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NW Ohio leaders urge legislature to undo wind-turbine restrictions

Overly restrictive rules on wind-turbine placement have put billions of dollars of investment on hold, say government leaders from northwestern Ohio, who want to see the rules changed.

The local-government officials teamed up with a wind-energy trade group today to call for the Ohio General Assembly to undo the restrictions that were put in place three years ago.

“We are here today to encourage economic growth in Ohio, and not discourage it,” said Susan Munroe, president and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, at a Statehouse news conference.

She was joined by people affiliated with the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. The groups says $2 billion worth of projects are on hold or at risk.

The limits on turbine placement were changed in 2014 in a way that allows fewer turbines in a project area. The revision, which was inserted into an unrelated bill, was in response to some residents who had concerns about turbines being built close to their property.

This is a big issue in northwestern Ohio, which has the strongest wind resources. The region has several wind farms, but officials say additional investment is being stymied by the state rules.

Ken Amstutz, superintendent of Van Wert City Schools, said his district stands to benefit from one pending wind farm whose progress is being held up in part because of the placement rules. The tax receipts from wind farms are substantial and help to make up for decreases in other sources of income, he said.

The supporters of wind energy have spent several days speaking with lawmakers. They are urging the General Assembly to include a provision in the budget that would undo the 2014 restrictions.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he does not know the odds of such a change becoming law, but he noted “that there are a number of members who are interested in it.”

The current rules were passed with support from two senators who have since been elected to the House: Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.

It remains to be seen whether the changes in leadership and the shift of members between chambers will have any effect on the issue. Whatever happens will happen soon. The General Assembly is likely to finish its work on the budget next month.