November 15, 2019
Editorials, Ohio

Let voters settle wind power feuds

The Courier | November 15, 2019 |

It’s impossible not to notice that wind power is catching on in this part of Ohio. Towering turbines encroach Findlay’s north side, and stretch west in northern Hardin County.

Meanwhile, a big wind farm is awaiting approval in Seneca County.

But not all people favor wind power and the issue can divide neighbors.

The greatest support for wind projects comes from property owners who directly benefit from land lease agreements with developers. At rural sites, such contracts can allow farmers to realize extra income from the air and still farm the land.

But feuds can come in more populated townships, where some residents end up living in the flicker or shadows of a turbine – but receive no compensation.

While setback rules ease some property owner concerns, landowners have relatively little clout when it comes to preventing construction of turbines.

That could change if bills introduced recently by state Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, and state Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, advance.

Either SB 234 or HB 401 would permit a township referendum vote on certain wind farm projects.

In order to move forward, a wind project would still have to be approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board. But the legislation would mean a certification for a wind farm, or an expansion of an existing one, would not become effective until 90 days after board approval.

Within that period, residents in an affected township could file a petition for a referendum with the local board of elections. If signatures of at least 8 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election in that township are obtained, the fate of the project would be decided by township voters in the next election.

The referendum process would not need to be used in every situation – some residents may be on the same page when it comes to wind projects.

It’s rare for the state to relinquish control to local government, but the McColley and Reineke proposals could resolve disputes between those who benefit from the wind and those who do not.

Yes, wind turbines are becoming more common, but they are not the right fit for every rural location. When there is opposition, voters, not a state board, should have the final say.

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