One deals with what environmental protectionists praise as “clean” electricity generated from wind farms. The other deals with what environmental protectionists are trying to stop in our nation, so-called “dirty” power from oil.
The Legislature passed a law creating a special task force to study South Dakota’s competitiveness in incentives — in this case, primarily tax breaks — to attract large wind-energy projects.
South Dakota has a lot of wind. We don’t have much oil, at least not so far. But we have do now have a major pipeline, TransCanada’s Keystone, hauling oil from Alberta through our state down the James River Valley on its way to processors in the south-central U.S. oil refining region.
We also might have a second pipeline, TransCanada’s XL, crossing into our state from Montana and making its way south. The major federal permit for the XL pipeline is stuck in the eco-politics of the current White House.
Democrat Barack Obama won election in 2008 appearing to be very pro-“clean” energy. But now as commander-in-chief, President Obama knows all too well the importance of secure sources of non-U.S. oil and the significance of U.S.-Canada relations.
The South Dakota meetings a few days from now reflect that divergence in our nation’s energy direction.
The wind-competitiveness task force meets Wednesday at the state Capitol. Its chairman is Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. The three other legislators are Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg; Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot; and Rep. Steve Street, D-Revillo.
Seven other members are not legislators, but were selected for their expertise in the wind and tax fields, including lawyer Brett Koenecke of Pierre who represents wind development projects and David Wiese, top attorney for the state revenue department.
The group will spend its first meeting receiving a historical overview from the state Public Utilities Commission staff and PUC Chairman Gary Hanson in the morning. The panel will spend time in the afternoon setting the scope and plan for its work.
There also will be about 30 minutes for public testimony regarding the work plan, specific areas of focus and the identification of key experts. The testimony is scheduled to start at 1:40 p.m.
The big meeting that deals with oil will be held by the state Board of Minerals and Environment. The board is holding a hearing on the air-quality permit sought for the proposed Hyperion oil refinery in Union County.
Hyperion would be the only oil refinery in South Dakota.
The meeting begins at 10 a.m. Monday, and Hyperion hearing opens at some time that morning after the board dispenses with other business. The board has scheduled the hearing room at the Matthew Center in Pierre for five days through Friday.
The state board granted the air-quality permit to Hyperion on Aug. 20, 2009. The original permit required Hyperion to start construction by Feb. 20, 2011. Last summer, Hyperion requested an extension of the deadline to Aug. 20, 2012.
The hearing that opens Monday is for that extension. It is not an exaggeration to call the request controversial.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the regulatory agency in South Dakota for air quality. The regulations are based largely on federal Environmental Protection Agency rules.