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Texas lawmakers enact wind turbine decommissioning rules

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Texas lawmakers enact wind turbine decommissioning rules

Texas lawmakers on May 22 passed a bill that would give landowners guarantees that every trace of equipment would be removed from their property when wind farms are decommissioned.

Farmers and cattle ranchers who supported the legislation say that HB 2845 would protect their properties from potential damage caused by the turbines by setting minimum standards for decommissioning, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Opponents say the legislation is unnecessary because private contracts already provide such assurances to landowners.

The bill establishes specific requirements for decommissioning wind facilities, including the removal of wind turbine generators and substations, all liquids contained in a generator or substation, and overhead power lines. It also mandates the return of the property to a tillable state.

In addition, landowners would be given bonds or other forms of financial assurance for decommissioning costs.

Supporters of the bill include the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Farm Bureau. Testifying against the bill were representatives for Avangrid Networks Inc., Duke Energy Renewables Inc., Lincoln Clean Energy LLC, Enel Green Power North America Inc. and Pattern Energy Group Inc., along with other companies and organizations.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit backed by funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, has supported bills in the state legislature to limit development of renewable energy resources. A white paper by the foundation argues that HB 2845 addresses concerns about who should pay for decommissioning, but it recommends "a more voluntary approach" in negotiation between landowners and wind power companies if the companies opt out of tax incentives and bear the cost of connecting to the grid.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has until June 16 to act on the bill, which, if passed, would become effective Sept. 1.