BOISE – Members of the House Local Government Committee on Friday quickly introduced a bill pushed by Rep. Erik Simpson that would restrict wind energy development across the state.
The Idaho Falls Republican’s bill would prevent development of new industrial wind energy projects for two years. The measure would not affect wind farms that already have been built or granted approval.
Simpson pushed a similar measure last year that died in the House State Affairs Committee. Simpson said that defeat increased his determination to act on what he characterized as one of his most important priorities.
“”I haven’t stopped thinking about this bill since it went down … in State Affairs last year,”” Simpson said after the Friday hearing.
As for his latest proposal, committee members voted unanimously to introduce the bill without discussion or debate.
In an effort to avoid having his bill shot down again, Simpson was able to route this year’s proposal through a different committee and secure the blessing of House Speaker Lawerence Denney.
Simpson said 12 lawmakers, including Denney, have signed on as co-sponsors – signaling that Simpson already may have one-third of the necessary votes to carry the measure through the full House, should the Local Government Committee advance it.
Thirty-six votes are needed to ensure passage of bills through the House.
The bill states that “”until July 1, 2014, municipalities, counties and state agencies are prohibited from granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed 100 feet in height. …””
Simpson said many of his constituents have expressed concern over the subsidies that wind developers receive and the effect of the projects on property values.
He also referenced the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act, or PURPA. The complex law encourages utility companies to buy renewable energy, which Simpson said some industrial wind developers exploit to their advantage.
“”I don’t believe the PURPA law was established in 1978 to benefit multimillion- and multibillion-dollar corporations,”” Simpson said. “”It was originally established to allow smaller developers to utilize existing resources in their area.””
Randy Gardner, a project manager with Ridgeline Energy, declined to comment on the proposal Friday. Gardner said he had not read the bill and would wait until he analyzed it before making any statement.
Ridgeline Energy partnered with BP Energy to develop the Goshen II wind farm east of Idaho Falls.
Simpson’s new bill also would create a legislative task force assigned to study the wind industry and report its findings in early 2014. If passed into law, Simpson’s bill would not affect wind projects developed by the U.S. government, Idaho National Laboratory or the Bonneville Power Administration “”for the purposes of providing power to the citizens of Idaho.””
Finally, Simpson attached an emergency clause to his bill that would make it effective as soon as it is passed into law, rather than the traditional July 1 start to the new fiscal year.
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