TAZEWELL, Va. – The Virginia Association of Counties is urging localities across the Commonwealth to oppose a renewable energy bill as it is currently proposed by a Virginia Beach lawmaker.
The legislation sought by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, would weaken local government land use authority, and could override local ordinances such as Tazewell County’s recently approved ridgeline protection ordinance, according to Larry Land, director of policy development for VACO.
“Which is why we oppose it,” Land said. “It is a concern we have. So we oppose it. There is a philosophical problem we have with the General Assembly telling local governments what ordinance they shall adopt. It’s very rarely done. But it may be done in certain situations where there is a really, really pressing imperative. But in this case it is just something we are really concerned about. In the case of Tazewell County where you have a ridgeline protection ordinance – I think that is what you call it – that is pretty much a product of the locality.”
Land said there is a possibility that more acceptable amendments or substitutes to SB 862 will be presented to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee next Monday. Land didn’t have details Wednesday as to what the amendments or substitutes will be.
Land said VACO has contacted Wagner, and has expressed its concerns with the lawmaker.
“We always communicate with the sponsors of the bills to let them know,” Land said. “He’s aware of our concerns. And he feels very strongly about this. He is strongly committed to energy independence, and we respect that.”
Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, is one of 13 lawmakers serving on the committee that will determine if the legislation makes it to the full Senate.
Puckett said Monday that one amendment being sought to SB 862 would “make it abundantly clear that this piece of legislation wouldn’t override any local ordinance.”
Senate Bill 862 as originally proposed would amend state code as it relates to the Commonwealth’s Energy Policy. The legislation would require every locality in the Commonwealth to adopt an ordinance that provides criteria to be addressed in renewable energy projects that is consistent with the state’s energy policies. Tazewell County’s ridgeline protection ordinance was adopted by the county Board of Supervisors last February. It basically prohibits the construction of tall structures on certain protected ridgelines, including East River Mountain. Dominion is still hoping to construct a large-scale wind turbine farm along the ridgelines of East River Mountain.
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