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Citizens again challenge Kenyon Wind project

As Kenyon Wind officials gear up for construction of their nine-turbine wind farm, a group of concerned citizens still has faith the project will be stalled and get the scrutiny they say it deserves.

Citizens for Environmental Rights and Safety filed a petition this month asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its decision allowing Kenyon Wind to operate a wind farm in Kenyon and Cherry Grove townships.

"The fat lady hasn't sung yet," said Red Wing attorney Carol Overland, who previously represented CFERS.

The petition is CFERS' last option, short of taking its concerns to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

CFERS is looking for more information or analysis in five areas. They are:

• Kenyon Wind's ownership structure. Documents state there are nine limited liability companies under the Kenyon Wind umbrella. Only a few owners of those companies have been identified.

The Republican Eagle has contacted the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office requesting information about the owners of Kenyon Wind. Officials from that office have not responded.

CFERS claims that problems with Kenyon Wind's Community-Based Energy Development would be hard to find without full knowledge of the ownership structure.

• Site permit setbacks. CFERS argues setback distances may have been appropriate for other projects with smaller turbines or more remote locations but are not appropriate for this wind farm.

• Protection of nearby wetlands. One turbine will be encroaching upon a wetland created by Spring Creek, CFERS claims.

• Turbine safety. Turbines of the same model being installed in Goodhue County suffered catastrophic failure, CFERS says. The group would like to see the turbines' failure mode effects analysis and disputes state and Kenyon Wind claims that the Suzlon turbine is proven utility grade.

• Bonding, insurance or something similar for Kenyon Wind. One option is necessary, CFERS claims, to make it possible for liability to be covered in the event of litigation.

Overall, the group feels the state hasn't properly addressed those concerns.

"We don't believe due consideration was provided," said Michael Chase, president of CFERS. "This process is being driven by a mandate for renewable energy at all costs."

John Daniels Jr., Kenyon Wind's chief manager, said this week via e-mail the company is finalizing project details. He expects construction to begin in September or October.

Daniels claims the petition "raises no new issues and advances no new evidence."

In his written response to the petition, he asks the Public Utilities Commission to stick with its decision to grant a permit allowing the wind farm's construction.

"CFERS ... fails to state -- much less allege -- any reason why the Commission's ruling in this regard should not stand," Daniels wrote.

Regardless of the Public Utilities Commission's decision -- the matter has not yet been placed on the group's agenda -- Chase said CFERS will keep an eye out and exhaust all legal options.

"We will be looking at every step along the way," Chase said. "When things aren't done by the appropriate practice, objections will be made.

"We'll do everything we can to make ourselves heard."