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Unsung Hero: Kristi Rosenquist tilts at wind farms

By   /   May 30, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 1 of 9 in the series Unsung Heroes

Kristi Rosenquist isn’t one to rest on her laurels.

This spring, for instance, she’s battling the wind industry yet again, trying to persuade members of the Minnesota Legislature that the state needs better noise standards for siting wind turbines because those spinning noise-makers are now allowed as close as 500 feet from residents’ homes.

The state uses noise standards not designed for turbines, Rosenquist argues. She said the state needs to eliminate the standard and create a new one.

“That means, in my opinion, they shouldn’t build any more turbines until they have new siting standards,” she told Watchdog.org.

The latest fight is just one of a long list of Herculean efforts by Rosenquist in the fight against big government and the green energy industry, which began with a personal battle to protect her own hobby farm.

Kristi Rosenquist

By state definition, that’s a farm of 50 acres or less, fitting the description of the one owned by Rosenquist and her husband, Bob. They planned to add an agricultural building on the land, and Wabasha County was going to require that the septic system for their home be reinspected, at great cost to the Rosenquists. The provision was in place because the state considered their property to be shore land because of an intermittent stream that flowed when it rained hard.

“I said, ‘That’s not happening,'” Rosenquist remembered.

She fought the law and got the county to change how it administered it. The victory was an eye-opening experience for someone who had never before been active in a political crusade. As important as anything, she learned that when someone leads, others will follow.

“The great news is there are plenty of people who will come when I need help,” she said.

Inspired by that first success, Rosenquist turned her attention to the proposed New Era Wind Farm in Goodhue County, one of many such projects slated for development to meet state and federal renewable energy mandates and take advantage of federal subsidies.

Residents questioned its location near homes and the impact on area wildlife, particularly eagles. Local opposition stymied the project and Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens pulled out. Despite $15 million spent on permits and other miscellaneous costs, the project died.

Rosenquist continued to fight against wind farms, working with lawmakers to craft legislation to change Minnesota turbine siting standards in 2011 and continuing to push the issue at the local and state levels.

She coordinated with about a dozen other concerned citizens in Washington, D.C., in a valiant-if-failed effort to pressure federal officials to let renewable energy production tax credits expire.

Her persistence also convinced the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to better enable public participation in its decision-making processes and require actual environmental studies instead of models.

Kim Crockett, chief operating officer at Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank in Minnesota, said she is impressed at how much time Rosenquist spent studying the issues and the amount of information she soaked up, making her “as knowledgeable on the law as any high-priced energy attorney in Minnesota.”

“Kristi makes it clear to elected officials of both parties that she expects leadership and integrity,” Crockett said. “She tolerates no excuses for ignorance by public officials.”

Rosenquist also volunteers her time as a consultant to citizens around the country who are waging similar battles against wind farms in their states. The list includes Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Asked how it makes her feel to be called on to help so many others, Rosenquist said it gives her mixed emotions.

“Some days it feels great and I’m excited, and other days I’m sad and exhausted,” she said.

Rosenquist feels those latter emotions because the proliferation of green energy projects often divides rural communities, made up largely of people who don’t have pockets deep enough to fight the developers that frequently locate their projects there.

“For the most part, rural people are having their lives ruined by green energy,” she said.

But Rosenquist is encouraged by the successes, and the plethora of her fellow activists eager to help in that fight.

Rosenquist is also encouraged about the noise ordinance fight in her home state this spring, yet another battle she expects to win. “At least in this state, the bloom is off the rose for wind,” she said.

Kristi Rosenquist has proven again and again that individual activists can make a difference in the never-ending battle against the regulatory power of the state. Her energy, attention to detail and courage have made this rural Minnesotan a power to be reckoned with.

This story was first published in the Washington Times.

Part of 9 in the series Unsung Heroes

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Johnny Kampis is National Watchdog Reporter for Watchdog.org. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com, FoxNews.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A former semi-professional poker player, he is writing a book documenting the poker scene at the 2016 World Series of Poker, a decade after the peak of the poker boom. Johnny is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.