Residents who studied and wrote an ordinance to regulate wind energy in Union Township were relieved Wednesday to hear a proposed bill that would override their regulations would not pass, for now.
The proposal in the state Senate would have given the state’s Public Service Commission the authority to create rules regulating commercial wind energy systems. It carried support from the PSC, the wind industry including developer EcoEnergy, and it developed out of Gov. Jim Doyle’s global warming task force.
At the last minute, however, an amendment brought forward to create a special citizen siting board gained bipartisan support. The proposal sought to create a board similar to the state’s livestock siting review board to have rule-making authority and hear appeals, said Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who co-sponsored the amendment.
The original bill was removed from the floor Wednesday, sending it to a scheduling committee, she said.
Vinehout proposed the amendment because the state needs to balance the competing interests of having renewable energy and having citizen participation, she said. Everyone is supportive of renewable energy, and citizens have the expertise to discuss regulations, she said.
Eric Kallisto, executive assistant to the PSC chair, said he was “deeply disappointed” the bill did not pass.
“This was, in our opinion, one of the easier pieces of legislation coming down the pike as far as global warming and energy issues,” he said. “We recognize it was late in the session. Despite that, we thought it had the right mix of people supporting it.”
He said the PSC will continue to push the issue and work with those who oppose the bill so that it is approved in the next session.
“We’re very open to any process that will get everyone to the table to resolve that,” he said.
Local opponents of the proposed bill said it was being rushed by bringing it forward and holding public hearings within two weeks of the end of the legislative session, which is today.
Town of Union wind study committee chair Tom Alisankus said he thinks legislators heard citizens’ calls to take a longer look at the issue.
“People were actually no longer just listening to what was being told to them by the wind energy proponents,” he said. “They were actually looking at things like the research we did, the actual facts that have been surfaced.”
Vinehout said it’s time to bring the sponsors of the bill and its opponents together to revise the bill and develop a good policy and political decision.
By Gina Duwe
13 March 2008
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