STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Certificate of
Issued to Kenneth D. Gruenes
for an Animal Feedlot in Eden Lake
Township, Stearns County, Minnesota.
Filed February 2, 1999
Appeal dismissed; motion denied
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
File No. MPCA-C-7016R
Gary A. Van Cleve, Sharna A. Wahlgren, Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, Ltd., 1500 Norwest Financial Center, 7900 Xerxes Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55431-1194 (for relator)
Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Jocelyn F. Olson, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2127 (for respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)
Sherry A. Enzler, Mark J. Hanson, Doherty, Rumble & Butler, P.A., 2800 Minnesota World Trade Center, 30 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-4999 (for respondent Kenneth D. Gruenes)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.
Relator appeals the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's denial of its petition for a contested case hearing regarding the issuance of a revised certificate of compliance for an animal feedlot. Because the certificate has since been replaced by an interim permit, we dismiss.
Relator Stearns Alliance for Water and Air Quality (the Alliance) is a nonprofit corporation whose members own real property in the Rice Lake, Browns Lake, and Deep Lake areas of Stearns County. On October 29, 1997, Kenneth Gruenes submitted a permit application for the construction and operation of an animal feedlot to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Gruenes sought a permit to construct two confinement barns. The two barns would house a total of 2,000 finishing pigs. Manure from the pigs would be collected in concrete pits, which would be emptied once a year. The almost one million pounds of manure removed from the pits each year would then be injected into fields owned by Gruenes and various neighbors who had contracted with Gruenes.
On February 17, 1998, the MPCA issued Gruenes a certificate of compliance, authorizing him to proceed with the construction and operation of the feedlot. Because the certificate provided for only one total confinement barn rather than the two barns Gruenes specified in his application, the MPCA issued a revised certificate on March 24, 1998.
Following the issuance of the revised certificate, the Alliance, by a letter addressed to the members of the MPCA board dated May 21, 1998, requested a contested case hearing on the issuance of Gruenes's original certificate. While the petition for a contested case hearing on the original certificate was pending, the Alliance appealed the issuance of the revised certificate of compliance to this court. On June 23, 1998, this court discharged the writ of certiorari and dismissed the appeal, finding that the issues raised by the Alliance arose from the original certificate and were not reviewable in an appeal from the revised certificate. The commissioner subsequently denied the Alliance's request for a contested case hearing regarding the original certificate.
The Alliance now appeals the denial of its petition for a contested case hearing on the original certificate.
It is well settled that courts hear only live controversies and will not rule on a question merely to set a precedent. In re Inspection of Minn. Auto Specialties, Inc., 346 N.W.2d 657, 658 (Minn. 1984). If, while an appeal is pending, an event occurs that renders a "decision on the merits unnecessary or an award of effective relief impossible," the appeal must be dismissed as moot. Id.
While this appeal was pending, the MPCA issued Gruenes interim permit number MPCA-I 2586(a). The issuance of the interim permit nullified the previously issued certificate of compliance and the amended certificate of compliance. As a result, even if this court ruled the Alliance was entitled to a contested case hearing on the issuance of the original certificate of compliance, the result of that hearing would be irrelevant because Gruenes is now operating under an interim permit. Thus, because the issue before us in this appeal is moot, we dismiss.
In reaching our decision, it was not necessary to rely on the affidavits submitted by the Alliance to which the MPCA objects in its motion to strike. Accordingly, we find it unnecessary to address the merits of the MPCA's motion.
Appeal dismissed; motion to strike denied.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 We note that the MPCA issued Gruenes a certificate of compliance notwithstanding (a) the untimeliness of Gruenes's notice of intent to obtain a certificate of compliance, and (b) the fact that the MPCA's decision to issue a certificate only four days after Gruenes published the notice of intent did not allow local residents sufficient time to contest the issuance of the certificate.