ALEC Insurance, Commerce and Economic Development Task Force member and Minnesota state representative Mike Beard doesn't want local communities to have much time to ask developers questions about their plans.
The Star Tribune reports in Local leaders put Rep. Beard on defensive that the Shakopee lawmaker's judgment about developments like frack sand mining is raising hackles in his own backyard:
A quick-witted, sharp-tongued Republican committee chairman from Shakopee found himself on the defensive late last week as civic leaders in his own county expressed serious concern about two bills that aim to rein in local government in the name of property rights.
It's a type of clash that's becoming more common as elected local leaders even in decidedly conservative suburbs and exurbs bridle at what they consider a sharp swerve to the hard right on the part of an ideology-driven GOP at the Capitol.
Rep. Mike Beard of Shakopee, who chairs the House transportation committee, was alternately pugnacious and conciliatory as he addressed pushback to bills that would:
• Limit the right of local governments to call a temporary halt to development at a time when Scott County is approaching just the sort of situation that is resulting in moratoriums elsewhere in Minnesota: proposals to mine silica sand. . . .
As for the moratorium changes, asked Jordan Mayor Pete Ewals, "What is the problem we're trying to fix? This is a bad bill all the way around."
Beard pushed back much harder on the moratorium bill, House File 389, of which he's chief author, than on the garbage bill, House File 2084, of which he's only one of several co-sponsors.
If there's doubt in Scott County about the need for the moratorium bill, he said, it's because the problem doesn't lie in Scott County. "As a whole, you guys play nice. I don't have to defend private enterprise to anyone in this room," he said.
The Shakopee Patch reports on those local frack sand mining developments in Rep. Michael Beard's Bill Restricting Governments' Ability to Delay Development Approved in Committee:
In Scott County, there are two current proposals to mine frac sand. Great Plains Sands is located along the west side of Highway 169 between Shakopee and Jordan. The other, Merriam Junction Sands, is in an area of previous limestone mining operations just south of Highway 41 and west of Highway 169. Together, the proposals encompass approximately 1,200 acres.
The smaller proposed site (Great Plains Sands) is in the process of completing an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and is expected to start the County’s permitting process later this spring. The larger site, Merriam Junction Sands, is just beginning preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
There will be a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 13 in the Scott County Board Room to gather public comments on issues that will be considered within the Merriam Junction EIS.
The adequacy decision for the EAW for the Great Plains Sands project has not been scheduled yet, but is anticipated in early March as well, according to information on the Scott County website.
Beard's defense of free enterprise made us curious just how good he is at it.
When Bluestem looked at Beard's Economic Interest Statement on file with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Piblic Disclosure Board, we discovered that Beard owns a company, Beard Aircraft, and hold securities in it--and Bixby Energy Systems, a private corporation involved in the development of "clean coal" technology.
The latter firm has been making headlines of late that underscore Beard's judgment. In December, 2011, the U.S. Attorney General's office noted in Bixby Energy Systems Admits Responsibility for Securities Fraud Committed by its Officers and Agents:
The Deferred Prosecution Agreement was made possible because, in May of 2011, two outside directors took control of Bixby’s board of directors, replacing an unidentified coconspirator in this case, who had previously controlled the board. That co-conspirator and his associates were then forced to leave the company. At that point, the company agreed to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation. To that end, the company voluntarily conducted a preliminary internal investigation, reporting all of its findings to the government. Because of this fraud, Bixby Energy investors lost between $2.5 and $7 million.
Bluestem noted at the time that former representative Gil Gutknecht was one of the two outside directors who stepped in to halt this malarky. In December, BSP revisited the story. The Security & Exchange Commission's case is online here.
The cases are moving through the courts; on February 28, MPR reported that a Guilty plea [was]entered in Bixby Energy scam by Delano businessman Gary Collyard. The Star Tribune noted that Collyard, who has ties to another famous Minnesota businessman, might help with the ongoing investigation:
Collyard could get a shorter sentence by providing "substantial cooperation" to federal authorities investigating Bixby. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Wilton said Collyard might provide some insight into Walker's activities, as well as other officers and other "finders" who solicited investors for Bixby.
"Collyard is just one of a bunch of finders," Wilton said. "We are continuing our investigation. I'm not done yet."
Collyard acknowledged that much of the money raised for Bixby went to pay large salaries and commissions to company insiders. Wilton said money also paid for excessive expenses such as a $10,000-a-night hotel for Walker.
State business records show that Collyard has links to the Twin Cities' best-known fraudster: Tom Petters.
The two men formed Collyard-Petters LLC in Minnetonka in 1995. It's unclear what the business did, but it apparently didn't last long. . . .
Random facts: in 2006, Collyard contributed $250 to the Minnesota House Republican Campaign Committee and $250 to the Senate Victory Fund. In 2007, he contributed $250 to the Pawlenty Gov. Committee and $500 to the HRCC. (Searches under Gary Collyard and Gary A. Collyard).
Apparently, Beard was one of approximately 1800 investors who fell victim to the fraud. Repeat: Beard is a victim here. But it's not surprising that he invested in a coal-related company; Beard has long paired the use of coal with his faith in God.
Back in February 2011, Don Shelby reported in the Minnpost article, Picking science that fits politics: Rep. Mike Beard on climate change:
State Rep. Mike Beard is a nice guy. The Republican from Shakopee is the former president of the local chamber of commerce. He says he cares about humanity. He is a man with deep Christian values, a free-market conservative and a veteran of eight years on the Minnesota House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. . . .
. . . But right now, Mike Beard's solution is more coal-fired power plants. He told me that having more coal plants would pave the way for renewable energy. I think he meant it would buy time for innovation without a drop in base load electricity as demand increases. . .
A lot of what Beard knows he learned in church. One Congressman, talking about global warming, recently said that God wouldn't allow man to do anything to destroy the planet. Beard told me, "It is the height of hubris to think we could." I asked him about nuclear war. He said: "How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible," he said, "But, can we recover? Of course we can." . . .
Beard believes that "God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything."
The investment in Bixby Energy, whose officers lied about having successful "clean coal" technology, must have been a seeming godsend to Beard.
But Beard isn't the only member of the Minnesota House of Representatives to invest in this turkey farm. Freshman Lake Elmo Republican (and Joan Cummins-approved conservative) Kathy Lohmer, whose husband is a financial planner, also lists Bixby Energy Systems in her security portfolio online at the Minnesota CFPDB. Again, another apparent victim of fraudsters.
Rounding out the victims in the Minnesota legislature: the state's ALEC Public Sector chair, Representative Mary Kiffmeyer (economic interest statement here), who spends most of her time trying to fight the election fraud she sees lurking in urban American Indian neighborhoods, college dorms and any place where The Other lurks.
Perhaps Kiffmeyer might do better to focus her attention on her own dealings rather than other people's identity, since Bixby Energy isn't the first turkey she's made her business. Kiffmeyer has owned Bixby securities as early as 2009, back when she was still President and Director of American Eagle Financial Corporation, a registered holding company that "owned and controlled" Riverview Community Bank. Students of Minnesota's financial industry may remember Riverview Community Bank, the faith-based bank that bank regulators closed and sold in October 2009.
Bluestem does not presume to judge the faith of others. However, the financial planning adventures of Beard and Kiffmeyer with coal and banking suggest to us that--to paraphrase St. Ronald of Reagan--when investment advice seems divinely inspired, trust but verify.
Also, don't take these folks' idea about business as somehow sacred because of their vows to ALEC and the GOP.
Images: ALEC member, coal devotee and local control opponent Mike Beard (above); a famous artifact from Riverview Community Bank, "Jesus Closing the Deal." via The Minnesota Independent.