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S.D. regulators accept one wind-farm escrow plan, but want to take a longer look at another

Escrow agreements for when two wind-energy projects in South Dakota stop producing electricity got different treatments Thursday from the state Public Utilities Commission.

The commissioners accepted the plan for the Tatanka Ridge facility near the communities of Toronto and Brandt in Deuel County.

But they informally agreed to look more closely at the arrangement offered for the Triple-H wind farm south of Highmore in Hyde County.

Escrow accounts are intended to protect landowners when projects shut down several decades later.

Adam de Hueck, an attorney for the commission, said the commission needs to have the ability to reach the funds if the claim is valid.

“Of course, we haven’t seen that come up yet and hopefully we never do,” de Hueck said. He added, “If there’s a headache, the landowner can come to the commission and we can get a resolution.”

Commissioner Chris Nelson said he wanted to give himself and the agency’s staff the next two weeks to assure themselves the commission can be involved in the Triple H plan.

Commissioner Kristi Fiegen agreed. “Words matter,” Fiegen said. “It always makes me nervous when I hear assumptions being made rather than facts.”