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CENTRE – The failure of the state Legislature to pass a bill to regulate wind energy projects in Alabama before adjourning last week means a pair of local bills will go into effect this summer in Cherokee and Etowah counties.
SB12, a statewide bill introduced by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, would have established an regulatory process for the construction of wind turbine in most of Alabama’s 67 counties. The bill failed to come up for a vote before the 2014 regular session ended Thursday night.
Williams was able to pass a pair of local bills (SB402 and SB403) in March that establish guidelines for constructing wind turbines in Cherokee and Etowah counties, respectively. Since SB12, which would have superseded those bills, did not pass, SB402 and SB403 will go into effect July 1.
The bills set up a local approval process for wind energy projects. In Cherokee County, the County Commission will have the final say on which projects may proceed.
A spokesman for Pioneer Green Energy, which is planning two wind turbines projects in northeast Alabama–one each in Cherokee and Etowah counties–decried the passage of the local bills.
“It is clear that the intent of their passage was to shelve our projects,” said Development Manager Patrick Buckley. “The Legislature is choosing to say no to future economic development in those counties.”
On Friday, Sen. Williams told The Post he isn’t finished working on behalf of people who oppose unrestricted wind energy projects in Alabama.
“We did what we could with SB12, but we do have the local bills in place to protect Cherokee and Etowah counties,” Williams said. “Next year, I plan to come back to Montgomery and protect the entire state.”
Buckley said Pioneer Green is still assessing its options for how best to proceed on its projects, including an eight-turbine farm near Leesburg. He is hopeful that the Legislature can pass a more equitable statewide law in the 2015 regular session.
“It is clear from the Senate’s failure to pass SB12 that the bill was not reasonable,” Buckley said. “It is our hope that next year the Legislature will formulate a process that works for everyone and not dissuade industries from coming into the state.”
Buckley said Cherokee County residents who applaud the local bills may not be as happy about their passage after they find out exactly what they contain.
“These are the most restrictive regulations in the country for wind energy and they are an assault on private property rights,” Buckley said. “Historically, the state of Alabama has been progressive in attracting industry and growth. These laws are totally out of line with that. These laws make it difficult for wind energy–or any other industry–to be developed in these two counties.”
Probate Judge Kirk Day, who also chairs the County commission, said the commissioners are still getting familiar with the new law and their subsequent new responsibilities.
“We’ll need to get with the county attorney at some point and get something in place,” Day said. “I’m not sure at this point if we will need to pass an ordinance. We will have to create an application process.”
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