Is Governor Scott Walker picking a fight with the state’s wind energy industry? It may be shaping up that way. The governor wants a second look at the process for placing wind turbines in Wisconsin, citing the concerns of adjoining property owners and businesses. Walker said this week that such concerns “had not been addressed.” The current Public Service Commission rules were finalized in September of 2010, after a nearly year long public process that began with the passage of enabling legislation which drew bipartisan support. “We thought it was more important to address that through the legislative and executive branches,” Walker said.
“The legislature was engaged in this issue for more than two years,” said Keith Reopelle with Clean Wisconsin. “They passed a bill, which like most complex pieces of legislation left the details up to a state agency which actually has expertise in that area.” Reopelle noted that the Public Service Commission held a lengthy series of public hearings in order to develop the rules.
Walker, who emphasized jobs creation during the campaign for governor, and who has called a special legislative session on jobs and the economy, said the intent in changing the setback rules for wind turbines is not to cost the state more jobs. “Certainly, we don’t want to do things that have an economic impact. By the same token, I think for adjoining property owners there’s some serious concerns out there, and we’re trying to balance the two,” the governor said.
Clean Wisconsin’s Reopelle said that changing those rules would “bring to a screeching halt” up to ten projects around the state. And he noted, there jobs at stake, as manufacturers in communities around the state are now producing components for wind turbines.