PUC Facility Siting Permit Process

January 13, 2022
By request I provided an explanation of the PUC facility siting permit process to the South Dakota Senate Commerce and Energy Committee today. I’ll share a summary of that important process here.

Per South Dakota law certain facility projects must obtain a siting permit prior to construction from the Public Utilities Commission. Those facilities include any energy conversion facility, AC/DC conversion facility, transmission facility, solar energy facility, or wind energy facility, and associated facilities. Of particular interest for the committee today is the fact that “transmission facility” includes “a gas or liquid transmission line…capable of transporting…carbon dioxide.”

The criteria for determining whether a project is entitled by law to receive a permit is defined in SDCL 49-41B-22. That statute requires, in part, that the facility won’t pose a threat of serious injury to the environment nor to the social and economic condition of inhabitants or expected inhabitants in the siting area; substantially impair the health, safety or welfare of the inhabitants; and won’t unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given the views of governing bodies of affected local units of government.

Once a permit application is filed there are opportunities for the public to become involved in the proceeding. The public can comment on the project in writing or by email, can visit with PUC staff about the project, and can attend one of the PUC’s public input meetings which are held 6-8 weeks after the filing of the permit application. Any person residing in the area where the facility is proposed to be sited or any directly interested person may become a formal intervenor in the permit docket which allows full participation in the entire proceeding and hearing process.

State law provides that a proceeding must be concluded within 12 months except for wind and solar facilities which must be concluded in nine months. There are interim deadlines throughout the allotted timeframe for public notices, public input meetings, intervention, written testimony, discovery requests, an evidentiary hearing, post hearing briefs, and a decision by the three PUC commissioners.

The PUC decision can be one of three possibilities. The permit can be granted, denied, or granted with conditions. The last option allows for a permit to be issued but requires the developer and any subsequent owner of the project to comply with conditions attached to the permit by the PUC. The decision must be based on the evidence and testimony provided during the proceeding along with state law.

Currently the PUC has one open siting docket which is EL21-018 – In the Matter of the Application by North Bend Wind Project, LLC for a Permit to Construct and Operate the North Bend Wind Project in Hyde County and Hughes County, South Dakota.