Six-Month Deadline On Wind Permits Pressures South Dakota Regulators

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The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will get nine months rather than six to process requests for wind-energy permits starting July 1. But the Legislature’s change doesn’t apply to applications already pending, such as Crowned Ridge Wind, which wants to erect up to 130 turbine towers in Grant and Codington counties.

That time crunch came into play Tuesday when the commission set a schedule that calls for the main evidentiary hearing June 11-14. The developer wanted the hearing one week earlier or later. The interveners wanted it the week of July 8.

Amanda Reiss, one of the commission’s staff attorneys, said she was sympathetic but needed to meet the six-month rule requiring the permit decision by July 30. Reiss said she didn’t see how the commission could issue a decision if the hearing wasn’t held until the second week of July.

Commission Chairman Gary Hanson said he appreciated the challenges facing interveners. “It seems there’s some dilatoryness,” Hanson said about the applicant.

Crowned Ridge wants to generate up to 300 megawatts from the $400 million development in Waverly, Rauville, Leola, Germantown, Troy, Stockholm, Twin Brooks and Mazeppa townships. Northern States Power, doing business as Xcel Energy, has agreed to purchase the project’s entire output.

One of the interveners, Amber Christenson of rural Strandburg, said Crowned Ridge doesn’t have a county permit yet. Another intervener, Kristi Mogen of rural Twin Brooks, said their side needs time to arrange for witnesses to analyze data on the project.

“It seems,” said a third intervener, Melissa Lynch of rural Watertown, “like the timelines keep getting wiggled around.” Added Patrick Lynch, who’s been trying to get analysis done of a “final” sound report that now seems headed toward a second round of modifications, “Every time it changes costs me money and time.”

Commissioner Chris Nelson conducted the meeting Tuesday. “This has become a familiar refrain,” Nelson said about having six months to get volumes of information processed on multiple wind projects at the same time while also handling the commission’s other regulatory duties.

The developer is EAPC, a Vermont-based engineering and architects company. Representing EAPC is Miles Schumacher, a lawyer for the Lynn, Jackson, Shultz and Lebrun firm’s Sioux Falls office.

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