Kansas Governor Halts Wind Power in Tallgrass Prairies

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius called on wind energy developers to hold off on projects in the Flint Hills area in order to preserve the tallgrass prairie ecosystem there. The temporary moratorium is meant to allow counties in the area time to develop local guidelines for wind energy development and to evaluate the role of wind energy development in the Flint Hills. Governor Sebelius also encouraged wind developers to move ahead on projects outside the designated area, and is expected to draw on recommendations from the Kansas Energy Council to establish a package of wind energy incentives within the state.

Sebelius based her ruling on recommendations given to her by a Cabinet team for balancing conservation efforts in the Flint Hills and development of wind energy. The governor designated a protected area of land called the “Heart of the Flint Hills,” a 60-mile-wide swath of land just east of Wichita that runs from the state’s southern border through Manhattan and ends about 25 miles south of the Nebraska border. The Cabinet team also recommended that the Governor reissue her call to developers and landowners to exercise voluntary restraint in the identified area until counties in the area can develop local guidelines to govern the development of wind energy and until alternative economic development strategies can be identified. In addition to the development of conservation easements and other land protection mechanisms, the Cabinet team recommended restraint on wind energy development until the Kansas Department of Commerce completes an assessment to identify economic development strategies that affected counties and landowners could pursue, including evaluating the role of wind energy in the Flint Hills. “These common sense recommendations provide us with a workable strategy for continuing to protect the tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills and assisting affected landowners while also encouraging the rapid development of wind energy in appropriate areas of the state,” Governor Sebelius said. “Accordingly, I renew my request for parties in the designated Flint Hills area to exercise restraint and patience as we continue to work to balance the conservation and economic development needs of the region.” Among the projects affected by the governor’s request is the Munkers Creek wind project, a proposed 100- to 200 MW wind power project that would have been located southeast of Manhattan. The project developer is JW Prairie Windpower LLC, a subsidiary of juwi international. Both the Governor and M. Lee Allison, the Governor’s energy advisor, urged wind energy developers to move quickly on projects outside of Heart of the Flint Hills Area. “Developers pursuing projects outside of the designated area who have been waiting for a signal from the administration now have it and should proceed accordingly so they can benefit from federal tax credits,” Allison said. The Kansas Energy Council is expected to finalize and forward to Governor Sebelius a package of wind development incentives. The Governor will use the recommendations from the Energy Council and her Cabinet team to design an overall strategy for developing Kansas’ wind energy potential while preserving the agricultural heritage and conserving critical ecosystems in the Heart of the Flint Hills. Map of the Heart of the Flint Hills Area http://www.kansasenergy.org/KEC/FHmaps.html
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