The House State Affairs Committee got an earful on the issue of wind turbines during a hearing Friday. House Bill 265 proposes a two-year moratorium for those projects not already approved. Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, introduced the bill. Simpson believes that wind energy isn’t a viable resource compared to others and costs more as well.
Testimony on the bill was split fairly evenly with those against the bill falling into two categories: businesses and those with business relationships with them, and farmers/ranchers looking for some supplemental income.
Suzanne Leta Liou, a representative for RES Americas and an opponent of the bill, said this bill would jeopardize her company’s wind turbine project in Twin Falls County and others like it. “This bill overrides local authority and local control,” adding, “Idaho is a place where we want to do business. To be honest, if this bill was to move forward we would question the decision to be in Idaho.”
Scott Vanevenhoven, a member of Idahoans for Responsible Wind Energy and a proponent for the moratorium, believes proper ordinances and guidelines are not in place for local governments to make tough decisions. “These guidelines we currently have are insufficient. We should take this two-year pause and research everything,” he said. Vanevenhoven believes it’s a state issue and the state should therefore take a more active role in providing rules and regulations for building wind turbines. “The state has given incentives for people to use, so clearly it’s a state issue,” adding, “Idaho’s wind development is radically higher than other states. Is this really a desirable thing for Idaho?”
Errol Jones, a member of the Bonneville County Planning and Zoning Commission, who is also for the moratorium, said at one time as a member of the board he was in favor of wind farms, but now says people need to really sit back and think about the consequences of building them. He also is in favor of some state oversight, not takeover, of the building process. “There is a definite learning curve. The state should take a good look at this process and what the counties have done.” He also had a list of things he thinks the state can help with during this process including statewide guidelines for placing windmills, getting the fish and game department involved early, and having a longer timetable for county boards and commissions to study the issue and make sure it’s a good decision.
Dr. Louis Morales, also a proponent of the bill, discussed health concerns with wind turbine farms. He believes wind turbines are a substantial health risk and should be looked at closely. “We need to sit down and look at these ordinances. This moratorium gives us the timetable to do this. These turbines give off a low frequency sound that causes what is known as Wind Turbine Syndrome. It’s an inner ear problem resulting in vertigo, headaches, stress, migraines, and sometimes tachycardia.”
Rep Lynn Luker, R-Boise, asked Dr. Morales if studies focused on the distance from a turbine and what the harmful distance is. Morales explained that Wind Turbine Syndrome can happen when a person is within about 1.3 miles of a turbine. “To be safe,” he said, “it’s best to not live much closer than 1.25 miles.”
According to testimony, many of the homes in southern Idaho located near wind turbine farms are within ¾ mile to a mile away from wind turbines.
The committee was unable to hear all of the testimony Friday. It will resume testimony Monday morning at 7:45.
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