5/9/2012 3:56:00 PM AWA Goodhue Wind to sue landowners
by Paul Martin
AWA Goodhue Wind plan to sue a number of local landowners for what they claim is "illegal termination of their lease agreements."
AWA is the Texas-owned company that plans to develop a large wind "farm" between Cannon Falls and Zumbrota. The lawsuits were announced by Daniel S. Schleck, a Minneapolis attorney who represents a number of the landowners involved, in a press release dated May 2, 2012.
In his release, Schleck describes the landowners as "former participants" in the project.
He stated that late in 2011 he wrote to AWA and identified problems with his clients' wind leases and various failures in performance by AWA, including non-payment. After notifying AWA of the deficiencies in its performance and giving AWA a chance to remedy the problems in accordance with the terms of the wind leases, AWA still did not address the issues as required by the wind leases. Based on the terms of the leases, Schleck notified AWA on behalf of his clients that the leases were terminated in early 2012. Referring to the decision to sue his clients, attorney Schleck stated he believes this suit is without merit and is an attempt by AWA to frighten his clients into reinstating their leases.
Reached at his office on Monday, May 7, Schleck was unable to add to the statement, or name any other claimed deficiencies in AWA's performance, as the details of the lawsuit are not yet public. He did confirm that "more than five landowners" are involved in the suit.
Project Faces Wildlife,
Road Use Hurdles
Schleck's statement also noted, "based on an appeal of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's site permit, lack of approval of the required Bat and Avian Protection Plan and lack of required road use agreements, it is questionable whether AWA Goodhue Wind even has a project right now." When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission issued a site permit for the project in August 2011, they required further study of the effect of the large turbines on area bat and wildlife populations, a number of which are endangered.
Mazeppa resident Kristi Rosenquist said she believes that no such extra study has been filed to date.
"AWA also needs an Incidental Take permit," she said. This would record an "acceptable" number of bald eagle fatalities, based on how many such deaths there could be without harming the total number of nesting eagles in the area.
"I believe that AWA would be the first company in the country to be given such approval in the case of bald eagles," said Rosenquist.
Local protestors claim that AWA does not yet have road use agreements with Belle Creek and Minneola Townships, or land use agreements for the collector lines that would connect the turbines to the switching station. They also claim that no agreement has been reached with the owners of area oil and gas pipelines and telecom cables.
The Beacon called AWA for comment, but they had not returned a phone call as this story was completed.