Members and supporters of Seneca Anti-Wind Union are at the Columbus Statehouse today to show their support for House Bill 6, which includes an amendment that would allow local referendums on wind turbine projects.
As of Tuesday afternoon, plans were to rally in favor of the bill around 11 a.m., and to remain at the Statehouse for a possible vote on the bill and then to talk to representatives from the local area.
SAWU spokesman Chris Aichholz said at least 50 or 60 people were planning to make the trip, but he wasn’t sure if a vote was going to take place.
“We’re told it’s going to be really close,” Aiccholz said.
If the House voted in favor of the bill, it would move on to an Ohio Senate committee.
Substitute HB 6 includes an amendment proposed by State Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, which would include the potential for a referendum vote on wind turbine projects in the townships they affect.
“I have submitted an amendment to House Bill 6 that would allow for local electors to hold a referendum regarding the approval or rejection of any certificates issued by the Ohio Power Siting Board for any economically significant wind farm or a large wind farm as defined by the Ohio Revised Code,” according to a news release issued Thursday.
The local vote would give decision-making authority for wind farm projects to the people who live within the affected townships.
“A great frustration of mine is when those outside of the community are trying to tell us how to run our counties,” Reineke said in the release. “This amendment supplements the current setback law by bringing the final decision regarding a wind farm project to the local township level.”
In the release, Reineke said he has received constituent emails and calls that “come into my office repeatedly” about local control. Among the concerns reported, he said, have been:
Turbines could be very visual, with some of them reach almost 600 feet in height, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. There is the very real concern given proven factual information that these projects will lead to real estate devaluation.
Currently, wind turbines operate at an average of 37 % capacity. The energy efficiency of the turbines, and the energy generated by them, will not be enjoyed by the local residents, but sold on the grid.
Much of northwest Ohio is agricultural, and subject to the disruptions caused by soil displacement, another factor which should be considered. There are concerns about the effects on nature, with turbines creating issues for migratory birds and affecting well water. Additional concerns include the health effects caused by shadow flicker and the continuous, repetitive noises generated by turbines.
County revenue predictions aren’t as reliable as presented in the beginning, with schools being the most significantly impacted being the first to re-evaluate an endorsement of these projects.
“My intent, with the inclusion of this amendment, is to give property owners more control over what happens in their backyard,” Reineke said in the release. “No one should be told how to manage their property by outsiders, and these township referendums will allow constituents to effectively voice their opinions on whether these types of projects are a good fit for them.”
A news release issued Thursday by Seneca Anti-Wind Union said, “We are happy to report that Rep. Bill Reineke has created a proposal that establishes a path for a local referendum (vote) in the siting of industrial wind turbine projects.
“This proposal is now included in Sub HB 6,” the release said. “This proposed legislation answers our pleas for more local control in the siting of industrial wind turbine projects. We are continually impressed with most of our elected officials recognizing the overwhelming number of people that are against these projects and that the current process does not provide a means for the local residents to play a meaningful role in the outcome of the wind turbine projects.”
Information from SAWU reports that the bill “establishes a procedure for electors in the unincorporated areas of a township to submit a referendum petition to approve or reject a certificate issued by the Power Siting Board for a wind farm that is to be located in whole or in part in the township.
SAWU said the language:
Provides that the certificate is invalid if rejected at the referendum by electors from all participating townships.
Requires the Power Siting Board to modify the certificate if not all participating townships’ electors reject the certificate.
Applies the referendum only to “Major Utility Wind Farms” (50 or more megawatts) and “Economically Significant Wind Farms” (5 to less than 50 megawatts, except for those that are 5 to less than 20 megawatts that meet certain requirements).
The bill would include language that allows a petition requesting a referendum vote to be filed if it is signed by 8 % of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. The petition could be filed after OPSB grants a build certificate.
“A majority vote of 51 % of voters would be required,” according to SAWU. “Otherwise, the project would NOT be able to be built in that given township due to a lack of supporting votes.”