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Wind study won’t be paid by industry; Legislative board will use its own money for task force

A legislative study on wind industry incentives no longer will be sponsored by the industry itself.

The Legislative Executive Board decided this week to use its own money to pay for the Wind Energy Competitive Advisory Task Force.

Earlier this year, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation that would create the task force to review the state’s taxation of wind industry and compare state incentives.

At the time, the Legislature did not have the money to financially support the task force, and the wind industry offered to cover expenses – prompting criticism from a handful of legislators.

The day before the chambers voted on the budget, the appropriations committee decided to restore $100,000 to the Legislature’s budget that originally had been cut.

On Monday, legislators expressed concern about setting precedent for other private entities commissioning legislative studies.

“First of all, I appreciate the generosity of wind development groups in making the offer. I’m sure it was done in good faith,” said Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City.

“Everyone has to decide where you draw the line … it doesn’t pass your own personal test. I think that’s the case for many of us,” he said.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which is involved with four wind projects in South Dakota, was one of the companies to offer support.

The company was not concerned about the possible conflict of interest in sponsoring the state government study of its own industry, spokesman Daryl Hill said.

“I don’t think so at all. In my mind, it’s a very wise move by the state to do that – to look at the whole industry,” he said.

The study will help the state realize how its incentives compare with other major wind energy states, said one of the bill sponsors, House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City.

“We want to make sure we are marketable,” he said.

Because legislators voted to sunset the incentive program for large construction projects at the end of next year, Rausch worries that South Dakota now will be at a disadvantage.

“We will now be behind the eight ball in the start-up process. It was a competitive tool that we used,” he said.

The task force will consist of 11 members including legislators and members of the general public. They are to be appointed no later than July 1 this year and will serve until Jan. 1.