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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

In some MN counties, wind turbines are taxpayers, too

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Monday, May 6, 2024   

Minnesota is coming off another windy month of April. Those strong wind gusts may have translated into some extra cash for counties with wind turbines dotting the landscape.

Minnesota has a wind and solar energy production tax, which allows jurisdictions where these systems are located to collect revenue based on the energy that's generated.

Nobles County brought in nearly $2 million in 2023, the third highest in the state.

County Commissioner Gene Metz said over time, this extra financial stream has helped cover maintenance costs.

"We did a ten year bond basically to upgrade our buildings," said Metz. "You know, we had roofs that needed work - outside, windows, that type of thing. And we upgraded a lot of our heating and technology controlling those systems."

He said it's helpful since smaller counties have a harder time attracting larger industries to help spur economic growth.

While it's become a solid income source, Metz said turbines taken out of operation for repairs, or less windy seasons can make the numbers vary in certain years.

Minnesota supporters also are eyeing bipartisan legislation to speed up the permitting process for these energy projects, in hopes it will open up much-needed space on the power grid.

Metz, also a member of the Rural Minnesota Energy Board, said he feels addressing that issue will lead to more wind farms.

He added that having additional dollars trickle down takes pressure off local taxpayers because county budgets won't be so one-dimensional.

"We depend so much on agriculture," said Metz. "In our county, 75% of the tax levy comes from agriculture, and if that has a bad year or bad period, it's just nice to have another source of income. "

While some counties have embraced renewables, local governments elsewhere have put up more resistance as proposed projects come on board.

Metz said some of that is driven by misinformation.

He advises planning officials and constituents - worried about seeing wind farms harming aesthetics on the rural landscape - to compare them with other industries that take up more space and have deeper effects on the quality of life.




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