BLUEFIELD, Va. – Area lawmakers say they don’t expect to see wind energy legislation passed in Richmond this year that could trump Tazewell County’s existing ridgeline protection ordinance.
“I’m not aware of any pending legislation, and I do not support introducing legislation at the state level that would supersede the county level,” Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, said. Morefield, along with Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, and Delegate Anne B. Crockett-Stark, R-Wythe, met with members of the Daily Telegraph’s editorial board last week.
“I’m not against wind energy, but I do think it is low on the totem poll as far as being cost efficient, and I can’t support it on East River Mountain,” Crockett-Stark said. “I understand Dominion Power is a major force, and they have invested in it. But I do think that if we are talking about the environment, the beauty of the mountains we have is one the best resources.”
Puckett said he too is unaware of any legislation pending in Richmond that would allow Dominion to sidestep the locally adopted ridgeline protection ordinance and move forward with the construction of the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm on East River Mountain.
“Annie B. is correct – I would not support any legislation that would try to override the local Board of Supervisors,” Puckett said. “I think it is pretty clear that the people have spoken, and have said they don’t want it.”
However, if opinions were to change, and if a majority of county residents would want the wind farm to be developed, it would then be up to the citizens of Tazewell County to communicate their feelings to the board, Puckett said.
“If you don’t like what the Board of Supervisors members have done, you can always change your Board of Supervisors, and change the ordinance,” Puckett said.
Morefield said he supports wind turbines in general, but also supports the decision of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. And while he supports wind energy, Morefield said he ranks it far lower than coal and natural gas.
However, Morefield disagreed with Puckett on his assessment that the majority of the citizens of Tazewell County were opposed to the Bluestone River Wind Farm. Morefield said the majority of Tazewell County citizens appear to support wind turbines. He said the opposition to the local project is stronger in the Bluefield area than other parts of the county.
Morefield said a wind turbine manufacturing facility would still be a great economic development project for Tazewell County.
“When Dominion first announced the project, we had proposed to Dominion that we would manufacture the wind turbines in Tazewell County, and that we also would manufacture the components here in Tazewell County,” Morefield said. “Currently, there are only a handful of facilities that are manufacturing the actual steel towers.”
Morefield said Dominion – if it is serious about building wind turbines in Tazewell County – must be willing to go back to the drawing board and develop a project that can be supported by the Board of Supervisors.
Puckett said he too supports wind energy in general. However, he said wind turbines won’t replace coal.
“I think they (wind turbines) are a part of the energy puzzle,” Puckett said. “But for people to think that putting up a few windmills will displace coal, it is just a fallacy.”
Crockett-Stark said there are better locations for wind turbines than East River Mountain.
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