PIERRE, S.D. – The Electric Services in an Annexed Area Study Committee, chaired by Sen. Alan Solano (R-Rapid City), held its first meeting on Thursday, July 25, 2019, at the State Capitol in Pierre, S.D. The interim committee was created through the passage of Senate Bill 66 by the 2019 Legislature. SB 66, otherwise known as the Territorial Integrity Act, sought to freeze electric utility service territories and stop municipal utilities from what they say is a, "taking of electric cooperative territory." The meeting agenda included presentations by representatives of the Public Utilities Commission, electric cooperatives, municipal-owned utilities, and investor-owned utilities. Time was also allowed for public testimony. Current statutes create different sets of rules that govern any changes to South Dakota electric service territory. By law, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities (IOU) must collaborate and agree upon changes in service territory between the two. Municipal governments have the authority to expand their electric service boundaries and annex territory from incumbent electric providers. Rural electrics say the differences in the rules favor government taking of private enterprise while municipal electrics state economic prospects specifically request to come into the community because of lower electric costs and other city services that are provided. Through the summer study process, the state’s electric cooperatives stated that they want to level the playing field by requiring municipal electric utilities to follow the same negotiation rules followed by rural electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. Among those who testified before the committee yesterday in favor of the rural electrics was Jared Knock who lives between Willow Lake and Carpenter South Dakota. Knock operates Dakota Vision Ag, a local seed dealer in Clark County. He also is involved in animal genetics health products and farms with his family in a cow-calf and custom hog finishing operation. Knock, who called himself a proud member of the Codington Clark Electric Cooperative, said it’s important everything possible be done to strengthen the rural electric cooperatives.
On the flip side those opposed to Senate Bill 66 expressed concerns over the impact of the legislation. They included Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron who urged the committee to consider the public welfare. She says Senate Bill 66 is bad for Watertown and bad for the state of South Dakota. The mayor stated that businesses come to the community requesting annexation because the city has the total package.
Yesterday’s hearing was for informational gathering purposes only and no action was taken. The next meeting will be Thursday August 28th. In addition to Senator Solano, the committee members are Rep. Thomas Brunner (R-Nisland), Vice Chair; Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission); Rep. Kirk Chaffee (R-Whitewood); Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham); Rep. Tim Reed (R-Brookings); Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown); Sen. Susan Wismer (D-Britton); and Sen. Jordan Youngberg (R-Chester).