Rep. Kristi Noem has introduced a bill to remove part of the permitting process for potential wind farms on some government land.
The Utilizing America’s Federal Lands for Wind Energy Act would cut up to two years off the process for some wind farms, Noem said, by delaying the need for an extensive environmental impact study until after test towers determine whether there is enough wind to proceed with a wind farm.
The law would apply only on land owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
It would also only give the exemption to test towers that met certain environmental criteria, such as disturbing less than an acre of ground at the site of the test tower and restoring the area to its original state within five years.
Noem said environmental impact studies of up to two years have to be done before test towers can be built to examine the wind on BLM or Forest Service land.
Noem’s bill drew praise from clean energy advocate Matt McGovern.
“It sounds like a reasonable proposal,” he said.
Steve Wegman, executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, said the bill as written is too limited to have a major impact on South Dakota where most of the best wind energy land is on private or tribal land.
Noem argued the proposal would have more immediate impact, but she also said she hopes the law can serve as a model for other federally owned land – like tribal land.
That, Wegman said, is greatly needed.
He and Noem both cited the example of a Rosebud Sioux Tribe wind project that has been in development for more than a decade and is only now coming to fruition.
“This could put a process in place… that could help them (tribes) create their own energy,” Noem said.
Noem said the bill, just introduced, doesn’t have any Democratic co-sponsors so far, but she expects the measure to draw bipartisan support.
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