- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014
‘Buy the Farm’ ruling puts utility on hook

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A small organic dairy in southern Minnesota has prevailed in forcing a buyout by a utility that’s building high-voltage power lines along the property.

The case involving the Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague was seen as an early test of Minnesota’s revised “Buy the Farm” law. The ruling, made public Thursday by Scott County Judge Caroline Lennon, applies only to that farm, but other landowners preparing their own legal fights along the route of the CapX2020 line from South Dakota through Minnesota have been watching closely.

David and Florence Minar elected to force a purchase of their legacy farm rather than operate under the new power lines. Lennon ruled they were within their rights to do so and now the utility is on the hook for possibly $1.4 million or more once the case moves into an appraisal phase.

“We’re very relieved,” David Minar, 73, said Friday. “We’re so glad the judge saw the common sense of the law that was intended to help us get out from under the power line.”

Minar was born on the farm and says it will be extremely difficult to leave it behind. But he and his wife are searching out new locations to carry on the dairy operation they hope to pass down to their children and grandchildren. It could take years, as wherever the relocate to must be certified as organic and have enough room for 130 cows to graze, a milking parlor and a creamery where they can sell their products on site.

Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is supposed to give landowners recourse when utilities try to acquire part of their property for power lines by requiring a fair price if the owner chooses to transfer rights to the parcel. The utility can object, like CapX2020 did in this case.

CapX2020 is an initiative by 11 utilities - including Xcel Energy and Great River Energy - to expand and ensure the reliability of an electrical grid that covers North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Five new transmission lines covering nearly 800 miles, including one 345-kilovolt line that goes from Brookings, South Dakota, to Hampton, Minnesota -and runs right over the Minars’ farm.

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Walker, Johnson take ALS ‘ice bucket challenge’

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker is among the latest big names to take the “ice bucket challenge,” in which people dowse themselves with freezing water to help raise awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Countless athletes, celebrities, politicians and regular folks have taken the viral challenge. Once they do, they’re entitled to extend the challenge to others. Those who are challenged can step up and accept or else donate money to the ALS Foundation.

Walker posted a video on his Facebook page Thursday that showed himself and his wife, Tonette, getting a tub of ice water dumped on them. He tells the camera he’s accepting the challenge because it’s for a good cause, and then braces himself as he gets drenched.

Then he stands and challenges three other high-ranking Republicans: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Paul Ryan.

“Reince Priebus, Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan, you’re next up,” he says with a wide smile. “Do you accept the challenge? You got 24 hours.”

Johnson didn’t waste time stepping up to the challenge. On Friday he tweeted a video showing him standing by a river, and he says he’s camping in the Utah mountains.

Then he fills a coffeepot with stream water and douses himself, leaving him gasping as his gray T-shirt gets soaked.

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Johnson, Priebus accept Walker’s icy challenge

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker laid down the challenge, and two fellow Republicans delivered.

As part of a charity fundraiser, the governor posted a video on Facebook on Thursday showing himself and his wife Tonette getting ice water dumped on them. Then he challenges three fellow Republicans - Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Paul Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus - to follow suit.

Johnson tweeted video of himself Friday doing just that. He’s standing by a river and says he’s camping in the Utah mountains. Then he fills a coffeepot with stream water and douses himself.

Priebus tweeted a video in which someone pours water on him and then he jumps into a lake.

A Ryan spokesman says the congressman will to pass, but is donating $100 to charity.

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Ex-rivals back Democrat Happ for attorney general

MILWAUKEE (AP) - State Rep. Jon Richards and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne say they will support former rival Susan Happ in her bid to become Wisconsin’s attorney general.

Happ defeated Richards and Ozanne on Tuesday in the Democratic primary. The Jefferson County district attorney now faces Republican Brad Schimel in the general election. Schimel is district attorney in Waukesha County.

Richards and Ozanne appeared with Happ on Friday at a news conference in Milwaukee. Richards says it’s time to “close ranks as Democrats” and work to elect a candidate who will stand up for the environment, access to health care and citizens’ rights in the workplace.

Ozanne says it’s good to have a candidate with experience as a prosecutor but the race is about more than just being tough on crime.

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