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South Dakota kills bills to change wind project permitting process

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South Dakota kills bills to change wind project permitting process

South Dakota's state legislature pushed aside a bill that would have narrowed qualifications to be a party in the state's wind farm permitting process and delayed action on another bill on increasing the time to review project permits.

House Bill 1164 was proposed to ease the requirements for a party submitting comments on a wind project's application. State Rep. Jason Kettwig, the bill's sponsor, asked the House Commerce and Energy Committee to table the bill, which means it can be brought back later by majority vote.

While current regulations may need some tweaks in the future, Kettwig said during a Feb. 14 session of the legislature that after meetings with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and spending time on the bill, "we kind of came to the conclusion that maybe what we're doing right now is the best way to do it."

The committee's members unanimously voted to table H.B. 1164. Lawmakers then spent nearly three hours debating H.B. 1022, which would allow the PUC to have up to one year to review an application to build a wind farm instead of six months.

The South Dakota PUC had asked the committee to consider the bill, but the commission's vice president, Gary Hanson, said the bill needed to be put off for at least another year.

"[It] was a simple change going from six months to 12 months," he said. "On paper, that's a simple change. In reality, it creates a lot of other challenges."

It had taken lawmakers four weeks to debate and finalize the details on H.B. 1164 and H.B. 1022 before bringing them into session. Several representatives wanted testimony on the floor, rather than leave the debate behind closed doors.

"There has been discussion but it hasn't been done here," Rep. Spencer Gosch said, suggesting waiting for the committee's Feb. 21 meeting to discuss and vote on H.B. 1022. "There's been good support in South Dakota and I think we should debate it."

In the end, the committee deferred action on the bill, effectively killing it for this year's legislative session.

As of the end of 2017, South Dakota had 977 MW of wind capacity installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Apex Clean Energy Holdings LLC subsidiaries Dakota Range I LLC and Dakota Range II LLC are currently seeking approval for the 302.4-MW Dakota Range Wind I & II project being developed for Xcel Energy Inc.