Debate Heats Up over Minnesota Wind Energy Siting Standards and Setbacks

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In a Law360 article, Stoel Rives attorney Sarah Johnson Phillips reviews the latest developments in the ongoing debate over Minnesota wind energy siting standards and setbacks. Under the Minnesota Wind Siting Act, a state site permit for a wind project 5 MW or larger is the only site approval required. The state permit supersedes and preempts all local zoning, building, or land use rules, regulations, or ordinances. Local governments retain authority to regulate siting and construction of wind projects 5 MW and smaller. The Act allows counties to assume responsibility for permitting wind projects 5 MW and larger up to 25 MW using general permit standards developed by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. However, the Act includes a provision that allows counties to adopt more stringent standards for wind energy projects 5 MW and larger, which the Commission must consider and apply before granting a site permit in that county unless the Commission finds good cause not to do so.

Johnson Phillips describes how in late April, an administrative law judge found that the Commission is not obligated to consider or apply a county wind ordinance containing siting standards that are stricter than the Commission's statewide standards. The ALJ further found that even if the Commission were obligated to consider and apply the more stringent standards, it should be excused from doing so for lack of good cause under the Wind Siting Act.

Read the full Law360 article. You can also read Johnson Phillips discuss the Minnesota wind siting debate on Renewable + Law Blog.

"Twisting In The Minn. Wind" was published by Law360, May 20, 2011.

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