I read with interest that a group of concerned citizens are attempting to recall Jerry Criter, county board supervisor from Calumet County, presumably because of his stance on wind towers.
This group misses one key point: the Calumet County Board has very limited authority under Wisconsin law to restrict wind towers. Wisconsin Statute 66.0401 states in part: No county may place any restriction, either directly or in effect, on the installation or use of a wind energy system, unless the restriction satisfies one of the following conditions: a) Serves to preserve or protect the public health or safety; (b) Does not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency; or (c) Allows for an alternative system of comparable cost and efficiency.
Since this law was enacted in the early 1980s, there has not been one recorded case where a municipality was successful in banning wind towers outright. No one could ever prove in court that a wind tower ban was necessary for public health or safety. What remains is that a county may restrict setbacks, height, lighting and fencing, but not more.
Some have suggested that the county attempt to get around the law. A few years ago, a municipality in Dodge County tried. It established very stringent setback requirements for wind farms: Wind towers had to be at least three miles away from the Horicon Marsh. Four years and several hundred thousand dollars in litigation costs later, the courts said no. The Legislature has been clear – the use of wind energy is to be encouraged and counties cannot come up with legal impediments to them.
So I say to those of you who wish to recall Jerry Criter: You need to redirect your efforts. Jerry is not your problem. The county board is not your problem. You need to change the law. Contact your state senator and representatives.
3 December 2007
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