It may be a first for the North Dakota Public Service Commission.
The PSC has denied the siting permit for a wind farm.
The wind farm in question is the proposed 200 megawatt Burke Wind facility, in Burke and Mountrail Counties.
The reason for the denial: objections from the state Game and Fish Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service concerning wetlands and other wildlife habitat.
“The Game and Firsh Department’s March 7, 2019 letter indicated it believed Burke Wind could not have picked a worse spot in the state, with respect to potential negative impacts to wetland wildlife species,” said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak.
Fedorchak said the project developer – NextEra Wind – was not willing to move the wind farm out of that area.
“I just firmly believe that this is the right decision, based on the evidence of the case,” Fedorchak said. “The company did not meet its burden of proof to show that this project has minimal impact.”
Fedorchak said it had been frustrating, because the two agencies had been corresponding with NextEra for a few years.
“They told the company, ‘This is a tough area, and you should consider someplace else,'” Fedorchak said. “They didn’t heed that, and their tune never changed.”
The vote was unanimous. Commission chairman Brian Kroshus said a number of landowners showed up to the public hearing to support the project. And he said he understands landowner rights. But Kroshus said it’s the PSC’s duty to follow the law.
“We are a regulatory body,” Kroshus said. “We can’t shift or modify statute from the bench. It would be irresponsible for any regulatory body to go down that road, because then you’re not following the rule of law, you’re starting to apply the rule of personal preference.”
NextEra could appeal – or come back to the PSC with a different siting plan.