COLUMBUS – Less than a week after the Ohio Power Siting Board denied the proposed Republic Wind Farm project in Sandusky and Seneca counties, the state legislature passed a bill to give local officials more input on wind and solar projects.
Senate Bill 52 would allow local elected officials to reject specific solar or wind projects in their communities, ban all such projects or restrict them from certain areas.
Following the bill’s passage, SB 52 sponsor state Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, joined Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, and state Reps. Craig Riedel, R-Defiance, and Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, in issuing a statement that described the legislative process as a “crusade” for constituents and their property rights.
“At this time, this issue is so consequential, particularly to northwest Ohio. As state legislators in northwest Ohio, we represent the counties with the most wind development in the state and understand that this bill is extremely important to those who live it every day,” the legislators wrote.
Promoting partnership instead of stifling development
The legislators wrote that, instead of stifling wind and solar development in Ohio, SB 52 will promote partnership and collaboration between project developers and the local community, ensuring these projects are sited in areas that will support and cherish them.
The proposed legislation passed the Ohio House 52-43 early Tuesday and a 20-12 concurrence vote sent the bill to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.
Chris Aichholz, a Seneca Anti-Wind Union member, released a statement on behalf of the group lauding the bill’s passage.
The group expressed confidence DeWine, based on his previous comments, would sign the bill.
“Now the people of Ohio can rest easy in the knowledge that a wind or solar developer can no longer join forces with state agencies to force industrial scale projects into their county without the full knowledge and consent of the county government,” the group’s statement read.
SB 52 proposed changes
Under SB 52’s proposed changes, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, wind and solar businesses would need to hold a public meeting at least 90 days before applying to the Ohio Power Siting Board for permission to build.
Company officials would need to detail the size of the project and a map of how far it would extend.
County commissioners could reject a specific project or ban all wind and solar projects in the county.
Alternatively, county commissioners could set aside specific areas where wind and solar businesses could not build their turbines, solar panels and other facilities. If residents disagree with what is excluded, they could file a referendum to challenge it at the ballot box.
For the SAWU and some Seneca and Sandusky County residents, the need for local control on wind projects became a priority after their efforts in opposing the Republic Wind Farm project.
Aichholz said last week his group had been actively working to stop the project since 2017 and educate the public and lawmakers on their concerns with the proposed wind farm.
The proposed Republic wind farm would have included up to 50 wind turbines to be built in Seneca County and a small portion of Sandusky County.
It drew widespread opposition in both counties from residents, including groups such as the Seneca Anti-Wind Union and Seneca County commissioners, and several township boards along Republic Wind Farm’s proposed path.
Jenifer French, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said substantial public opposition, plus geological concerns, were deciding factors for her opposition to the project.
Dalton Carr, development manager for Republic Wind, described the OPSB decision as “setting a new and dangerous precedent” in denying the permit to Republic Wind and noted the state board pointed to karst geology and local opposition as their reason for denial.
Carr said Apex Clean Energwould be appealing the OPSB decision.
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