Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today sent a letter to Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) administrator Timothy Meeks urging the development of a wind power permitting process that does not unduly burden wind developers and land owners while at the same time accounting for wildlife habitat preservation issues.

"South Dakota has the potential to provide much of the country with clean, abundant, renewable energy produced by our state's steady winds," said Thune. "It is important that the development of this resource move forward efficiently and that South Dakota's wind energy potential is not stymied by excessive regulation and delays."

WAPA is currently developing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for wind projects in the Upper Great Lakes Region in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The intent of the PEIS is to streamline future environmental studies by addressing generic environmental impacts of wind development that would not be specific to a particular permit request. The end result, if properly carried out, would be expedited environmental studies for future wind development projects.

The text of the letter follows:

April 22, 2009

Mr. Timothy Meeks
Western Area Power Administration
P.O. Box 281213
Lakewood, CO 80228-8213

Dear Administrator Meeks:

I write today with regard to the Western Area Power Administration's (Western's) proposed Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).

I applaud your initiative to proactively address the siting issues related to wind energy projects in the Upper Great Plains Region. This region has the potential to provide a significant amount of clean wind energy to the rest of the country. Not only should Congress continue to support the development of clean, renewable wind energy through the long-term extension of the production tax credit, but Congress, the Administration, the Power Marketing Administrations, and wind developers must continue working together to ensure the implementation of common sense regulations that promote the use of wind energy to meet our nation's energy needs.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), although important, can represent a unique set of bureaucratic challenges for the development of wind energy projects in the Upper Great Plains Region. Due to these challenges, potentially engaging in a full environmental impact statement for each interconnection request can be a time consuming and an obstacle to future wind energy development. Many of the environmental concerns are generic from project to project and the PEIS, if carried out in an effective manner, could have a tremendous positive impact on wind energy development throughout the region.

Effective public policy and regulation can reconcile the often times competing interests of habitat protection and renewable energy development. Some wind developments in South Dakota have been delayed due to concerns over wildlife habitat. In particular, whooping crane habitat has been the focus of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports and has been noted by wind developers as an especially difficult challenge under the current regulatory process. I request that Western's PEIS address the important issues facing critical whooping crane habitat and other habitat and easement issues in a manner that provides for timely regulatory approval of wind energy projects without unduly burdening wind developers or local landowners.

Increasing clean wind energy production is and will continue to be an important national priority. Several states have set renewable electricity standards, and Congress continues to look for ways to promote wind energy. However, these goals will not be met if regulatory red tape prevents the timely construction of wind projects in areas of high wind energy potential.

I thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and I look forward to working with you on this and other issues of importance to reliably marketing and delivering electricity throughout the central and western United States.

United States Senate

Cc: Mr. Rowan Gould
Acting Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service