisions that utilities are exempted from — IT’S APPALLING.

117.031 – Attorney Fees

117.036 – Appraisal and Negotiation Requirements

117.055, Subd. 2(b) – Petition and Notice

117.186 – Compensation for Loss of Going Concern

117.187 – Minimum Compensation

117.188 – Limitations

117.52, Subd. 1(a) and 4 – Uniform Relocation Assistance

117.085 – Commissioners, Power, Duties

To see what they’re exempt from, just click away.  Craig Poorker testified the utilities paid for “loss of going concern” but take a look at the utility exemption from Minn. Stat. 117.186 Loss of Going Concern.

If you have questions or comments, fire off in the comment screen below and I’ll post.

Today it’s Lakeville again

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on @ 8:52 am

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Last night we went until a little after 11:54 p.m. when I last saved my notes.  The court reporter says it was 12:15 a.m.!  We’re here at the Holiday Hotel until about 12:30 (at least that’s what’s planned).  Notes from today:

Public hearing notes – December 11

Tonight in Lakeville

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on December 10, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

Today and tonight we’ve been having the Brookings CapX 2020 routing hearings in Lakeville, at the Holiday Hotel.  We’re just starting the evening session.  As we leave, I’ll post the evening session notes.

The New Prague hearing for last night was cancelled, and we don’t have a reschedule date yet.  Will keep you posted on that.

Notes thus far:

December 10 – ROUGH notes

There’s been some excellent testimony.  One theme I see is that over and over and over, “routes” that made it through the scoping process and on into the DEIS are utterly unworkable, something that should have been known at the time, at the time they were suggested, at the time they went into the scope, and in the DEIS.  But no… that all happened, people got notice, and it never should have gotten that far.  GRRRRRRRRR.

Just a few minutes ago, like 11:20 or so, Dan Wambeke trekked back to another hearing to enter exhibits, four requests from Lyon County for Citizen Advisory Task Forces, including one from Lyon County itself, another from Westerheim, Grandview and Fairview Townships.  FOUR REQUESTS for a task force from local governments…

More to follow…

Last night in Lonsdale…

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on December 9, 2009 @ 8:07 am

Oh, it’s tired out…

Here are my notes from yesterday’s hearing in Lonsdale:

Hearing notes December 8

As of 9:04, we don’t know if the hearing today in New Prague is on or not.  As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.

Last night at the Hog Wild Saloon

Filed under:Brookings Routing Docket — posted by admin on December 8, 2009 @ 8:31 am

Brookings CapX Public Hearings are happening.  Here’s last night at the Hog Wild Saloon, ROUGH notes, this is assuredly NOT a transcript!!!

Hearing notes – December 7

Interesting tidbits — letters from US Fish & Wildlife have surfaced:

Ex. 318 – Nov 30 2009 – US Fish & Wildlife Letter from Blair to Ek

It took a regular person to enter this into the record – otherwise, we’d not have known…
And then CapX introduced – don’t have them scanned but will get them done someday:

Ex. 138 – November 30, 2009 DEIS Comment of USFWS
Ex. 139 – October 6, 2009 Letter re DEIS after meeting with Commerce.

Note the April 30, 2009 letter requests that letters and meeting notes be in the public record. And for some reason they did NOT find there way to the formal record in this proceeding. Something this important? Right…

Hearings this week!!!

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on December 6, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

Brookings CapX 2020 hearings this week.

We start out at the Hog Wild Saloon, in Henderson, and it progresses from there:

December 7 (Monday)

1 & 7 p.m.

Brass Top Hall/Hog Wild Saloon, 514 Main Street, Henderson, MN

_____________________

December 8 (Tuesday)

1 & 7 p.m.

Lonsdale VFW, 115 2nd Avenue SW, Lonsdale, MN

____________________

December 9 (Wednesday)

1 & 7 p.m.

Park Ballroom/American Legion, 300 So. Lexington Avenue, New Prague, MN

____________________

December 10 (Thursday)

1 & 7 p.m

and

December 11 (Friday)

Holiday Inn, 20800 Kenrick Avenue, Lakeville, MN

____________________

December 15-18 (Tuesday – Friday)

9:30 a.m. – ????

PUC – 121 – 7th Place E., 3rd Floor, St. Paul

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You can question the witnesses, you can testify, and you can enter exhibits.  This is important — it’s your chance to let the judge know what you think, and if you don’t speak up, he’ll never know.

YOU CAN TESTIFY!!  If you want to testify, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Plan ahead.
  • Write it out SUCCINCTLY.
  • Have a copy to hand in for the record, and have copies to hand out to CapX and others  (send to local paper the day before!)
  • Have a few copies of exhibits that you want to talk about, i.e.,
    EMF research, a recent appraisal, photos of eagle nests in the
    neighborhood, etc.  The issue here is routing, so look over the maps
    and notice what’s missing, because there’s always a lot.  Let them know
    that there are four houses on your road missing from the maps; that if
    they run it through the field by the road, it would disturb an anthrax
    field (!!!);  that’s what’s on the map as a road really isn’t a road; let them know that you have just gotten a permit to build
    a barn or you’ve got plans to put in an irrigation pivot right where
    they want to put their (#*)(*$(*^% transmission line!  Let them know if
    you would plan to utilize the “Buy the Farm” option (Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4). 
    Let them know your mortgage company would take any eminent domain
    compensation that you might get.  Tell them what you know about your
    community or the area they want to traverse.
  • Get there a little early and sign up, and if the sign up sheets aren’t around, let the judge know you want to testify, and he’ll put you on the list.  He’s been extra careful to ask several times to see if there are people who want to testify who aren’t on the list.
  • When it’s your turn, either take the oath or affirm, then your testimony will carry more weight.
  • Give your testimony.  Tell your story, tell your family’s story.  Use examples, show him on the map…
  • Answer any questions that parties or the judge may have.
  • That’s it, it’s really that easy —  congratulations for speaking out!
  • Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

ENTER EXHIBITS

You can enter exhibits.  Bring copies of things you think will help
show the judge why a particular route is a really bad idea, things like
the aforementioned:

  • Photos of eagle nests that you’ve taken and can identify the locations of the nests.
  • Photos and maps of arns, businesses and homes they want to go over — give a face to the place!
  • Provide copies of appraisals that show the devaluation of your property.
  • EMF studies and cases.
  • Photo simulations of transmission towers in river valleys showing impacts.
  • Photo simulations of substations at night looking and sounding like an intergallactic space station.
  • Photos of your kids waiting for the bus, which would be right under the line if they built it there.
  • Other ideas???

If you need help, let me know in the comment section, or ask me at the hearings.  I’ll be going
to every one of these meetings this week, and I’lll help you state your
case however I can.

Thanks to Craig Poorker for forwarding this…

Filed under:Nuts & Bolts — posted by admin on December 5, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

I’m reading through the record, prepping for the next two weeks of hearings, and found this delightful tidbit that Craig Poorker had forwarded to Scott Ek regarding utility infrastructure found near New Trier – and I’ll testify about that infrastructure because I saw it too…

TOILET ON A STICK!!!

toiletonastickAnd part of the Comment:

toiletonastick2


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace