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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Remember all the “sky-is-falling” predictions of global warming that began more than a decade ago? Minnesota responded to this, in part, by approving a law requiring that 25% of Minnesota’s energy be derived from renewable resources by the year 2025. Since then, global warming talks have cooled significantly. Not surprising since we’ve experienced steady cooling of global climate temperatures over the last nine years. Yet Minnesota’s renewable energy standard remains in place. And with that comes the government selection of winners and losers. In this case the winner is wind energy, and the selection is, in some cases, pitting neighbor against neighbor in Goodhue County. Because the state is a fan of wind energy, it offers subsidy after subsidy in hopes of enticing developers, everything from loan money to income tax breaks to tax credits. With many of your tax dollars now readily available to help finance this government mandate, wind energy companies have begun to harvest farmer interest in their product. They are aggressively recruiting rural landowners to sign contracts allowing them to place wind turbines on their property. The good news for farmers is that they could receive tens of thousands of dollars per year from the company for hosting a windmill. One contract also stipulates the landowner must keep the wind turbine for 20 years. The bad news is that these contracts do not address decommission, meaning if the company goes broke, farmers can look at these wind turbines for the rest of their lives and not get paid. Risks aside, some farmers view this as a positive because it could supplement their income. But it’s a huge negative for uninterested neighbors who are concerned about windmill noise and believe their neighbor’s turbines will forever wreck their scenic rural landscape. Goodhue County commissioners are considering ways to alleviate some of these concerns, or at least limit them to certain areas. Due to a new law, Goodhue County, because of its population density, approached the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in order to exercise their newfound ability to zone wind turbine projects and provide setbacks. The PUC responded by saying if the county wanted the authority to zone, it must also take over the permitting and inspection process as well. Because that additional responsibility would be far too costly, Goodhue County abandoned the idea. Meanwhile, the government continues to create an artificial market that’s still in the developing stages in this state, while dividing communities in the process. Look, I’m not opposed to wind energy. People should have the freedom to put up wind turbines on their property. What I’m opposed to is the notion that government should provide subsidies for wind energy or any energy. Believe it or not, it is possible to support renewable energy without supporting government subsidies. What Minnesota should be doing is creating an open market where the best technology at the time will provide the most affordable energy for the consumer. If the demand for that product is great, the private sector will spend the resources to develop it, knowing it will eventually earn true profits – and they won’t destroy the markets or the culture in the meantime. Doing anything less creates winners and losers. Just ask some of the concerned landowners throughout Goodhue County.
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