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People for Envtl. Enlightenment & Responsibility v. Minnesota Envtl. Quality Council

Citation: 8 ELR 20630
No. No. 47911, 266 N.W.2d 858/11 ERC 1481/(Minn., 04/07/1978)

The Minnesota Supreme Court reverses the district court's affirmance of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Council's issuance of a construction permit for a proposed high voltage transmission line (HVTL). Plaintiffs, owners of property adjacent to the designated corridor, sought injunctive relief voiding the selection of route 7, which adversely affected recognized natural resources of the state, and ordering the selection instead of route 3, which parallels the route of an existing transmission line and would necessitate the condemnation of residences owned by other state residents. The court holds that the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (1) requires that proposed HVTL routing corridors that affect natural resources within the state be rejected by licensing agencies where there is a prudent and feasible alternative, and (2) gives citizens a right to contest administrative actions alleged to be in violation of this requirement. When read in light of subsequent legislative pronouncements, this amounts to a duty to avoid proliferation of rights of way and creates a presumption that proposed HVTLs will follow existing corridor routes. The defendant therefore erred in selecting route 7 over route 3. The court also finds that defendant erroneously relied upon the state Power Plant Siting Act for authority to balance the impact on homeowners whose property would be condemned were route 3 to be selected against route 7's impact upon natural resources. This statute permits balancing only between noncompensable project impacts, not including ordinary losses of property, and similarly compels selection of route 3. In order to investigate whether the affected homeowners might suffer additional noncompensable injuries, however, the court remands the case with instructions to permit affected property owners 30 days in which to establish that such injuries would occur. The court further orders that if, on remand, route 7 remains subject to serious consideration, defendant must supplement the environmental impact statement prepared previously because in its current form that document gives insufficient consideration to the environmental impacts of route 7.

Counsel for Appellants
Peter S. Popovich
Peterson, Popovich, Knudson & Flynn
314 Minnesota Bldg., St. Paul MN 55101
(612) 222-5515

William Hartfeldt, Eleni P. Skevas
Broeker, Hartfeldt, Hedges & Grant
Suite 504, 2850 Metro Dr., Minneapolis MN 55420
(612) 854-5263

Counsel for Appellees
Warren Spannaus, Attorney General; Richard B. Allyn, Solicitor General; Stephen Shakman, William E. Dorigan, Donald A. Kannas, Special Ass't Attorneys General
102 State Capitol, St. Paul MN 55155
(612) 296-2591

Counsel for Northern States Power
Ralph S. Towler
Law Department, Northern States Power Co.
414 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis MN 55401
(612) 330-5500

Raymond A. Haik, Gary R. Macomber
Popham, Haik, Schnobrich, Kaufman & Doty, Ltd.
4344 IDS Center, Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 335-9331