HELENA – The 2017 Legislature passed HB 216, requiring bonding of large wind-powered electric generating facilities in Montana. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality was charged with developing these rules and on January 12, 2018, the Notice of Adoption of the final rules was published in the Montana Administrative Register.
These facilities will be the first power producers in Montana required by statute to post a bond.
Wind turbine towers and associated infrastructure such as roadways may have an environmental cost to the areas they are built upon. The intent of the law and its companion rules is to ensure money is available to restore affected lands at the end of a facility’s useful life. The new rules also ensure disturbed lands are restored to comparable productivity given the existing character and nature of the site.
As part of the rule making process, DEQ held stakeholder meetings and received written and oral comments from the public on the draft rules. Based on this comment, several changes were made to the draft rules, including: clarification that wind towers must be removed at the end of their useful life; assurance that existing agreements between landowners and wind facility owners will be honored; and assurance of environmental protection and financial security of future landowners and citizens of Montana.
“Though wind energy has minimal environmental impact on the land, these new rules will ensure landowners and communities that large wind turbines and other materials will be properly removed at the end of a wind farm’s useful life,” said Jeff Fox of Renewable Northwest. “DEQ did a tremendous job of gathering input and creating rational, workable rules and Montana remains a great place to develop wind projects.”
Most wind facilities are required to be bonded within 15 years from the start of operation. Facilities that began operation prior to January 1, 2007, must be bonded within 16 years. Bond amounts may vary substantially based on the estimated salvage value of a wind facility’s components at the time DEQ estimates the bond amount. DEQ will review a facility’s bond every five years to ensure the amount is still adequate. The rules also state when a bond can be released and how the department will forfeit a bond if necessary to conduct decommission activities.
Representative Jim Keane from Butte sponsored HB 216. The intent of the bill was to ensure that the relatively new wind industry is responsible for the proper decommissioning of facilities.
“These rules protect the environment and provide financial assurance to landowners and Montana citizens that current and future wind generation facilities will be appropriately decommissioned and thus not become a burden on the taxpayers of the State of Montana,” said Rep. Keane. “DEQ made sure the process involved input from stakeholders and the public and I’m pleased these rules reflect legislative intent.”
DEQ’s response to formal comments can be found in the Montana Administrative Register http://sos.mt.gov/Portals/142/ARM/2017/MAR/MAR17-24.pdf?dt= The complete and final rule will be published in the Montana Administrative Register within the next two months; the unofficial final rules can be found on DEQ’s website at: http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/renewableenergy/resourcesandtechnology/Wind. For information about wind energy in Montana visit www.deq.mt.gov/energy or contact Kyla Maki at 406-444-6478 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about these new rules.