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PSC denies Burke wind farm

The Public Service Commission on June 12 denied a permit by Burke Wind LLC, to construct a 22,933-acre wind energy conversion facility in Burke County. The highly debated topic has been a buzz around the county for two years as NextEra Energy set up shop in Bowbells in March 2017 and began negotiating deals with area landowners.

The Public Service Commission on June 12 denied a permit by Burke Wind LLC, to construct a 22,933-acre wind energy conversion facility in Burke County.

The highly debated topic has been a buzz around the county for two years as NextEra Energy set up shop in Bowbells in March 2017 and began negotiating deals with area landowners.

Several public hearings were held allowing residents and citizens to voice their concern and support for the proposed multimillion dollar project.

Burke Wind signed a 30- year power purchase agreement with Basin Electric Power to sell the wind energy from the proposed 76-turbine, 200- megawatt facility.

Burke Wind conducted studies and coordinated with over 10 state agencies and entities, including the Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Aviation Administration along with other agencies to determine the appropriate placement of the project. They conducted soil and habitat testing and submitted a report citing “no significant sites effected” by the proposed project. However, various agencies, such as North Dakota Game and Fish (NDGF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), weighed in with contradicting information.

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The Public Service Commission on June 12 denied a permit by Burke Wind LLC, to construct a 22,933-acre wind energy conversion facility in Burke County.

The highly debated topic has been a buzz around the county for two years as NextEra Energy set up shop in Bowbells in March 2017 and began negotiating deals with area landowners.

Several public hearings were held allowing residents and citizens to voice their concern and support for the proposed multimillion dollar project.

Burke Wind signed a 30- year power purchase agreement with Basin Electric Power to sell the wind energy from the proposed 76-turbine, 200- megawatt facility.

Burke Wind conducted studies and coordinated with over 10 state agencies and entities, including the Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Aviation Administration along with other agencies to determine the appropriate placement of the project. They conducted soil and habitat testing and submitted a report citing “no significant sites effected” by the proposed project. However, various agencies, such as North Dakota Game and Fish (NDGF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), weighed in with contradicting information.

Five letters, three from NDGF and two from USFWS, were submitted in opposition to the proposed area of the project.

The Burke County Zoning Commission was the first government body to consider the project.

After several hearings and meetings, the Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the permit. According to one zoning board member, Arlo Griesbach, much of the concern from the committee came from the risk and possible detriment to the wildlife and wildlife habitat in the area. In addition, the project posed a threat to lower the value of the land, according to Griesbach.

“The county zoning commission did their homework and researched this project extensively,” Griesbach explains.

The county commissioners later overruled the Zoning Commission’s recommendation and allowed the permit to be accepted.

The next step in the permitting process was for Burke Wind to present their application and proposal to the Public Service Commission.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) held a hearing in Bowbells which generated a large crowd as did all of the previous public meetings regarding the project.

The PSC allowed testimony from both those in support and opposition to the project and did not conclude until everyone wishing to speak was heard. Held on March 8, the hearing lasted over 13 hours, setting a possible record.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Dakota Game and Fish both submitted letters of testimony in opposition of the location of the proposed project.

In a November 2017 letter from NDGF, staff indicated that NextEra or Burke Wind, “Could not have picked a worse spot in the state,” for the project in regard to nature conservation.

NextEra then amended the application to exclude some of the major areas of concern in effort to satisfy the concerns from both wildlife groups.

NDGF issued another letter of testimony in March 2019, stating “Despite NextEra’s efforts to minimize impacts, their initial site selection and succeeding resolve to proceed in this extremely resourcerich landscape shows poor resource regard and should not be rewarded.”

On June 12, 2019, the Public Service Commission denied the permit — the first time in the state’s short history with constructing wind farms.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak stated in the public hearing, “the siting criteria is really how we apply all of the facts that are brought out in the hearing and application process.”

Economic and environmental factors led to the ultimate denial of the permit. The PSC based their decision on state law which presented three basic issues. All of the findings state Burke Wind failed to meet the burden of proof to show that location, construction and operation of the wind project are compatible with environmental preservation with minimal effects on wildlife and the welfare of the citizens in the effected area.

Dave Nehring, representing Vision Keepers and owner of Habitat Unlimited, has been opposed to the project.

He applauded the PSC’s decision saying, “The PSC’s decision created a win for North Dakota taxpayers and energy rate payer in the state of North Dakota.”

He describes the wind energy sector as “smoke and mirrors,” referring to the tax incentives and subsidies wind energy companies receive from federal government.

Nehring explained that on a similar-sized wind project, a wind energy company would receive $495 million in taxpayer money while the county where the turbines are placed would only receive a few million, creating what he calls, “The greatest financial scam for the American taxpayer.”

NextEra has an opportunity to appeal the PSC’s decision and it is unknown at this time if they will.

Conlan Kennedy, spokesperson for NextEra Energy, reacted to the decision saying, “We believe we have adequately mitigated for the environmental impacts of this project and we hope to have the opportunity for reconsideration.”

For more information and full details on the PSC’s decision go to www.psc.nd.gov.


Source: https://www.journaltrib.com...

JUN 18 2019
http://www.windaction.org/posts/49962-psc-denies-burke-wind-farm
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