- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Public Utilities Commission and wind power industry clash on bill to extend project application timelines

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission wants the option to use up to a full year, rather than six months, to process wind energy facility applications.

Other energy conversion industry projects are under the up-to-one-year time limit.

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Energy heard from PUC Chair Gary Hanson that there are two applications from last year and possibly six more this year on the PUC agenda, plus the other responsibilities of the PUC. Hanson said wind energy applicants are versed and ready to go, while landowners and other citizens need more than six months for evidentiary hearings.

Speaking in favor of the one-year permit application was Dave Adam, Clark County, who said he, the local historical society, the Game, Fish & Parks Department and others needed more time to do research on their end for or against wind farm applications. Gregg Hubner, Avon, testified that wind facility developers want to rush to get millions of dollars worth of tax credits, and intervenors do not have enough time to prepare. Unlike for wind farm professionals,”for residents, their whole lives have changed to protect their quality of life,” Hubner said. He added that safe setbacks would stop most of the problems with wind farms.

Rebecca Terk, representing Dakota Rural Action, said the first concern should be the farmers and other rural people. “This kind of development can drive people off of their land,” said Terk. She supports proper care and time.

Justin Smith, lobbyist for S.D. Wind Energy Association, said other states require less than a year, or do not regulate at all. Smith said a possible year is, “certainly the opposite of efficiency.”

In later refutation, Hanson showed that other states either deal with far smaller wind projects or don’t have any to deal with. S.D. is number five in the nation for wind facilities, and if all the applications were approved, it would become number one. Yes, the industry does file a lot of paperwork, “but they are prepared, while Mr. and Mrs. Farmer are not,” Hanson said.

The state government stands divided, with Tom Hart, Governor Kristi Noem’s general council, saying an extended deadline would send a bad message to future wind farm developers. Wind development is a revenue independent from taxpayer dollars, one that can bring in good jobs to smaller communities. There is already too much regulation. Hart said perhaps the PUC should increase its own efficiencies, or hire more staff.

Bill Van Camp, a lobbyist for Nextera Energy Resources, said intervenors have a chance at the local level, then the PUC re-litigates the issue.

Committee member Craig Kennedy (D-Yankton) demanded that arguments be limited to SB 15’s one year versus six month change, period. “49-41B-25. Within one year (strike “six months”) of receipt of the initial application for a permit for the construction of a wind energy facility, the commission shall make complete findings, and render a decision, regarding whether a permit should be granted or denied.”

So that the proponents and the opponents could work out matters, the committee deferred the bill to an undetermined later date.