Murphy’s Law #53

April 5, 2018

This is a recap of the Natural Resources Interim committee of Thursday, March 29 in Bismarck. First on the agenda was testimony considering the efficacy of a new law from SB2286 last session which is about the Public Service Commission (PSC) taking control from local subdivisions of energy siting. That includes things like pipelines, transmission lines and wind farms. They testified that while there are almost no sitings under the new law, what the PSC hopes to be able to accomplish is to respect the local entities while saving those same local governments from having to go through too much duplication of the many steps such as legal notifications and hearings. For instance, a township, city or county might have months of such legalities only to have the PSC come in and do the same thing. So, my take on it is its a streamlining effort for both the governments and the companies involved. Needless to say, the room held city, township and county representatives listening to the PSC. No one knows how the new law will ultimately be able to balance local and state representation until some sitings take place. For now, it is a wait and see.

There was testimony from the North Dakota Game and Fish (NDGF) Dept. was about how much damage to wildlife and their habitat is done by wind farms. One study in ND led to the conclusion that about 3 to 6 birds and 1 to 3 bats were killed per KW wind production per year. The wind advocates in the room were accepting of those direct impacts. It was repeatedly stated by the advocates of wind that they have a different interpretation as to the effect of indirect impacts such as pads, roads, noise of the turbines and the shadow flicker from the blades on sunny days (NDGF stated that the flicker can be mistaken by birds as raptor coming from above which could spook birds and drive them from inhabiting the site).

While a county commissioner and an oil industry representative testified on the new process of siting, it was the Northwest Landowners Assoc. which seemed to me to have the most specific concerns. One was the property values, another was about liens placed on property when a wind farm goes bankrupt, another about proper bonding to cover such liabilities. More issues covered pooling of landowners in the wind farm to cover some of the impacts which are shared by those who may be in the field but not have turbines on their property. They also asked for a legislative study on some of these issues. In further testimony, they asked for greater local weighting when the PSC considers siting and also asked for distribution of the paperwork to all local entities while the PSC is going through the siting process. An attorney for landowners explained to the committee about wind turbine reclamation followed by a PSC attorney explaining bonding requirements by the PSC.

The meeting wound down with a presentation by the state geologist tweaking a bill proposal of the interim committee regarding the storage of high-level nuclear waste which I have blogged about earlier.