FOND DU LAC – Wind farm advocates and critics packed Legislative Chambers at the City County Government Center on Monday to voice their opinions about proposed wind siting rules to be crafted by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
The rules would result in uniform wind siting standards for local units of government, replacing a patchwork of rules and moratoriums imposed by counties and towns around the state governing small wind power projects.
The public hearings, scheduled around the state this week, were launched by the state Legislature after it passed a uniform siting law last October. Using citizen input, the PSC will draft legislation touching on controversial issues such as maximum sound levels and setback requirements. Once passed, municipalities considering ordinances for wind farms would not be allowed to make their local ordinance more restrictive than the state model.
Act 40 requires the PSC to conduct the rulemaking with the advice of the Wind Siting Council, an advisory body. The PSC is expected to announce the new guidelines by July.
“Right now the proposed rules are just a draft, that’s why the public comments are very important. There are a lot of interested parties, and we want to make sure this is a balanced process,” said Deborah Erwin, renewable energy policy analyst for the PSC.
Barnaby Dinges, owner of a public relations firm and member of the American Wind Energy Association, warned that more restrictive rules for siting wind farms would further harm the state’s quest to build its alternative energy portfolio.
“Wisconsin is already an energy slacker. We’re the only Midwest state that doesn’t currently have a major wind energy project under construction,” Dinges said. “New restrictions will make the state even less desirable for development of wind projects.”
He pointed out that the Wisconsin PSC already has a rigorous wind farm approval process in place for wind farms over 100 megawatts.
Many of those in attendance hailed from the four towns in Brown County where citizen groups are rallying against Invenergy’s proposed 100-turbine Ledge Wind Energy Project. The project is spread across four towns – Morrison, Wrightstown, Glenmore and Holland.
Jerome Hlinak of the town of Mishicot said the PSC is slow to react when problems arise from utility projects. By wresting the control from the local level, Hlinak said the PSC is taking away the municipalities’ rights to protect its citizens.
“There are problems at the national and state level, and even at the local level. But at least at the town level we can fix things quickly because it’s a neighbor. Here, nobody listens,” Hlinak said.
Barbara VandenBoogart of Greenleaf spoke out against the Ledge Wind Energy Project.
“Everyone tells us that you’re (PSC) the one that will make a difference because you’re the ones that make the rules. We want you to stand up and protect the citizens of Wisconsin against big wind industry companies coming here and harming us, instead of acting in a way to protect those companies from us who are trying to protect ourselves,” VandenBoogart said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding