Recently, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) gave its approval to a set of “administrative rules” that will be used to enforce 2009 Wisconsin Act 40, a new law governing the placement of wind turbines in Wisconsin.
Act 40, as you may recall, was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jim Doyle earlier this year in an effort to set consistent guidelines for local regulation of the siting of certain wind turbines and wind farms throughout Wisconsin. The bill also created a Wind Turbine Siting Council (WTSC) and tasked it with engineering a rule package that could be backed by a broad consensus of the council’s members.
After receiving input from area citizens, I voted against Act 40 because it stripped away substantial amounts of local control and placed most of the decisions regarding wind power in Wisconsin in the hands of the unelected PSC.
The bill was passed over my objections and now we must consider the recommendations proposed by the WTSC. Again, the main purpose of the rule was to set guidelines for local regulation of the siting of certain wind turbines. Specifically, these rules would regulate wind farms under 100 megawatts in generating capacity. Larger wind farms were not addressed under Act 40 and are still subject to existing state statutes.
According to the PSC, some of the main highlights of what local units of government may do under the rule package are: 1) Require that a wind farm not generate noise in excess of 45 dBA at night and 50 dBA during the day; 2) Require that a wind farm not cause shadow flicker on a non-participating residence for more than 30 hours per year; 3) Impose minimum setbacks from a wind turbine of 1.1 times the height of a turbine to an adjacent non-participating property line and 3.1 times the height of a turbine to an adjacent non-participating residence; 4) Require wind farm owners to provide financial compensation to non-participating landowners within ½ mile of a turbine site. These payments could not exceed 25 percent of payments being made to a landowner hosting a turbine.
There are additional elements to the rule package and more specific information can be found online at psc.wi.gov or by contacting my office.
Since the WTSC initially released its recommendations, I have been contacted by many constituents expressing concerns with the proposal. Generally, the concerns have centered on the impact of local property values near a wind farm, setbacks, shadow flicker and health issues.
When Act 40 was originally deliberated in the Legislature, legislators were assured by the bill’s supporters that the WTSC would be a consensus-driven process. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Instead, clear divisions over siting emerged with one side winning and the other side losing. This is reflected in the identical 11-4 votes on all of the most important issues surrounding the rule proposal. This may represent majority rule, but it does not represent consensus.
As a result of the constituent contacts I have received and based on my belief that this important policy issue requires legislative oversight, I have requested that the Senate Committee on Utilities hold a public hearing on the rule proposal so that additional input may be received from individual citizens, local leaders and property owners.
I am hopeful this request will be approved and I look forward to sharing information on the timing of a public hearing. In the meantime, I encourage you to share your thoughts with me regarding the proposal.
As always, it has been a pleasure communicating with you. Please remember to communicate with me and share your input by calling (920) 457-7367 or visiting my online office at www.leibham.com.
It is an honor representing the residents of the 9th District in the State Senate!
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