A bill that would have placed limits on where large wind turbines could be built in Idaho has been held by the House State Affairs Committee and will make its way to another panel for further review.
After about two hours of debate, legislations voted 11-8 to send House Bill 342 to an interim committee dealing with environmental and technological issues. The committee meets in the months of the year when the Legislature is not in session.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, sponsored the bill, which would have prevented wind developers from building turbines within two miles of homes without written consent. If a developer is given consent by one homeowner, any nearby neighbors would also have to consent.
The measure would have also prevented developers from building turbines in such a way that the flickering shadows caused by the turning blades would affect travel on public roads. “The shadow, as it comes on the road, is very distracting,” said Loertscher.
Another component of the bill was a provision that would have required developers to notify all residents within two miles and cities within five miles of projects to be notified in writing. Loertscher said that notification of construction of turbines has been poor in his area. “The first thing that you may see is ground being broken and cement being poured,” he said.
Several stakeholders testified against the plan. Seth Grigg with the Idaho Association of Counties panned the measure because his organization was not involved in crafting restrictions.
Bill Block, a vice president at J-U-B Engineers and husband of Rep. Sharon Block, said the bill is overly complicated and could pit homeowners against developers. “It looks to me like this is an attorney’s dream,” said Block.
Some lawmakers felt that counties should be able to make their own decisions on placement of the turbines, which can sometimes be more than 500-feet tall. Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, told colleagues that the topography of the Gem State varies wildly. “I think these issues should be decided at the local level,” said Higgins.
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, and Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Soda Springs, teamed up against the measure based on timing and procedure. Anderson said the bill has not had enough stakeholder input and that the idea had not been properly researched. “This is far too important of an issue to do a last-minute, last-week-of-the-session bill,” said Anderson. “This is an issue of policy that needs to be thought out and discussed.”
Andrus echoed that call. “I think that issue needs to be vetted more,” he cautioned. “There’s a lot of ramification and implication in this legislation.”
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