The Oklahoma Corporation Commission will finalize rules next year on how best to decommission wind turbines, but doesn’t want responsibility for placement of new wind farms.
The commission ended an inquiry Tuesday into several areas related to wind energy, including the best ways to notify nearby landowners of new projects. The commission’s public utility division is expected to prepare a final report summarizing comments and recommendations by the middle of December.
The study was requested by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, after several pieces of wind-related legislation failed to advance at the Legislature earlier this year.
Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said Tuesday he wants additional regulation for the wind industry in Oklahoma. He said the Corporation Commission was the logical place for oversight, since it already was in charge of utilities and oil and gas.
“We don’t have enough regulations in rural areas in regards to where these farms are going,” Sears said. “It’s imperative we put some in place, not only for the benefit of the wind power, but for the people who have to be around them.”
“Let there be no doubt: The state Legislature is absolutely going to send some legislation forward putting rules and regulations in place. We all know we can over-regulate something, but we’ve got to have a starting point.”
Commissioners Bob Anthony and Dana Murphy said they weren’t keen on the commission taking on additional responsibilities for the placement of wind turbines. Anthony said those decisions are better made at the local level, either by counties or cities.
“The issue of siting seems to be the lightning rod issue among all the different things,” Murphy said. “I think that one needs to have really thoughtful consideration.”
Brandy Wreath, director of the public utility division, said the commission received more than 300 comments during the inquiry, which included two previous hearings.
“We do not see where the commission has the expertise or staff to properly do the siting better than what we see happening today,” Wreath said.
Wreath said the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment’s office has agreed to develop an informational packet for landowners and others to help explain the wind turbine siting process.
“I like the fact that this recognizes cities and counties and the role that they play,” said Commissioner Patrice Douglas. “It’s the best place, in my opinion, for citizens to have input.”
Wreath said public utility division staff will recommend the commission open a formal rulemaking early next year for the decommissioning of old wind turbines and the notification of nearby landowners of new developments.
The Legislature passed decommissioning language in the Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act in 2011. The law doesn’t have any rules associated with it yet, partly because none of the state’s wind farms are old enough to need decommissioning.
“We agree there are holes in the decommissioning (statute); there’s not clear directives,” Wreath said. “We also believe there have been issues in the notice. That has been paramount in the comments we’ve received.
“That’s not to say all companies are doing a bad job. Some of them are doing their best to be proactive by holding meetings and town hall discussions as much as they can, but we do believe the rulemaking needs to address some minimum standards for notice.”
Legislative studies have reviewed tax credits offered to wind developers.
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