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Legislature OKs ban on local wind farm siting

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ANN MARIE AMES
September 18, 2009

Decisions by the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly this week struck a blow to supporters of local wind ordinances.


The Assembly late Wednesday afternoon passed 65-31 a bill that would give the Public Service commission the authority to create state-wide wind turbine siting standards.


The Senate passed the bill Tuesday. The bill now will go to Gov. Jim Doyle’s office to be signed into law.


Currently, local municipalities have the authority to regulate small projects. Wind projects of 100 megawatts and more go through the PSC for permits.


Wind industry officials say the lack of universal regulations have made it difficult or impossible to get permits.


In Rock County, the towns of Magnolia and Union have created wind farm siting ordinances. It’s “disheartening” that the local rules could become moot, said Evansville attorney Tom Alisankus.


Alisankus was one of the people who worked on Union’s ordinance. The town spent more than $40,000 to “get it right,” Alisankus said.


“It’s pretty clear to me the Legislature is more interested in backing the business of turbines rather than the reality they (turbines) create for people who have to live with them,” Alisankus said.”


Town of Union Plan Commission member Doug Zweizig said it is “sensible” that the state would want to have unified regulations. And he thinks wind turbines are “fine things.”


But Zweizig said the Public Service Commission has a poor track record when it comes to considering the health consequences for people living near wind turbines.


Concerned citizens should watch the PSC’s wind advisory council and the recommendations the group sends back to the Legislature, Zweizig said.


“This legislation will be fine if in fact they take into account the health and safety needs of people,” he said. “The more people know about what are the effects of living too close to turbines, the better policy we’ll make.”


Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, was one of those who voted against the bill on Wednesday.


Davis moved to amend the bill. But when that amendment failed, he voted against the bill.


Davis said wind turbine siting would be better left to local governmental bodies.


“Wind energy has to be part of the solution,” Davis said. “But there is more than one way to go about that. I am very concerned about government overreach of telling people what to do.”



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