Rep. Saunders files bill for wind farm transparency
Credit: By TRAVIS WEIK - Jan 14, 2018 - thecouriertimes.com ~~
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State Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) submitted a bill Thursday that deals with industrial wind turbines.
More specifically, House Bill 1225 addresses concerns about potential ethics violations between county officials and wind farm developers.
“With so many new wind farms being constructed, this legislation would bolster transparency in our county government and help keep any personal financial interests out of the local approval process for prospective wind farm projects,” Saunders said.
HB 1225 would prevent conflicts of interest for county officials related to local wind farm projects.
Saunders said this legislation would require county officials or family members of county officials with financial interests in wind-powered devices in their county to recuse themselves from any official proceedings on that subject.
“Recuse” is defined in the proposed legislation to mean “refrain entirely from participation in a matter that involves the ownership, operation, construction or location of a wind power device.”
If HB 1225 becomes law in its current form, any county official who has an agreement with a wind developer must recuse himself or herself from any matter that involves the ownership, operation, construction or location of a wind power device in the county.
HB 1225 says that any Henry County official who has a connection to a wind developer could not vote at or even attend a meeting “that involves the ownership, operation, construction or location of a wind power device.”
The proposal also prohibits a county official or a relative of a county official who is subject to this recusal requirement from participating in a meeting in another county where a proposed wind power device is the subject of discussion.
“My bill would also require energy companies to file detailed paperwork and notify, at their expense, all property owners who live near a proposed wind turbine,” Saunders said.
If HB 1225 becomes law, the Henry County Recorder will be required to publish and mail notice to each property owner within two miles of a proposed wind turbine location. The notice will include a copy of the county’s wind energy conversion system ordinance, a copy of the developer’s registration statement, if any, and the name and contact information of a county official to contact with questions about the proposed wind farm development.
The wind farm development copy will be responsible for covering any costs the recorder incurs while complying with the notification requirements.
Wind developers would also need to file several pieces of information with the county clerk if House Bill 1225 becomes law. This includes contact information and a list of county officials that the developer has contacted.
Developers can be fined up to $4,500 for not filing the proper registration paperwork.
HB 1225 is currently in the Committee on Local Government. Saunders is a majority member of that committee.
Last year, Saunders submitted a bill that would have outlined exactly where industrial wind turbines can or cannot be built around the state.
Had that bill become law, local voters would also have had the chance to answer the question “Shall construction and/or location of wind power devices be permitted in Henry County?” during a general election.
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