September 11, 2019
South Dakota

In a rare move, state board rejects reinvestment payment to S.D. wind project

By Bob Mercer | KELO | Sep 10, 2019 |

The South Dakota Board of Economic Development stepped off its normal path Tuesday.

A majority of board members voted against a reinvestment payment that owners of Triple H Wind Farm had sought for the Hyde County project.

The roll-call vote came after an executive session. The board since its start in 1987 discusses financial-aid applications in private but votes in public.

Staff for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development had recommended the board deny the Triple H application.

Voting against Triple H were Matt Judson of Pierre, Sharon Casey of Chamberlain, Mike Luken of Watertown, Ted Hustead of Wall, Joy Nelson of Watertown, Kevin Tetzlaff of Brookings, Eric Yunag of Sioux Falls and chairman Jeff Erickson of Sioux Falls.

Three members voted against the denial: vice chairman Don Kettering of Yankton, Tom Jones of Viborg and Reed Kessler of Aberdeen.

Turning down the request broke from the board’s pattern.

Last year members approved six wind farms for reinvestment payments – including one twice – that totaled more than $36 million to be provided from state government back to the projects.

The board didn’t refuse any.

How much Triple H sought wasn’t publicly disclosed. Applications aren’t public records under South Dakota law.

The Legislature created the reinvestment-payment program in 2013 over the objections of then-Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Lawmakers gave the state board the authority to administer the program and determine the percentages of state sales and use tax, if any, that should be repaid to large projects.

A factor the board considers is the likelihood the project would have located in South Dakota.

The state Public Utilities Commission approved the Triple H project in July. It will have up to 92 turbines spread across several townships three miles south of Highmore.

A commission map updated through August shows wind projects in South Dakota

Wind projects that received reinvestment payments last year were:

Coyote Ridge and Deuel Harvest in December;

Phillip Wind in October;

Prevailing Wind Park in June and September;

Crocker Wind in July; and

Willow Creek Wind in June.

The meeting Tuesday was by conference call. None of the board members made any comments publicly before or after on the Triple H application.

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee received in August a report on GOED incentives including the reinvestment program.

Governor Kristi Noem took office January 5 from Daugaard. She named former legislator Steve Westra of Sioux Falls as her commissioner for economic development, replacing Scott Stern.

Erickson, a former banker, is the board’s long-time chairman.

KELOLAND has requested an on-camera interview with a GOED official about the Triple H decision.

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