A fierce wind is blowing through Seneca County. Whether that wind catches any large electric-generating turbines in the near future remains to be seen.
A pair of wind-turbine projects have created controversy.
The first, Utah-based sPower’s proposed 85-turbine Seneca Wind farm, is estimated to cost between $275 and $300 million and is expected to generate $56 million in tax revenue for schools and other local government bodies. The second, Charlottesville, Va.-based Apex Clean Energy’s $92 million Republic Wind project, calls for 58 turbines, each about 591 feet tall, spread across different rural Seneca County townships.
The proposals have caused a rift in the community as renewable energy advocates and some property owners set to lease land to for projects welcome the plan, while other property owners fiercely oppose the turbines towering over their communities.
Advocates point to the projects’ potential to help Ohio reach Gov. John Kasich’s long delayed renewable energy goals.
Seneca County, with about 103 people per square mile, is more densely populated than many of the counties with wind farms. But it is situated in the rural portion of the state experts believe is best for wind farms.
Any elected official will tell you land-use issues are the most contentious arguments in local government.
Amplifying that in this case are records compiled by the Seneca Anti-Wind Union that show 10 trustees from various townships have leased out their property to developers in exchange for cash
The Ohio Power Siting Board will rule in both of these cases, but local government powers still have a hand in the matter. County elected officials who favor the wind farms have hired a former Apex attorney, Michael Settineri, to represent the county commission for the siting board’s proceedings at a rate of $480 an hour. Township officials who oppose the projects complain there is no public funding for them to hire an attorney to represent their interests in the board’s review process.
Ohio’s elected leaders must BOTH move the state forward with more and better renewable energy sources AND respect the rights of property owners and the will of communities. This cannot be an either/or proposition.
Elected officials with a personal stake in the projects must recuse themselves. The state’s power-siting board must step up to its responsibility to weigh the interests of communities and residents, as well developers.
Every stakeholder’s rights must be fairly weighed in the process. A balance must be struck so that the communities being torn apart by the dispute can come together once the state authorities make their ruling.
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