“Private wells must comply with water restrictions”: Minnetrista 2040 Comp Plan

A private well ordinance to force compliance with city watering restrictions is intended to be adopted by the City of Minnetrista according to its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The water-restrictionsplan is on the council’s agenda Tuesday, September 3 at 7pm for final adoption.

I’m assuming Minnetrista residents on private wells do not support this because they are already financially incentivized to restrict water usage. Many rural homeowners on private wells have their own personal water treatment systems with iron filters and water softeners that require the use of bleach and salt. They typically are frugal with their water use because it’s expensive not to be. There is absolutely no reason to impose this regulation on private wells that don’t impact the city’s water system.

private well ordinance
Page 227 Minnetrista 2040 Comprehensive Plan

Community Solar Gardens – Good intentions/bad consequences

Thank you Corcoran Councilor Jon Bottema for digging into this important topic. It is relevant for all cities. Corcoran is lucky to have a council member that cares enough about his community to do his homework.

This letter was sent to the Crow River News
by Jon Bottema, Corcoran City Council member.

I read in this paper a week ago that a solar farm company is asking St. Michael to re-allow community solar gardens into their town, and it would add another to our region. I became more interested in the topic when Corcoran was given an application for a community solar garden a couple years ago.

As a Corcoran City Councilman, I felt compelled to look into it.

I wanted to be thorough, so I   began by reading the community solar proposals presented to other cities in Minnesota. I read thousands of pages of documents, and I watched hundreds of their city council minutes. Every solar company had the same pitch. So many red flags kept coming up! I was losing sleep, staying up till early In the morning trying to figure this out. I am not an authority on this topic; however, as a financial analyst, I could see that some things did not add up.

solar gardensAs part of the application process, a community considering incorporating a solar garden also gets a decommissioning plan: what happens if the solar farm goes bankrupt or ceases to function. The decommissioning plan submitted to us had Corcoran MAKING money if the company went out of business. I wondered how that could even be possible. Many towns have put themselves in financial danger, finding out too late that this it is NOT. Therefore, I would like to present to you some truths I discovered about this and other myths perpetuated by the Met Council, The League of Minnesota Cities, and especially the solar companies themselves before anyone makes a decision about community solar gardens.

Myth #1. The solar panels are recyclable.  Solar panels used in community solar gardens are NOT RECYCLABLE according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency. Though these organizations are actually advocates for solar energy, within their own documents they speak of “recycling in the future” and the “need for recycling plants.” The US, Germany, and China are the biggest users of solar panels, and none of us have figured out how to recycle them. The solar companies say that “most of the materials in solar panels are recyclable.” That is true. The non-recyclable materials make up about one percent of the weight of the panels. However, the non-recyclables are intertwined with the recyclables, and there is no technology to separate the materials. So, by weight, a majority of the panel is made of recyclable materials; however, none of the panel is recyclable because they can’t separate the non-recyclable heavy metals imbedded throughout.  It’s like saying a nuclear warhead is recyclable because it is made mostly of steel, copper and aluminum. We all know that that cannot be true. Ironically, a nuclear warhead is actually more recyclable than a solar panel because you CAN actually separate the nuclear components from the non-nuclear components.

Myth #2. Solar panels are landfill friendly. Even the solar companies’ internal publications. say they are not. I called every landfill within 100 miles of Corcoran, and all of them said flat out that they would not take them. Hennepin County works with many haulers, and they said they did not know what to do with the panels.  I spoke with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), which I learned controls everything that can and cannot go into a landfill. Before things can be determined ‘landfill friendly,’ they must pass a ‘leach test;’ the material is ground into a million pieces (similar to how it would be handled in a landfill), wet down, then checked to see if any hazardous material seeps out. The big solar panels have not been leach tested in Minnesota. The panels are, in fact, hazardous waste and would have to be buried in a hazardous waste landfill. There aren’t any in Minnesota, but there is one in Wisconsin and one in North Dakota. They will take them, but it typically costs over a dollar a pound to bury things there. Most community solar gardens contain over a million pounds of that sort of material. In some proposals, solar companies state that their panels have undergone a leach test. This is a little deceiving because what they have undergone is a ‘standing leach test,’ which is significantly different than the leach test described above. The panels are left intact and sprayed with water, and then the water is tested for hazardous materials. The standing leech test actually has no bearing on if the material is landfill friendly. The panels must be subjected to actual landfill conditions, replicated in the leach test, and, again, these panels have not, so the solar companies have no way of knowing If their panels are landfill friendly.

Myth #3. Used Solar panels can be resold. Some solar companies include in their figures a resale value of the solar panels.  In the case of decommissioning a solar farm, the solar company leads the city to believe that it can sell the used solar panels and make money on them. Most decommissioning plans include an engineering company’s analysis of what the solar panels will be worth in about five years.  For a couple of reasons, the panels are not worth much in five years. Technology is constantly advancing, so who would want five-year-old solar panels? That would be like buying a five-year-old iPhone. And- this is a big one- there actually isn’t a market for used solar panels.  They are not bought and sold in any public fashion.  One engineering firm that has been included in many solar companies’ proposals stated that they got the resale value of the used panels from the solar company; another said they hoped a secondary market would develop for the panels.  I asked both if they would stand by their numbers if asked.  Both said no.

Myth #4. The industry is safe. Solar gardens are very new, and the players change all the time. The industry is heavily subsidized and requires these subsidies to stay afloat. There have already been bankruptcies in the leading solar manufacturers and solar companies; in the case of a bankruptcy, it’s important to know that our town is number seven in line for any claims from a bankrupt company. We come after:

  1. Secured Claims;
  2. Administrative Expenses;
  3. Post-petition Unsecured Claims;
  4. Wages;
  5. Employee Benefits; and
  6. Tax Claims.
  7. Bottom line: we would not see a penny from them.

Most presentations give the town the impression of some sort of protection by saying things like, “We are a wholly owned subsidiary of XYZ company; they have a huge balance sheet and have been around for 100 years.” Keep in mind that bankruptcies of a company that is a wholly owned subsidiary do not travel up to the parent company’s balance sheet.  Essentially, the statement means nothing and offers no protection to our towns.

I could go on.

I own many solar devices, so this is not a blanket indictment on the industry or harvesting the sun’s energy.  It’s hard not to get excited about the idea of saving the planet. When I read these solar companies’ proposals, though, it sounded too good to be true. The fact is, it is. The fact is that solar companies are deceiving small towns into picking up a liability that they may not be prepared to handle.  The fact is that solar farming can cost the city a lot of money. The fact is that it’s hard to find the time to dig deep into some of these issues, but let this be a starting point. Do your own research, and encourage others to do the same.  Make an informed decision.

Jon Bottema
Corcoran City Council in Minnesota

“GreenStep Cities” wants control over your property

A huge turnout at last night’s presentation on the Met Council and League of MN Cities’ backed program called “GreenStep Cities” indicates widespread concern over the program that bills itself as a voluntary, harmless program promoting sustainability. The problem is the steps in the program whittle away at a city’s autonomy and their residents’ property rights and open the doors to even more central planning and social engineering by the Met Council.

crowd greensteps mtgThirty cities were represented at the meeting last night with mayors, council members, state representatives, and citizens coming together to learn about how to protect their cities from the lure of recognition and awards their public officials get when they sign on to the program. Awards and recognition eventually turn into promises of grants to entice cities to turn over their autonomy as they progress through the GreenStep steps.

slide from gs meetingMinnetrista has been considering the GreenStep Cities program and actually lists it as a goal in their strategic plan but so far has not signed the resolution the program requires for official enrollment. Hopefully seeing the concern around the region will make them aware that this “voluntary” program is more than what meets the eye.

Thank you CD3 Republicans and Northwest Metro Republican Woman for taking the initiative to bring awareness about this program and the harm that results from it.

 

MN Cities beware of GreenStep program

Minnesota cities need to beware of the GreenStep Cities Program.

First they need to know that although it is promoted as being funded by nonprofits, foundations and grants, in order to promote sustainability, the fact that the primary funding source for the program is the Met Council is left out of their presentation. The GreenStep Cities website lists all the nonprofits that supposedly promote the program but what they don’t tell you is the Met Council funds all the staff positions in these organizations that promote the GreenStep Cities program.

GreenStep Met CouncilGreenStep lures unsuspecting Mayors and Councilmembers with promises of recognition, awards and eligibility for grants if they follow the “steps” which are designed to replace local autonomy over a city’s planning process and turn it over to the Met Council, a central planning authority of unelected officials with taxing authority that is known for its overreach and insatiable desire to expand it’s base.

GreenStep sample ordinances are designed for more central government control over building regulations and private property use. Based on Agenda 21/Kyoto Protocol (that part is left out too) these recommended ordinances guide cities to restrict economic development to their strict guidelines, impose mandatory building codes for residential and commercial development and restrict land use which all drive up the already exorbitant costs of affordable housing.

A resolution signed by the city council is required to enroll in the program to qualify for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Once the resolution is signed it is mandatory the city provide Met Council access to the data it collects implementing each “step.” Some of this data collected will likely be municipal, commercial and residential energy usage. That raises some serious privacy issues.

The City of Plymouth was ready to enroll in the program last month with a proposed resolution on their consent agenda. After pulling the item from the consent agenda and listening to several speakers articulate their concerns about GreenStep Cities, the council decided to take no action that evening.

This is not a program to casually enter into without understanding the ramifications on privacy and local government autonomy. Of course cities should implement best practices to conserve energy, promote recycling and plan development. They are free to review and implement any of the GreenStep Cities “steps” if they really make sense for their city without signing anything. The best council decisions are based on what’s best for constituents, not awards and recognition. The grants come with strings as well. Let’s hope cities do their homework on this before passing a resolution they’ll regret.

 

GreenStep Cities Red Flags

GREENSTEP CITIES RED FLAGS: Mayor Whalen invited a representative from the GreenStep Cities program to address the city council last August. Enticed by the lure of recognition and their seemingly benevolent mission, “Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals,” it gained legs with staff and was advocated again at the city council’s strategy meeting in February.

When the GreenStep representative was asked last August about where their funding came from they said it was primarily nonprofits, foundations, and grants. What they failed to disclose is they have two major funders, one of which is the Met Council. And we all know the Met Council’s allegiance to local government autonomy.
GreenStep Met CouncilRed flag number one: Not being transparent when asked a direct question about funding sources.

In conversations over the weekend I learned from one of our state legislators that the GreenStep Cities program is “Repackaged from what was formerly known as Agenda 21 (for the 21st Century) GreenStep appears to be an obfuscated friendlier name for the same thing.”

Those unfamiliar with the United Nations Agenda 21 need only know it didn’t receive a warm welcome in the United States, with states passing resolutions condemning it and one even passed legislation prohibiting government involvement in the program.

Red flag number two: Changing the organization name when it’s reputation is exposed as undermining federal, state, and local autonomy.

The GreenStep Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from several nonprofits that are all climate change evangelists working together with the University of Minnesota, League of MN Cities, and various state agencies.

GreenStep Steering CommitteeRed flag number three: Human caused climate change is a controversial topic and there is no diversity represented on the steering committee.

This is not a program that will benefit the Minnetrista electorate. In fact, the sample ordinances they provide to cities appear to be designed for more government control over building regulations and private property use.

No award from the League of MN Cities is worth this.