Wind-energy advocates say they will continue to push to ease restrictions on where wind turbines can be placed, undeterred by a stinging defeat this week in the Ohio General Assembly.
The Ohio Senate supported the eased restrictions this week and inserted it into the proposed state budget, only for the Ohio House to remove the provision. This was part of a marathon give-and-take as lawmakers rushed to complete work on the budget.
“It was a missed opportunity for the state of Ohio,” said Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, a leading supporter of the wind policy. “There were people counting on this. We had a groundswell of support.”
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Wind industry officials said that easing restrictions would have led to more than $4 billion in spending on new wind farms.
Hite said he is making it clear to his colleagues that the push to revise the rules must continue.
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said on Wednesday that he thinks the wind-turbine proposal will come back in some form. He said he’s had “very positive conversations” on the topic with House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville. Rosenberger said
It was House Republicans who removed the provision. “We don’t think it was appropriate to have (wind-energy setbacks considered) in the context of the budget,” Rosenberger said.
House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who has long been critical of wind energy, said the setback issue “belongs in a larger discussion about energy policy.” He suggested the issue should be part of debate over a separate measure that would weaken the state’s clean-energy standards.
The underlying issue is a technical one, dealing with so-called setback rules for wind turbines – the minimum distance between a turbine and the nearest property line. Before 2014, that distance was about 550 feet.
In 2014, the Senate inserted an amendment into a budget bill that changed the setback to about 1,300 feet. Wind-energy business leaders said this would lead to a halt in the development of new wind farms because it would prohibit placing an adequate number of turbines in a project.
This week’s proposal would have set the limit at about 600 feet.
The setback issue has been the subject of heated debate in the northwestern Ohio counties that have seen the most wind energy development and stand to see additional development. Many property owners and local government officials want to encourage the wind industry, while some residents say turbines are unattractive and potentially dangerous.
Linda Hughes of Bellefontaine is among the opponents, saying in a letter to the editor in the Dispatch that wind turbines have a negative effect on property values. Citing safety concerns, she said turbines have “no business being situated within 1,000 feet or less of a neighboring property line.”
Hite, whose district includes several large wind farms, said his colleagues need to act on this issue or the investment will go elsewhere.
“The wind industry is not going to stick around and wait for us,” he said.
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