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Minutes for SB46 - Committee on Utilities

Short Title

Requiring existing wind energy conversion systems to install light-mitigating technology systems.

Minutes Content for Thu, Jan 26, 2023

The Chairman opened the hearing that was announced on January 25, 2023 committee daily agenda, but not yet opened and called for a revisor overview of the bill. Nick Myers suggested that the bill is similar to SB49, but is retroactive in nature for existing systems. Mr. Myers explained that the bill's requirements would begin at at the onset of a new power output agreement.

Committee comments and questions ensued establishing the term of a "new power agreement" is actually synonymous  to the onset of a "new or renewed contract."

(Attachment 1)

The Chairman called for proponent testimony on the bill.

Kimberly Svaty testified in general support of the bill, but explained that current contracts should be allowed to complete their terms and continue to be subject to to the requirements established at the point of mutual commitment to a new power agreement. Ms. Svaty estimated the cost to implement light mitigation technology to be about $2 million plus about $150 thousand in annual maintenance costs. She stressed the importance of the state's continuing reputation for regulatory certainty as a vital factor in the future value of its wind commodity.

(Attachment 2)

Committee questions and comments ensued making the following points:

  • The committee requested the list of current long term agreements with contractual dates and terms.    (Attachment 3)
  • The question was raised to the possibility of basing requirements on a "date certain" vs the current good faith terms of an established "long term contract" agreements in place.
  • The typical term of the early long term agreement of 20 years has evolved to closer to a 10 year term.
  • It was discussed that some of the primary Federal Aviation (FCC) approvals seem to be established with a vendor versus the project developer.
  • The bill would eventually require all Kansas turbine installations to be subject to the requirements upon the completion of new power output contract terms.
  • The point was made that installation neighbors are less likely to be interested in a dimming of lighting devices, but prefer that the lights be turned off when not needed.
  • The factor of the "age of the facilities" was raised an important factor to keep in mind when requiring significant upgrade costs.

Representative Mosher stated her support for the bill to mitigate the constant night time blinking for her family and constituents asserting that changes should be required at the time the policy is changed.

(Attachment 4)

Aaron Popelka stated that the State of North Dakota has required light mitigation technology for over four and one-half years. Mr. Popelka pointed out that because of federal public subsidies of the installations, it should be required that some of the subsidy funds be used to serve the safety of the public in this case. Mr. Popelka suggested that the that Kansas follow the North Dakota example to allow a 4.5 year period to make required upgrades with the possibility of up to a two year waiver for an extension period and that the language "must make application" be modified to assure the desired result is achieved in a specific time frame.

(Attachment 5)

The Chairman allowed Allan Anderson to provide the clarification that the current bill language states that developers/vendors are required to make application and if approved must meet the requirements.

Zack Pistora stated that both bills represent the government addressing citizen concerns with industry stepping forth with good faith efforts to respond to property owner concerns, environmental sustainability and public safety. Mr. Pistora commended industry for demonstrating good leadership with its bringing this legislation to this point.

(Attachment 6)

Jonathan Sill related the generational change that has occurred to allow the night skies to be affected with red lights that are required to blink every three seconds and commended the effort to attempt to reduce the times the lights will flash. Mr. Sill recognized industry concerns for military air space implications and the fact that statute did not require them to take certain costly mitigation efforts. He made the following recommendations:

  • The establishment of a hard date of no later than 2026 that the industry must complete a required retrofit, while recognizing the need for practical waiver options for older facilities.
  • Suggested that a measure be enacted to suspend facility operations under certain circumstances.
  • The relegation and transparency of certain determinations to county commissions including the authority to deny a project under certain circumstances.

(Attachment 7)

Gayla Randal shared her personal account of being subjected to blinking red lights, shadow flicker, interference to signal reception and noise from installations and made the following suggestions:

  • The establishment of county commission authorities with state direction toward projects that transcend county jurisdictions.
  • Define penalties for non-compliance.
  • Require notification process beginning with an application submitted to the FAA.
  • Specific process for citizen complaints through an agency such as the Kansas Attorney General's office

(Attachment 8)

WRITTEN-ONLY PROPONENT TESTIMONY:

Jay Hall, Kansas Association of Counties   (Attachment 9)

Shirley Estrada,  Self    (Attachment 10)

Stan Basler, Self  (Attachment 11)

Bonnie Rassmussen, Self   (Attachment 12)

Micah and Sonya Kee  (Attachment 13)

Debra Witmer Cramer, Self    (Attachment 14)

Senator Virgil Peck, Kansas Senate  (Attachment 15)

The Chairman called for neutral testimony on the bill.

Joel Skelley reiterated earlier testimony in the committee that the Kansas Department of Transportation is not the appropriate regulating agency (to manage waiver process) in this case as called for in the language of the bill. (Attachment 16)

WRITTEN-ONLY NEUTRAL TESTIMONY:

Dorothy Barnett, Climate + Energy Program

(Attachment 17)

Jessie Lewis, Self

(Attachment 18)

Seeing no further testimony the Chairman closed the hearing on the bill.