BURLEY – “Vague language” in a wind-energy bill has piqued Cassia County officials’ concern about keeping their local authority.
House Bill 342, introduced Monday, addresses the siting of wind turbines, including their “visual effects” and “shadow flicker.”
House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, told county commissioners during a Monday conference call that the bill will likely end up in an interim committee. There, it would be studied over the rest of 2011 before moving again in the Legislature next year.
“Although the bill may appear to have legs, I don’t think it will make it through (this session),” Bedke said.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, and stems from issues in Bonneville County, where commissioners allowed turbines to be placed near a residential area, Bedke said.
It was introduced after a separate bill to put a two-year moratorium on new wind farms failed, Bedke said.
“The whole issue begs for more study,” Bedke said.
Loertscher’s bill defines terms and sets out procedures and minimum standards for the placement of wind energy facilities. It would forbid counties from approving a turbine when its base would be less than 2 miles from a residential property line, unless the property owner waived the issue. Counties also could not green-light sites at less than the distance required to prevent moving shadows, shadow flicker or other visual effects to appear on land not owned by the wind company or on a public highway.
The bill also requires that landowners within 2 miles and any city within 5 miles be notified of a new wind project.
Cassia County Administrator Kerry McMurray said the bill shifts any litigation expense stemming from wind turbine siting issues to counties.
“When you are talking about visual effects, you are asking for a lawsuit if that means if you can see it from a highway or a house,” said county Prosecutor Al Barrus. “I can’t go along with a bill that has such vague language.”
Bedke said the minimum standards would not necessarily be a negative measure and would function like minimum state requirements in place for CAFOs.
“Whatever the state does, it will leave enough room for the counties to shape and mold them,” Bedke said.
Bedke also updated the commission on legislation split into two bills Monday that would extend a tax rebate for alternative-energy producers while changing the amount utilities are required to pay for them.
Bedke said the legislation will mean lost tax breaks for wind energy producers who don’t have projects already in the works.
Development of future wind products will possibly come down to economies of scale, Bedke said, and larger Idaho wind farms.
Bedke later told the Times-News that he thinks Cassia County has done a good job siting wind farms.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved a fee increase for agricultural building siting from $50 to $75 and set a $25 fee for a flood plain development permit. Previously there was no charge for the permit.
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