- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014
Judge strikes down part of Minnesota energy law

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders - and she barred Minnesota officials from enforcing it.

The ruling was a victory for North Dakota officials and representatives of that state’s coal industry, who sued Minnesota in 2011, claiming that the law unfairly blocked them from exporting electricity into its neighbor. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he strongly disagreed with the decision and the state will appeal.

“I will defend the state of Minnesota’s right to protect the quality of the air our citizens breathe,” Dayton said in a statement.

In a 48-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said part of Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 violates federal law by attempting to regulate interstate commerce.

Among other things, she found the law improperly requires non-Minnesota companies to seek approval from Minnesota authorities in order to do business in other states. She said because of that, the statute overreaches and if other states enacted similar laws, “it could lead to balkanization.”


Court case to test Minnesota’s ‘Buy the Farm’ law

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A case set for trial next week is expected to test Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law, which is meant to require utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms in the way if affected landowners demand it.

The case pits the developers of the CapX2020 project against Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague, which fills its old-school glass bottles on site and keeps its cows on a 100 percent grass diet. Owners Dave and Florence Minar say they can’t properly operate an organic dairy farm under a 345,000-volt power line, so they’re trying to use the law to force CapX2020 to buy their farm and pay the costs of relocating their operation.

The case is one of dozens of land disputes arising from CapX2020, an initiative by 11 utilities including Xcel Energy and Great River Energy to expand and ensure the reliability of the region’s electrical grid. The $2 billion project includes five new high-voltage lines covering nearly 800 miles. A planned line from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton, Minn., runs right over the Minars’ farm.

“Our whole business is at stake,” Dave Minar said Friday. “We don’t want to continue dairy farming under high-voltage power lines.”

They’re worried about stray voltage, which can crop up on dairy farms when electricity leaks from power lines and equipment. It can give cows small shocks that make them shy away from their water and food or make them so skittish that they’re hard to handle. It can reduce milk production and cause other health problems in the animals.


Man accused of fatally shooting girlfriend in SUV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A St. Paul man is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend while she sat in the back of an SUV with their infant son.

Nineteen-year-old Timothy Hendricks is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder.

The Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1gHA7Lghttps://strib.mn/1gHA7Lg ) reports 20-year-old Michelle Marie Ploetz of St. Paul was taken off life support at Regions Hospital and died from a gunshot wound to the head.

According to the complaint, Hendricks and Ploetz had gone to dinner with Ploetz’s father Wednesday so Hendricks could see his 8-month-old son.

After dinner, Ploetz’s father was driving when he heard a “pop,” pulled over, heard another “pop” and tried to wrestle the gun away from Hendricks.


Some nurseries offer plants that are safe for bees

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) - As gardeners begin shopping for plants this spring, they may see some marked as safe for bees.

Some nurseries are offering plants that are free of an insecticide that experts have partly blamed for a die-off of bee populations in recent years.

Minnesota Public Radio News reported (https://bit.ly/1jdoD3Shttps://bit.ly/1jdoD3S ) Bachman’s is now growing plants at its Lakeville production center that are free of the neonicotinoid insecticide. While the insecticide is probably not the only cause of bee deaths, Bachman’s chief executive Dale Bachman calls it a precautionary measure.

He said he’d rather reduce the insecticide in his nursery and wait to see if science proves neonicotinoids are safe.

The issue is a hot topic in the gardening industry. As researchers and lawmakers seek ways to protect and restore bee populations, a national trade group called AmericanHort is supporting more research on the issue.

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