UPDATED: Republicans, Dems debate wind energy issue

UPDATED 5:11 p.m.

Republicans had a news conference today regarding the Public Service Commission race. I was out of town working on another story and unable to go. Here’s the Republican news release, followed by the Democratic response:

Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, a leading wind energy authority in the North Dakota legislature, testified Thursday to how wind rights ordinances supported by environmental activist and PSC candidate Brad Crabtree have destroyed wind energy development in Dickey County.
 
Brandenburg said that a zoning ordinance pushed by Crabtree effectively halted wind energy development in Spring Valley Township, noting that this reality provides a stark contrast with Crabtree’s general rhetoric on renewable energy. Multiple affected Dickey County landowners asked Brandenburg to speak on behalf of their experience as victims of Crabtree’s wind policies.
 
“If Brad Crabtree does to North Dakota what he did to Dickey County, the only new wind towers will be those powered by his hot air,” said Rep. Brandenburg. “The bottom line is that Brad’s policies have brought wind energy development in Dickey County to a standstill.”
 
Crabtree was instrumental in pushing for the Spring Valley Township Zoning Ordinance, which restricted how landowners may lease property for use by wind developers. As a member of the township’s planning commission, Crabtree shepherded the ordinance’s formulation and passage.
 
Among other adverse economic impacts, the ordinance has been specifically cited by wind power developers as cause for not building wind towers in Dickey County. Meanwhile, the PSC is reviewing a proposed MISO extension of the 345 kV Brookings line into Ellendale, making the regulatory views of future commissioners critical to North Dakota’s energy future.
 
“As a paid environmental activist, Crabtree has spent his career in complete lockstep with the heavy-handed Washington approach to regulation,” said Rep. Brandenburg. “North Dakota’s energy rates are the lowest in the country thanks to the sound policies instituted by Kevin Cramer and the PSC, but Crabtree’s extreme views will cause us to lose that status.”

E-mail response to the media from the Democrats:

http://www.puc.state.mn.us/portal/groups/public/documents/puc_pdf_orders/009790.pdf

This is the document that stopped the wind farm. It was a decision by Minnesota regulators that had nothing to do with North Dakota, Dickey County or local zoning. Ottertail Power will verify that publicly.

Please be expecting a statement from Brad later this afternoon.

From Crabtree:

PSC Commissioner Kevin Cramer falsely stated to the media that a zoning ordinance in Spring Valley Township stopped a wind farm in Dickey County proposed by then Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Ottertail Power Company

Today, State Representative Mike Brandenburg repeated yet again his same false statements in a press conference, attacking my involvement as a landowner and township official in crafting a zoning ordinance to protect the private property and wind rights of his neighbors.

The reality is that the FPL wind farm in Dickey County did not move forward because of a regulatory decision in Minnesota that had nothing to do with North Dakota, Dickey County or zoning in Spring Valley Township.  Moreover, far from chasing wind energy development away, Spring Valley Township landowners are currently participating in a proposed wind project and receiving significant annual payments from enXco, which is planning a future wind farm for Xcel Energy.

Here’s what really happened.  Ottertail Power had a power purchase agreement with FPL in 2005 to provide wind generated electricity for a corporate customer in Minnesota.  The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission failed to approve Ottertail’s power purchase agreement, leaving FPL without a customer for its wind farm and thus stopping the project.

This is a longstanding matter of public record.  The MN PUC’s order can be downloaded at http://www.puc.state.mn.us/portal/groups/public/documents/puc_pdf_orders/009790.pdf.  It confirms that no zoning or local issues played any role in the Minnesota commissioners’ decision that stopped the wind farm.  Ottertail Power has even confirmed this publicly, stating that Township zoning was not a factor in their decision to pull the plug on the project.

Indeed, these facts have been communicated many times to the media and in legislative hearings over the past five years, and Cramer and Brandenburg are well aware of that.

Cramer and Brandenburg are apparently unable to respond substantively to specific recommendations I have made in this campaign to increase wind energy development, while protecting private property and wind rights of affected landowners and rural residents.  Instead, they resurrect a false charge and hope that the media and the public will not pay attention.

While Brandenburg is a legislator held in low regard by leaders of both political parties, we should expect more of Kevin Cramer as a Public Service Commissioner.  He is duty bound as a regulator in his actions and statements to uphold the facts. 

Cramer knowingly presenting false information for campaign attack purposes is a deeply troubling trait in someone who holds an important regulatory office.”

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