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North Dakota Senate committee tweaks wind power moratorium bill

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Wind farm

Wind turbines dot the landscape around Courtenay, part of the Courtenay Wind Farm under construction by Xcel Energy. 

A North Dakota Senate Committee tweaked legislation Tuesday that put a two-year moratorium on new wind energy development, but an opponent argued the amendment did not improve the bill.

Senate Bill 2314, as passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week, prevented the Public Service Commission from approving an application for a wind farm that’s submitted in the two years after Aug. 1. The bill was amended Tuesday to allow the PSC to approve an application if “the commission determines additional generation is needed for consumers in the state.”

The bill also calls for a legislative study of the long-term energy plan for North Dakota.

Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, opposed the amended bill and argued that it’s a “moratorium without calling it a moratorium.”

The committee gave the bill a “do-pass” recommendation in a 4-3 vote Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said his amendment was intended to “take some of the edge” off of the original moratorium proposal. He argued there’s a direct relationship between the increase of wind energy production and a decrease in coal production.

“What I’m looking for is reliable, affordable electricity,” Cook said. “One of the things that we’re responsible for, I would think anyway, is to make sure that the … electricity of North Dakota is always available to the citizens of North Dakota and we don’t suffer through a blackout.”

“We need to at least have a two-year study,” he added. “We do not have an energy plan.”

Oban countered that it’s possible to have that study without putting moratorium on the wind industry.

The full Senate will consider the bill this week.

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