A bill to restrict development of wind power projects won’t be taken up in the Legislature’s special session, but a move is under way to have the governor’s concerns addressed in a different way.
The bill is the only Walker proposal in the jobs-focused special session that didn’t clear the state Assembly.
The Republican-controlled Legislature won’t take up the wind-siting bill at this time, but appeared Friday to be moving toward a possible vote to block a wind siting standard passed last year by the state Public Service Commission from taking effect.
A hearing has now been scheduled for Wednesday on the PSC’s wind-siting rule. The hearing will take place before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
During a bill signing in Madison Friday afternoon, Walker said he would continue to work on the issue, either by changing administrative rules or with a bill in the regular legislative session that is now under way.
“I want to see the wind industry, like every other industry, be effective here in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “I just want to find a way to balance that with . . . property rights.”
Just because Walker’s proposal won’t be voted on in the special session doesn’t mean the issue is dead, said Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
“The fact that there is a public hearing on Wednesday should show you that there are still conversations between the people involved throughout Wisconsin and the members of the Legislature who are here to represent them,” Welhouse said.
The PSC rule called for wind turbines to be set back at least 1,250 feet from nearby homes, and included specific limits on decibel levels for wind turbines as well as shadow flicker. Walker rejected that approach as hurting the property rights of nearby landowners, instead proposing a bill that would bar construction of wind turbines if they are within 1,800 feet of a property line.
Renewable energy supporters have said the Walker proposal would risk $500 million in investment over the next two years in the state, as wind developers look outside Wisconsin to build projects. The Illinois Wind Energy Association recently issued a call to Wisconsin wind developers that Illinois is “open for business” for wind energy.
Possible outcomes now could include having no statewide standards at all, one year after the Legislature passed a law calling for uniformity in wind standards, said Mike Brown, spokesman for state Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona).
“This appears to be a way to accomplish the same objective without subjecting themselves to a public vote on the floor of the Senate,” Brown said.
Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), the Assembly chair of the committee that reviews administrative rules, said Friday that no decisions will be made until all sides are given a chance to speak at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Obviously there’s concern among the opponents of wind, particularly people who live near them who have issues with the noise and the shadow flicker,” he said. “On the other side are the people who build and service windmills who see a further setback as having a detrimental effect on their business.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty on this one,” Ott said.
Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel staff, reporting in Madison, contributed to this report.
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