April 24, 2014

Bill would give locals say in wind turbine siting

Legislation offered at the Capitol would allow local governments to restrict wind developments. Proponents claim the measure would protect property owners, while opponents says the bill would cripple the wind energy industry in Wisconsin.

The bill’s author, Republican Senator Frank Lasee, injected a partisan note as he testified before a Senate committee on Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate that the Democrats don’t care about people and their health<’ Lasee said. “If this was an oil issue and there was any suspicion of people getting sick from oil, they’d be all over this and complaining vehemently.”

Last year, the legislature reinstated a controversial rule, which allows the state Public Service Commission to uniformly regulate wind energy operations. PSC 128 regulates the placement of turbines, and factors such as size and allowable setbacks from roadways and buildings.

Lasee said he has constituents who are trapped in homes they’re now unable to sell because of negative health impacts from nearby turbines. His bill (SB-71) would allow local units of government to increase the setbacks for turbines. “There’s plenty of evidence out there that 1250 feet is just too, too close to somebody’s house,” Lasee said.

Amber Meyer Smith with Clean Wisconsin said other developments don’t face similar restrictions. “There’s no setbacks for coal-fired power plants,” she noted. “They have a very real impact on people’s health.” Smith said enacting Lasee’s bill into law would run counter to Governor Scott Walker’s assertion that “Wisconsin is open for business,” and would discourage development of wind power in the state.