A new law enacted to prevent “orphan” solar energy farms in Louisiana contains a carve-out that exempts most of the current solar farm projects in the state, reports Louisiana Illuminator.
House Bill 655, sponsored by Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette, establishes decommissioning regulations for utility-scale solar projects, requiring companies to pay permitting fees and purchase a bond payable to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as financial collateral in the event that the company abandons the project without restoring the land to its original condition.
The bill stems from a problem lawmakers decades ago failed to foresee with the oil and gas industry. Thousands of abandoned oil wells, many of them leaking contaminants into the environment, are scattered across the state after the companies that owned them went bankrupt or walked away because the wells did not produce enough. Unable to identify or track down the previous owners, state authorities have been forced to stick taxpayers with the cleanup bill.
It’s a situation current lawmakers don’t want to see repeated as the renewable energy sector, including wind and solar, continues to expand in Louisiana and across the globe. Coussan’s bill received unanimous support in both chambers of the Legislature, and Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law last week.
“We’re looking at it from the context of the oil and gas industry background that we have and making sure that we have the financial security in place to decommission these sites if and when these contracts become void and they have thousands of acres of solar panels out there,” Coussan said when he presented the bill on the House floor April 19.
One provision of the new law that has some solar industry professionals asking questions exempts any solar projects that utility companies such as Entergy and Cleco own, giving them an additional financial advantage over smaller, independent companies. All five solar plants currently in Louisiana and most currently in the planning stage will be exempt from the law, which takes effect Aug. 2. Read the full story from Louisiana Illuminator.