BUY THE FARM — A WIN FOR THE HOME TEAM!

Filed under:Buy the Farm — posted by admin on May 29, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

Today we had a rulemaking Advisory Committee meeting about Public Utilities Commission rules for Certificate of Need proceedings. More on that later, because at 10:00 a.m. the Minnesota Supreme Court decision on Buy the Farm was released, and oh what a decision (Buy the Farm, Minn. Stat. 216B.12, Subd. 4, is a statutory provision where landowners can force a utility to condemn their whole parcel, rather than just a narrow easement and let them get out from living under a transmission line). Kudos to Jerry Von Korff, who was at the rulemaking meeting, and his cohort Igor Lenzner, also Michael Rajkowski and Sarah Jewell, the attorneys who brought the appeal, plus Rod Krass/Kirk Schnitker and yours truly on Amicus. It was a win for landowners, homeowners, farmers, business owners, for everyone who has transmission condemnation/eminent domain cases pending, this one’s for YOU!

Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion – Court File A11-1116

It really doesn’t get much better than this.

Buy the Farm Briefs

Bottom line on minimum compensation? Landowners are entitled to minimum compensation:

Appellants who elected to require utilities to condemn their entire properties in fee pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216E.12 (2012) are entitled to minimum compensation under Minn. Stat. § 117.187 (2012) as owners who “must relocate” because on the date of the taking, the utilities took title to and possession of appellants’ entire properties.

… and …

Accordingly, we must determine whether appellants were required to relocate at the time their properties were taken. Because NSP initiated quick-take condemnation proceedings, the time of the takings with respect to appellants’ properties was when title to and possession of the property passed to NSP. See Moorhead Econ. Dev. Auth., 789 N.W.2d at 874 (explaining that “the date of the taking” in a quick-take condemnation proceeding is when “the transfer of title and possession” occurs, which is “well before the commissioners file their award”). It is undisputed that by the time title to and possession of appellants’ properties passed to NSP, appellants had made their elections under Minn. Stat. § 216E.12, subd. 4, which by operation of the statute, automatically converted the easements sought into fee takings. See Minn. Stat. § 216E.12, subd. 4 (explaining that at the time the property owner makes an election, “the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee . . . shall automatically be converted into a fee taking”). It follows that, at the time of the takings, NSP took title to and possession of appellants’ entire properties in fee. Therefore, we conclude that appellants were owners under Minn. Stat. § 117.187 who, at the time the takings occurred, “must relocate.” Accordingly, they are entitled to minimum compensation.

Bottom line on relocation benefits? Landowners are entitled to relocation benefits:

Because appellants are “displaced persons” under federal law, they are entitled to relocation assistance under Minn. Stat. §§ 117.50-.56 (2012).

… and…

Because appellants are required to relocate permanently, they do not fall within the exemption in 49 C.F.R. § 24.2(a)(9)(ii)(D). Therefore, because we conclude that appellants satisfy the definition of “displaced persons” under 42 U.S.C. § 4601(6)(A)(i)(I) and do not fall within any exemptions to that definition, we hold that appellants are entitled to relocation assistance under Minn. Stat. §§ 117.50-.56.

The decision was written by Justice Alan Page (photo from StarTribune www.startribune.com):

AlanPage

Yes, when he’s not wearing a football uniform, he’s the guy who is ALWAYS seen wearing one of his many classic “Jacobsen” bow ties, standing up for the public interest and the people of Minnesota. For him to be in the spot where he is, to do the work he’s doing, a long strange trip for a football player (sort of like it was for a truckdriver, eh?), with some good mentoring along the way.

This decision is something I’ve been working for, and toward, since I first got involved with the Chisago Transmission Project so long ago, and folks, that’s 17 years now…

Now and then, some event rates an “OH HAPPY DAY!” and this is the best of all, so this time from Aretha… OH HAPPY DAY!!!

 

From the St. Cloud Times:

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that landowners who had their property taken as part of the CapX2020 high-voltage transmission line construction are entitled to relocation costs and minimum compensation.

The decision by the state’s highest court overturns a Court of Appeals decision and affirms the ruling by Stearns County District Court Judge Frank Kundrat that had been overturned by the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court ruling hinged on whether property owners who chose to require CapX to condemn their property would receive that compensation or whether those property owners chose to move from their property and therefore aren’t entitled to the compensation.
(more…)

“Buy the Farm” passes in House & Senate

Filed under:Buy the Farm — posted by admin on May 21, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

It died in conference committee, where it was in the House Environment and Ag Finance bill and not in Senate, and was removed utterly in the conference committee.  But surprise, thanks to Sen. Kevin Dahle it was amended into HF 854, the Energy Ominous (Omnibus) bill, and it passed, 49-16.

Here’s the language and the votes:

Senate Journal, p. 229-230, Sunday May 19, 2013

Then the next day, it passed in the House, 114-18:

House Journal, p. 6435, May 20, 2013

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HA!

Now Dayton has to sign it!

From Cedar Summit Farms:

MN Legislature Passes “Buy the Farm” Bill

This means so much to each and every one of the thousands of landowners affected by CapX 2020 and all the other big transmission projects coming down the pike.  THANK YOU!!!

Please send a note to Sen. Kevin Dahle (sen.kevin.dahle@senate.mn) and Rep. David Bly (rep.david.bly@house.mn) for all their hard work on this and for persistence over the long haul and fighting to the very end, making it happen!!!

And pay attention to who voted against it — utility toadies all — in the Senate:

And who voted against it in the House:

Hey – Hey, Ho – Ho, utility toadies got to GO!

Waiting… waiting…

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by admin on May 20, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

449px-dog_waiting_for_his_owners_to_come

Dog waiting for his owners to come (attribution)

Waiting for the decision of the Appellate Court.  It’s due soon… this month.  While that’s going on, Rochester Post Bulletin seems to have soy ink to spare to write about waiting.  Seems also Oronoco Township spent “a couple hundred thousand dollars” on “fighting the project.”

Below is what the Post Bulletin had to say, yes, it does go on, in search of hope that Oronoco will turn that decision around, and utterly ignoring the failure of the contractor, Barr Engineering, to get the “pre-existing corridor” characterization right, at BOTH dams where they had an interest, and then the Commerce employee in charge of this project, Matt Langan, resigned and went to work for Xcel Energy (on the other hand, the Xcel Energy employee in charge of this project (Tom Hillstrom) quit to work on light rail for the Met Council — does that make it even?  Noooooo!  Not even close.).

The PB has also taken a very narrow look at this and doesn’t know and/or omits basic facts.  From the sidebar:

Planning began in 2006 for the $2.2-billion CapX2020 project that will connect Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota to an improved energy grid by 2015, with South Dakota being added by 2017.

The route of the 345-kilovolt line from the Pine Island area to the Mississippi River has been one of the most controversial aspects of the project. Oronoco Township in Olmsted County has asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to block the approved route across the township and send it back to the Public Utilities Commission for reconsideration.

About that first paragraph: Planning formally began in 2004, released in 2005 in the May 11, 2005 Capx 2020 Technical Update, in Kaul CapX letter – Sept 6 2005 – BSII, and October 2005 CapX Technical Update – Wisc PSC Docket 05-CE-136 entered by No CapX/CETF Item 5, but there are fingerprints in the WRAO Report from 1998 that gathered a the most amazing group of electrical engineers who put together a long laundry list of transmission lines, a transmission planner’s dream.  HELLO, it was APPLIED FOR in Minnesota in 2006 — search for PUC Docket 06-1115.

And that second paragraph: Have they not heard about the Minnesota River crossing on the Brookings line?  Or the Avon Township/St. John’s area on the Fargo line?  Wake up, it’s not all about the monied interests driving the Rochester Post Bulletin.

In this docket, they are ignoring the crossing of the Cannon River near Lake Byllesby, where the contractor, Barr Engineering, conveniently failed to disclose in the EIS that there was a massive transmission corridor along route 1P-003, the same area where that contractor had another contract to work on the Byllesby Regional Park Master Plan.  They’re completely ignoring the issues raised by Cannon Falls landowners and St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church.  And then there’s the route in Wisconsin, through Holmen, next to the school…  “One of the most controversial aspects of this project?”

Appellate Court Briefs of note:

Initial Brief – St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church and Cannon Falls Landowners

Reply Brief – Cannon Falls Landowners and St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church

Laymen for Christ o/o of Woodland Camp (only one – Laymen for Christ is Respondent)

There have been at least one thousand very concerned people across Minnesota who put thousands of hours of time into fighting this CapX 2020 project over the last 9 years.  TAKE OFF THE BLINDERS!

And “pitting neighbor against neighbor” started in this Hampton-La Crosse routing docket when Oronoco Township strongly and specifically stated that it was advocating a “stick it there” strategy and said that the transmission line should go on the North Route, was even quoted as saying so in the Rochester Post Bulletin.  After they threw down the gloves, just before the intervention deadline, the  North Route Group intervened and presented factual, credible testimony and exhibits what were not challenged.  The manner in which the township approached this was disturbing, with witnesses making gross misrepresentations, such as Smith testifying about the impacts on supposedly existing developments, such as Zumbro Sound:

Oronoco witness Smith testified that when he said “developed” he meant they were “completed, construction is completed, ready for occupancy.” After plat maps of several subdivisions were entered into the record, and he was questioned about specifics of each subdivision plat map entered, and he then agreed, contrary to his prior testimony, that there were many vacant lots in the subdivisions. Ex. 86, Plat Maps of Landings at Sandy Pointe, Zumbo Haven, and Zumbro Sound.  Testimony of Smith, Tr. Vol. 2, p. 44-81. Smith testified that in Zumbro Sound subdivision, seven units were constructed, but agreed when questioned, that it was likely that only three homes had been built. Id. Broberg, when questioned about these subdivisions, also agreed there were many vacant lots. Testimony of Broberg, Tr. Vol. 2, p. 133-134. When questioned about the location of the subdivisions, Mr. Smith that the nearest one, Zumbro Haven, is about a quarter mile away from the proposed alignment, and Sandy Point, about one half mile away. Id., p. 82-84. None of these subdivisions is directly affected by the transmission line as proposed.  (See those citations — really, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!!)

And Oronoco witness Jeff Broberg, the guy who testified that Lake Zumbro is the only lake in Olmsted County, how credible can he be?  Well, here’s his “Exhibit 7” representing the boat as pulling up to the landing, when in fact you can’t get there from here, the boat landing at the White Bridge Road is closed and has been for years and has a big ol’ overgrown sand bar in front of it (Barr Engineering had a contract regarding dredging of Lake Zumbro, they should know!):

boat-landing

If you look in the upper right corner over the bridge, you can see the distribution line that crosses White Bridge Road.  More importantly, here’s what that boat landing really looks like, the rest of the story, the true picture, this is not new, it’s been this way for years:

dscf0475

It’d be nice if the Post Bulletin would report the entire story, and not just that of the monied interest in this mess.

auntbee

Back to the Post Bulletin:

‘Nobody is a winner’ in CapX routing dispute

Elizabeth Nida Obert / enida@postbulletin.com

Substation construction site, 1 mile north of Pine Island along Highway 52, west side of highway.

Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013 10:30 am

Brett Boese, bboese@postbulletin.com

If Lake Zumbro area residents and stakeholders were divided into winners and losers with regard to current CapX 2020 power line plans, David Nelson and his Christian camp would be among the winners.

That said, he’s not happy about it. The executive director at Camp Victory Ministries says it’s “sad” that his camp was able to claim victory only by others having to deal with the power line route approved last year by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

“One of the things I can’t stand about this thing, personally, is that it pits neighbor against neighbor,” said Nelson. The camp hosts 1,200 kids each summer and up to 200 people on weekend retreats.

“Nobody is a winner when they have power lines running through their property. It pits Minnesotan against Minnesotan. I don’t know that there’s a way to avoid that, but it’s disappointing.”

(more…)

CapX 2020 in the news!

Filed under:Fargo-St Cloud,News coverage — posted by admin on May 15, 2013 @ 7:32 am

Yeah, I know… haven’t posted anything for a while.  But things are a happenin’ !!!

From the Echo Press in Alexandria, a Letter to the Editor:

Letter – Energy company’s actions are downright petty

To the editor:

As a retired dairy farmer, I remember the hard fought battles between family farmers and utility companies over high voltage power lines cutting across Minnesota in the 1970s.

One of the outcomes of this was the “Buy the Farm” law. Essentially, this law says that farmers and landowners have the right to require that companies purchase their entire farm if high voltage power lines are forced onto their property. The law was intended to require utilities to fully reimburse farmers and landowners for their land, relocation expenses and lost business.

When I heard that Xcel Energy and the other backers of CapX2020 are claiming that farmers are “voluntarily” relocating their farms and any reimbursements for moving expenses and lost business would be “extra compensation,” I can’t say I was surprised.

Farmers and landowners didn’t have a choice about the high voltage lines cutting across their land. It was forced upon them. The Buy the Farm law has been on the books for 35 years and Xcel Energy and the rest of them knew it.

But the energy conglomerate backing the project thinks that by using their considerable resources (Xcel Energy alone has 37 registered lobbyists in Minnesota) they can sidestep the law.

CapX2020 is estimated to cost $2.2 billion. With less than 100 landowners expected to file for relocation across the entire state, their attempt to short change farmers and landowners is downright petty.

The Minnesota House did the right thing by including in their Ag Omnibus Finance bill language that clarifies the original intent of the Buy the Farm law. That bill is in conference committee right now and the conferees from both the House and Senate should stand up for family farmers and make sure the Buy the Farm clarification is included in the final bill.

Alan Perish

Browerville, MN