PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission wants six months more to make decisions on wind energy projects, but Governor Kristi Noem‘s administration sent a lawyer to oppose the legislation Thursday.
A state Senate committee decided to let the sides keep talking rather than decide whether Senate Bill 15 should move forward or die.
Lawyers for several developers of wind projects also testified against the proposal at the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee hearing.
State law currently sets a deadline of six months for the regulatory agency to decide on a wind permit. Other permit decisions get one year.
Commission Chairman Gary Hanson said citizens opposed to wind projects should get the same amount of time as opponents of other types of projects.
“The permitting process is often complex and controversial,” Hanson testified.
The commission saw similar legislation due last year when Governor Dennis Daugaard’s administration opposed it.
Lawyer Tom Hart went to the microphone to deliver the Noem administration’s opposition Thursday.
Hart said, “This bill really sends a bad message to business.”
Hart said investors could be discouraged. Hart suggested the commission should assign more staff or become more efficient.
The three commissioners and governor all are Republicans.
Hanson said the commission has two wind projects pending and expects six new applications in 2019.
Lobbyist Bill Van Camp for Nextera said companies spend millions of dollars and years of preparation, including getting approval from counties’ boards, before submitting applications to the state commission.
“We only go where we’re wanted,” Van Camp said.
Brett Koenecke also testified for several companies against the change.
“Re-litigating these issues is a serious problem,” Koenecke said.
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