A wind farm near Weatherford, Okla.

Travel Aficionado / Flickr

Wind Regulation Bill Moves Forward With Industry’s Blessing

  • Joe Wertz
A wind farm near Weatherford, Okla.

Travel Aficionado / Flickr

A wind farm near Weatherford, Okla.

Legislation adding siting restrictions and reporting requirements to new wind energy developments passed a House committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 808 is now the primary wind regulation bill for the 2015 legislative session, replacing the similarly worded House Bill 1549, Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, tells The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

Senate Bill 808 would stop any wind turbines from being erected within 1.5 nautical miles of an airport, public school or hospital. It also would require developers to submit information to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission within six months of when they plan to begin construction on a wind farm.

SB 808’s 1.5 nautical mile setback from schools, hospitals and airports is equal to about 9,100 feet. Most schools and hospitals are in cities and towns, so it’s unlikely the setback will affect future wind development. There are more than 1,800 public schools across the state.

Jeff Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition, said the measure “represents a reasonable solution.” If SB 808 is enacted as written, the Corporation Commission would oversee notification and beefed up decommissioning rules, Monies reports. The agency would have to add two to four full-time positions to deal with the new requirements:

Oil and gas developers must post standard surety bonds as a requirement for operating, but the commission’s public utility division doesn’t have any experience with collecting or analyzing surety bonds for wind developers.

Commissioner Dana Murphy said about 3,000 oil and gas operators make surety filings every year at the Corporation Commission.

“There’s a standard threshold for oil and gas,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “For wind, there won’t be that many operators but each wind farm has a different level of evaluation. We’d have to establish a staff person in the public utility division just to analyze and evaluate the filings.”

SB 808 was approved 12-8 and goes to the full House for consideration. Other wind energy-related legislation written to reel in tax credits is still pending, Monies reports:

Sears said the wind industry and lawmakers are negotiating on the tax credit bills and could be close to a resolution.

“We’re zeroing in on the ad valorem (exemption) and maybe we’ll leave the zero-emissions (tax credit) alone,” Sears said. “These are ongoing negotiations.”