State regulators fine-tune several S.D. wind-project permits

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Wind Turbine

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – State regulators reached agreements Tuesday on several small but potentially significant changes on wind-electricity projects they’ve permitted or are considering in different regions of South Dakota.

Landowners now will be covered too under the $5 million removal-contingency bond the state Public Utilities Commission had previously required for the Wind Quarry Wind Power project in Butte County.

Commissioner Chris Nelson drew attention to the oversight in a letter August 8.

Nelson thanked Lincoln Clean Energy and the commission staff for reaching the agreement. Lincoln’s John Baker said the bond company also adjusted the language so the bond automatically renews each year.

The commission also granted an exemption so the Dakota Range III wind project in Grant and Roberts counties wouldn’t be required to have a public liaison officer because there wasn’t any opposition in the area.

Lisa Agrimonti, a Minneapolis, Minnesota, lawyer representing Dakota Range III, said the exemption is similar to several other wind projects that didn’t have opponents.

Commissioners required that Dakota Range III provide the PUC’s consumer-affairs division’s contact information to landowners affected by the project.

In another action, the commission approved Eric Munz as the public liaison officer for the Deuel Harvest Wind Energy project in Deuel County.

The commission’s staff supported the choice of Munz because of his past work on the Dakota Access crude-oil pipeline project.

“And he really did a remarkable job,” commission attorney Kristen Edwards said.

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen asked Munz whether he’s been involved in wind projects.

“I have not specifically worked with wind projects,” he replied.

“So this will be your first. It’s always good to have a first,” Fiegen said.

Commission Chairman Gary Hanson said Munz came “with high accolades” from the staff.

Commissioner Nelson said Munz showed “exemplary performance” on the Dakota Access project.

The commission rejected a confidential-information request regarding some easement information for the Crowned Ridge Wind II project proposed in Deuel, Grant and Codington counties.

Attorney Miles Schumacher of Sioux Falls, representing Crowned Ridge II, argued that the information was a long-time trade secret.

One of the intervenors, Amber Christensen of rural Strandburg, said there wasn’t any requirement attached to the document the company provided to landowners in the project area.

“We’re here to protect South Dakota. We’re not here to protect NextEra Energy,” Christensen said.

Chairman Hanson told attorney Schumacher: “I don’t find your arguments substantive.” Schumacher said posting the information in the public docket could lead to competitors using it to the disadvantage of Crowned Ridge. Replied Hanson, “I think they’re in the public wherewithal at the present time.”

Commissioner Nelson agreed with one of the staff’s conclusions that the material wasn’t confidential.

“As has been noted, this information was spread around,” Nelson said. “You can’t just give somebody something and then say, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s parameters around what we just gave you.'”

Nelson said he also found the developer’s treatment toward landowners “offensive.”

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