Kristi Rosenquist isn’t one to rest on her laurels.
This spring, 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 noisemakers are now allowed as close as 500 feet from residents’ homes, much to the discomfort of those who live near them.
It seems the state uses noise standards that weren’t designed for turbines and haven’t been updated with them in mind. Mrs. Rosenquist argues that the state needs to revise the standards before siting another wind turbine.
This latest fight is just one of a long list of Herculean efforts by Mrs. Rosenquist in the fight against big government and the green energy industry which began some years ago with a personal battle to protect her family’s “hobby farm.”
In Minnesota, a “hobby farm” is a farm of 50 acres or less which is just the size of the farm she and her husband own. Such farms are subject to different and more lenient regulations than large commercial farms and must meet different requirements than those that apply to non-farm residences, but when Kristi and her husband decided to build a farm building on their farm, her county government decided to require a re-inspection of their home’s septic system at great cost, and the Rosenquists were informed that this was because the state considered their property to be shore land since intermittent stream appeared when it rained enough.
Mrs. Rosenquist was shocked at the cost and found the requirement absurd, promising herself and her husband that “That’s not happening.” She had never been involved in the sort of political action she would need to get the county to back down, but she decided to fight.
She fought the county’s interpretation and administration of the law and to the surprise of her family and neighbors, she won. 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.
Inspired by that first success, Mrs. 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, but which was going to be built near residential areas where the constant noise produced by the wind generators would annoy residents and reduce the value of their homes.
In addition, many residents questioned the impact the generators would have on area wildlife, particularly eagles. Local opposition stymied the project and Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, an early backer of the project, pulled out. Although developers had spent more than $15 million on permits and other preconstruction work, the opposition generated by Rosenquist and other citizen opponents of the project killed it.
Mrs. Rosenquist continues to fight against wind farms, successfully convincing lawmakers to craft legislation to change Minnesota turbine siting standards in 2011 and continuing to push the issue at the local and state levels.
In the process, 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 has 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 before approving future projects.
Kim Crockett, chief operating officer at Center of the American Experiment, a conservative Minnesota think tank said she is impressed at how much time Mrs. Rosenquist spent studying the issues and the amount of information she commands, 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,” Ms. Crockett said. “She tolerates no excuses for ignorance by public officials.”
Mrs. 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, Mrs. 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.
But Mrs. Rosenquist is encouraged by the successes, and by the willingness of her fellow activists eager to help in the fight.
Kristi Rosenquist has proven again and again that individual citizens 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, and this month’s Washington Times Unsung Hero.