There are growing concerns that a bill under consideration in Springfield could dampen Illinois’ status as a leader in wind energy. Senate Bill 3263 would transfer regulatory responsibilities for wind-energy permitting from counties to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, a move supporters say is needed to address inconsistencies in the state’s wind-farm rules.
The organization Wind on the Wires promotes wind energy in the Midwest, and according to its public policy manager, Kevin Borgia, state control would just add uncertainty into a system that’s now working well.
“We’ve currently built over 3,500 megawatts of wind-energy generation in Illinois,” he said. “That system has been effective and it has worked well for the citizens of Illinois and for the businesses looking to invest in wind-energy generation. If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
Senator John Sullivan (R-Quincy), who sponsored the legislation, has stated that state control would also benefit smaller counties that need assistance in developing their own wind ordinances. The Adams County Board is opposing the legislation, and some board members from Ford and Iroquois counties are also voicing concerns because it would take away their local authority. Illinois is currently ranked fourth in the country for installed wind power.
Borgia declared that decisions pertaining to building wind projects should not be make by policymakers in Springfield or Chicago, but by those communities that would be affected.
“What we want to see is more land owners deciding themselves if they want to lease land to private wind farm developers and making that decision themselves,” he said. “And really we want the state to respect that local sovereignty and those landowner rights and responsibilities.”
Borgia added that policies are needed that provide a clear path towards cleaner energy sources, and changes to the current system could hinder the growth of wind power.
The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Energy Committee.
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