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Petitioners want wind project's permit pulled

ST. PAUL — Opponents of the AWA Goodhue wind project near Zumbrota have sent two petitions to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission seeking to have the controversial $180 million project's conditional site permit revoked over alleged permit violations.

One petition is a three-page letter signed by 88 people, including Chad Ryan, chairman of Belle Creek Township. The other was submitted by Mary Hartman, of Rochester.

The 78-megawatt project has faced an unprecedented three-plus year permitting process and remains very much in limbo; a typical project is permitted in six to 12 months. It received a conditional site permit in June 2011, but the final state-mandated step — creating the state's first Avian and Bat Protection Plan — was rejected by the PUC in February due to insufficient data.

Unusual developments in recent months have created challenges that some citizens feel could, or should, have significant impacts on the project's future.

Dan Ryan, a Goodhue County farmer, was charged in March with harassing an employee of Westwood Professional Services, an environmental firm hired by National Wind, AWA Goodhue's developer. A Hennepin County judge dismissed the case with prejudice in June.


"Petitioner's filing the affidavit and petition alleging harassment made no sense, except as a means to put pressure on respondent regarding his dispute with Goodhue Wind," the judge wrote in his ruling.

The recent PUC petition filed by citizens is labeled in support of Ryan — who did not sign the document, though five other Ryan couples did — while asking the PUC to rescind the project's site permit based on the fact it made a false statement in the dismissed lawsuit. Also noted are claims of other inaccurate data on bald eagle nests and eagle flight paths.

Hartman's petition highlights what she feels are inaccuracies that might threaten bald eagles in the region.

As the ultimate permitting authority, the PUC may suspend or revoke a site permit if a false statement was knowingly made in the application or in accompanying statements or studies when a true statement would have warranted a change in the PUC's decision.

A PUC spokesperson said staff members are reviewing the documents, which were posted to the PUC docket on Monday.

"I just think commissioners need to take a look at this," said Zumbrota resident Kristi Rosenquist, who submitted the letter to the PUC. "When they (the PUC) said, 'Go do your work,' I don't think this is what they had in mind."

Calls made Tuesday to Texas-based Mesa Power Group, the project owner, were not returned.

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