South Dakota Enacts Bill Designed To Streamline Solar, Wind Permitting

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Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has OK’d a bill designed to streamline the permit procedures for solar and wind energy facilities and assist the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with managing its docket.

According to Noem, S.B.15 clarifies that the PUC has authority to ensure solar and wind projects are permitted in a timely fashion and with public safety in mind. All projects permitted under SDCL 49-41B will benefit from the updated process, the governor says. The bill also strikes duplication of efforts done at the local level.

Specifically, S.B.15 provides for an orderly process of accepting and hearing public comments, unifies the timeline of like-permitting processes, and grants deference during the commission’s permitting process to permit findings the local unit of government has already decided.

“Harnessing South Dakota’s sunshine and wind is critical to expanding clean, renewable energy solutions,” states Noem. “But like any industry, renewable energy production cannot thrive under heavy regulation and long approval processes. This bill is a commonsense approach from industry experts, legislators and the commission to reduce regulatory redundancy, right-size the permitting process, and provide certainty to further solar and wind energy production in South Dakota.”

Following Noem’s February veto of S.B.14, the governor’s office, the PUC, industry stakeholders and legislators came together to create S.B.15 as “a product of true collaboration, input and compromise,” says the governor.

According to Noem’s veto message for S.B.14 last month, the bill would have created “unacceptable ambiguity and confusion” over the PUC’s regulatory authority.

“The commission should not be in the business of picking locations for solar projects,” she said, “but the enrolled version of this bill permits it.” The governor also “question[ed] the need for additional PUC regulation of solar generating stations” and added that “the renewable energy industry, just as any other, should be subject to only as much regulation as is necessary to promote the public interest and preserve our environment while making South Dakota an attractive place to do business.”

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