COLUMBUS – In person and in writing, scores of residents from a swath of northwest Ohio – from Champaign to Huron counties – on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to give them the power of the ballot to keep out what they say are unwanted wind farms.
Walt Poffenbaugh, of Norwich Township, Huron County, sees three proposed turbine projects across Seneca, Sandusky, Erie, and Huron counties as essentially one industrial-sized project with a cumulative effect on the region.
“Republic Wind, Seneca Wind, and Emerson Creek Wind combined encompass 130,378 acres in portions of four adjacent counties in northwest Ohio,” he told the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“130,378 acres translates to 203 square miles,” he said. “The city of Columbus, which I imagine all of you are familiar with, covers 212 square miles.”
The Seneca Wind project would involve 77 turbines; Republic Wind, 50 turbines; and Emerson Creek, 62 turbines.
The Ohio Power Siting Board “evaluates each project on an individual basis and not in the context of other wind developments,” Mr. Poffenbaugh said. “By giving the right of referendum to impacted voters, the people can decide when enough is enough.”
The committee is considering House Bill 401, sponsored by Rep. Bill Reineke (R., Tiffin), that would allow township residents to circulate petitions to subject an OPSB decision pertaining to the siting of wind farms to voter referendum. Currently, board decisions override local zoning control.
The measure is inspired by new fights over proposals across the northern part of the state as well as the residual ill will from fights of the past, like that of the large, currently operational Blue Creek Wind Farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties.
“In Seneca County, there are six different large wind projects in various stages,” wrote Commissioner Anthony Paradiso in testimony submitted to the committee. “If approved, these projects will have an enormous impact to the area with little or no local voice in the matter.”
The commissioners voted 2-0, with one member absent, for a resolution favoring passage of the bill. Tuesday’s hearing was limited to those supporting the bill. More than 60 people submitted testimony.
The bill targets just the wind industry and would do nothing to arm township residents against the siting of natural gas fracking operations, solar fields, power lines, pipelines, or nuclear, coal, gas, or other power plants.
“The OPSB’s process is rigorous, is science-based, and is the appropriate place to evaluate a wind project proposal,” said Miranda Leppla, advocate for the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund. “Neighboring states are moving toward a more sustainable, renewable energy future as they double down on a path toward more diversified energy portfolios.
“Ohio should be attracting the economic and environmental benefits that wind energy can bring, not putting up more barriers to developing projects in our state,” she said.
Lawmakers have changed setback requirements that reduce the number of turbines that can be placed on a property, targeted for extinction the current mandate that utilities use increasingly more renewable power, and left the industry out of the consumer subsidies recently enacted as part of House Bill 6 for nuclear, solar, and coal.
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