MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to toughen wind turbine regulations will not be taken up by the Legislature in a special session the governor called to pass that bill and others, The Associated Press was told Thursday by spokesman for legislative leaders.
The demise of the bill mark’s Walker’s first legislative defeat in an incredibly successful first month in office.
The bill was introduced at Walker’s request as part of a special session call he made to pass 10 bills he said will help spur job creation. The other nine have passed one or both houses of the Legislature and four have been signed into law.
But the wind bill never was even scheduled for a public hearing.
The bill is dead for now, but might be revived later in the session, said Chris Reader, chief of staff for state Sen. Rich Zipperer, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that had the bill.
“It’s just an issue the Legislature wants to take a longer, more thoughtful look at,” said Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “We don’t have any immediate plans to move the special session bill, but the issue certainly isn’t going anywhere.”
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Leaders in the Assembly also did not immediately return calls, but the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing there.
Walker, a Republican, has worked incredibly closely and well with the Republican-controlled Legislature.
But that strong relationship wasn’t enough to rescue the wind bill, which drew vociferous opposition from those in the industry who said it would constitute the greatest regulatory barrier in the country.
Currently, turbines must be built at least 1,250 feet from nearby homes. But under Walker’s plan, they would have to be built at least 1,800 feet away.
Renew Wisconsin, which has tracked the growth of the state’s renewable sector, had said as much as $1.8 billion in investment may be at stake if every state wind farm now in the planning stage is halted.
Denise Bode, of the American Wind Energy Association, said the requirement would have put a “closed for business” sign on Wisconsin for wind development.
Walker had argued his proposal would have benefited property owners. The idea had garnered support from the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which said it was needed to protect homeowners near wind turbines.
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