The Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee must act quickly Monday to knock the wind out of Sen. Frank Wagner’s controversial Senate Bill 862.
If adopted as currently proposed, the vaguely written legislation would essentially require local governments to adopt ordinances that are consistent with the state’s renewable energy priorities.
Fortunately, this controversial legislation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Virginia Association of Counties is urging localities across the Commonwealth to oppose Wagner’s bill. VACO correctly argues Wagner’s bill would weaken local government land use authority, and could override local ordinances such as Tazewell County’s recently adopted ridgeline protection ordinance.
“There is a philosophical problem we have with the General Assembly telling local governments what ordinances they shall adopt,” Larry Land, director of policy development for VACO, said. “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.”
Some are drawing comparisons between Wagner’s legislation and Virginia’s challenge of the federal health care reform law. After all, the Commonwealth argues that the federal government can’t require the citizens of Virginia to participate in the new health care reform requirements. However, Wagner’s proposal would require localities such as Tazewell and its citizens to participate in the Commonwealth’s renewable energy requirements. That seems a little hypocritical.
Several amendments are apparently being proposed to Wagner’s bill, including one that would “make it abundantly clear that this piece of legislation wouldn’t override any local ordinance,” Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, said. Puckett is one of 13 lawmakers serving on the Commerce and Labor Committee that will determine if the proposed legislation makes it to the full Senate.
Amendments or not, we urge the committee members to kill this controversial legislation. If Wagner’s bill as currently written passes, and the General Assembly is empowered to tell local governments what ordinances they may or may not adopt, we could indeed one day see a wind turbine farm on East River Mountain.
However, this isn’t about whether or not a wind turbine farm should be built on East River Mountain. This is about whether the state of Virginia should have the authority to tell local governments what to do.
We don’t think the General Assembly should be telling local county governments what ordinances they can and cannot pass. That decision must rest with the locality – and not Richmond.
Wagner’s ill-conceived legislation should be scrapped by the 13 member committee.
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