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Jan. 27, 2023
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Minutes for SB324 - Committee on Utilities

Short Title

Establishing procedures that may be used to void or terminate leases or easements for electricity generation using wind or solar energy resources.

Minutes Content for Thu, Jan 27, 2022

Nick Myers, Office of the Revisor of Statutes, gave an overview of the bill.  SB324 would amend K.S.A. 58-2272 to provide that a wind or solar lease or easement shall be void if, within five years after the execution of the lease or easement, the property does not yet have a certificate of site compatibility or conditional use permit issued, if required, and does not have a transmission interconnection request that is in process and not under suspension. Additionally, a lease or easement would be presumed to be abandoned after a 36-month period with no construction or operation of the facility, unless the developer, owner or operator of the facility files a plan with the board of county commissioners outlining the steps and schedule for continuing construction or operation of the facility within such period. If such entity does not file such a plan, the landowner may mail a written intent to terminate the lease or easement to such entity. If the entity fails to provide a written objection within 60 days following receipt of such notification, the landowner may file a notice of termination with the register of deeds in the county where the property is located to terminate such lease or easement.

The Chairman called for proponent testimony on the bill.

Proponent, Oral

Beverly Kavouras, private citizen, testified as a proponent of the the bill.  She explained in McPherson County they have had many industrial wind projects abandoned since 2006, covering 100,000 acres of land, and SB324 would give the power back to the landowner to terminate their leases at the register of deeds office.  She stated only one company out of five who tried to establish projects in her county has made an effort to remove the leases, while the others sell the leases to another company or just walk away.  She stated giving the landowner the ability to terminate the lease would put the power in the hands of the landowner, not in the hands of the wind companies who prey on unzoned counties. (Attachment 1)

Bill Scopp, private citizen, testified as a proponent of the bill.  He stated he has 37 years experience in the leasing industry, and this bill is another crucial step to protect landowners rights, and prevents developers from tying up property for an extended period of time with no benefit to the landowner. He described terms in a proposed industrial wind developer/tenant lease which he reviewed, which ties up the owner's property for a 7-year window without any obligation on the part of the developer to do anything. Further, a non-obstruction easement would prevent the landowner from developing the property in a number of ways, effectively transferring control to the industrial energy developer. He stated at a minimum, this bill will set state mandated development commencement requirements.  (Attachment 2)

Written proponent testimony

None

Following a period of questions and answers, the Chairman called for Opponent Testimony.

Opponent Testimony, Oral

Alan Claus Anderson,Vice-Chair, Polsinelli Energy Practice Group, testified in opposition to the bill.  Mr. Polsinelli stated he is an attorney for the energy industry, and a member of a firm with 950 attorneys across 21 cities in the United States.  He stated the intention of the bill is to end renewable energy in Kansas, and tells farmers and ranchers they are not smart enough to enter into contracts on their own. He also stated that SB324 replaces Kansas citizens' freedom to contract with mandates from legislators in Topeka.  (Attachment 3)

Kimberly Svaty, lobbyist for the Kansas Power Alliance, testified in opposition to the bill.  She stated SB324 portends to set out methods by which wind and solar leases can be terminated, but there are inconsistencies within the bill itself.  She explained she is a landowner, and that she treats her ground like her children and would not let anything happen to it, and as a landowner, she is like all other landowners, and is capable of entering into contract without needing the provisions provided in this bill.  She asked that the committee treat wind and solar leases like all other types of leases.  (Attachment 4)

Written opponent testimony was submitted by the following:

Mark Walter, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Savion Renewable Energy Company (Attachment 5)

Rorik F. Peterson, Director of Development, EDP Renewables North America (Attachment 6)

Gina Mace, Public Policy and Institutional Affairs Manager - North Central Region, Enel North America (Attachment 7)

Kent Eckles, Kansas Chamber (Attachment 8)

Angeliina Lawson, Lobbyist, Land on the Range (Attachment 9)

Neutral Written-Only testimony

Jay Hall, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Kansas Association of Counties (Attachment 10)

Following oral opponent testimony, The Chairman called for a period of questions and answers.

Seeing no more questions, The Chairman closed the hearing and adjourned the meeting at 2:30pm.