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State Legislature looks at wind power regulations  

Lynda Barry-Kawula is trying to preserve the peace and quiet of her home in southern Wisconsin by fighting two bills at the State Capitol.

Her home near Evansville in southern Wisconsin is across the street from the proposed site of up to 67 wind turbines. She worries legislation breezing through Madison could help wind farm contractors build nearby and the noise alone would force her to move.

“Most people only see wind farms from a car, and it’s really pretty from a distance, so it is hard to understand as a problem,” said Barry-Kawula, a writer and cartoonist who testified at public hearings last week.

The state Legislature is considering two bills aimed at standardizing wind power regulation by ordering Wisconsin Public Service Commission officials to approve statewide rules for turbine sites. The bills also would prohibit local governments from creating more restrictive ordinances.

“It just seems like we’re writing the PSC a blank check,” Barry-Kawula said. “It seems to me like there wouldn’t be any harm done to just slow it down.”

Assembly and Senate versions of the bill were introduced at the end of February, and each had a public hearing last week.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail approved the bill Friday, two days after its hearing.

That version would create a review board with members from the Wisconsin Towns Association, the Wisconsin Counties Association, wind energy development interests, renewable energy or environmental interests as well as three other people. Another amendment asks the Joint Legislative Council, a nonpartisan research agency, to determine which issues should be addressed in the PSC rules.

The Wisconsin Counties Association wanted local governments to help decide the PSC rules. John Reinemann, legislative director for the Wisconsin Counties Association, said the review board was a step in the right direction toward accomplishing that priority.

State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Allouez, voted against the bill as a member of the Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail Committee, because he said it is moving too quickly.

“My concern is local control is not being taken into consideration,” Cowles said. “I would hope that they’d slow it down so we can get some consensus.”

Both versions may come up for a vote this week as the Legislature finishes its work before beginning a nine-month recess.

The bill sponsors – Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon – said finishing work on the bill now will prevent a major delay in creating a statewide policy.

“Let’s set up a standard that forces entities to work out an agreement that is livable for both sides,” Plale said. “I don’t know if it would be easier (for contractors), but it would be more fair.”

Montgomery said the bill would level the playing field because all sides would have clear guidelines for examining proposed sites.

By Keegan Kyle
Press-Gazette Madison bureau

Green Bay Press-Gazette

11 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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