Montana drafts new bonding rules for large wind facilities

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released draft rules detailing the process and requirements for bonding wind-energy facilities in Montana.

Montana wind farm

According to the new draft rules, wind facilities are required to be bonded within 15 years from the start of operation, unless they began operation prior to January 1, 2007.

Specifically, the 2017 Legislature passed HB 216, requiring bonding of large wind-powered electric generating facilities in the state, and is now accepting public comment. These facilities will be the first power producers in Montana required by statute to post a bond.

According to DEQ, the intent of the law and its companion rules are to ensure there are funds available to decommission large facilities’ turbine towers, and other associated infrastructure, for the purpose of restoring impacted 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.

Wind facilities are required to be bonded within 15 years from the start of operation, unless they began operation prior to January 1, 2007 — then they are required to be bonded in 16 years. DEQ will review a facility’s bond amount every five years to ensure it is still adequate. The rules also state when a bond can be released and how the department would forfeit a bond if necessary to conduct decommission activities.

Representative Jim Keane from Butte sponsored HB 216 during the 2017 legislative session. The intent of the bill was to ensure that the relatively new wind industry is responsible for the proper decommissioning of facilities.

“Our state has untapped wind resources ready for development and DEQ and the Montana Legislature recognize the value it brings to our citizens and communities,” said Chris Dorrington, DEQ Air, Energy & Mining Division Administrator. “In line with legislative intent, these rules will ensure proper reclamation of lands used by wind facilities, and serve to protect landowners and citizens of Montana from incurring costs.”

DEQ worked with stakeholders in early October while developing the proposed rules and will hold a public hearing on November 29, 2017.

The hearing will begin with an information session at 1pm in Room 111 of the Metcalf Building, 1520 East Sixth Avenue in Helena, to discuss and answer questions on the proposed rules. The formal hearing will begin at 2pm to accept oral public comment. The 2017 Legislature requires DEQ to have these rules adopted by January 1, 2018. More information on the hearing and on how to submit comments can be found here.

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