State of Ohio Sued! Big Wind Says Setbacks Are Unconstitutional!

What a week. In a nutshell, this is what happened:

Senators Randy Gardner and Matt Huffman were elected to the 3rd and 4th top leadership positions in the Senate. Gardner’s district includes Erie, Fulton (part), Lucas (part), Ottawa and Wood. Huffman’s district encompasses Allen, Auglaize (part), Champaign, Darke (part), Logan (part), Mercer and Shelby. With continued communication from constituents, these two Senators can represent the interests of NW Ohio landowners who want setbacks measured from property lines and a right of referendum or local vote on every proposed wind facility. Unrelenting and effective letters to the Editor of the local papers are helping to keep wind issues front and center in Van Wert and Seneca Counties.

One media breakthrough came in an Editorial in the Toledo Blade where the interests of local citizens were finally recognized as legitimate concerns. “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.” This is a big deal.

In another ‘big deal, ”the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition (MAREC) and three local landowners in Paulding County filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio claiming the current property line setback law established in 2014 in HB 483 is unconstitutional. MAREC seeks to have the law overturned. Section 15 (D), Article II of the Ohio Constitution provides: “No bill shall contain more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title. No law shall be revised or amended unless the new act contains the entire act revived, or the section or sections amended, and the section or sections amended shall be repealed.” A copy of the complaint is attached.

The complaint notes that the purpose of HB 483 (also known as the Mid-Biennial Budget Review or MBR) was “to make operating and other appropriations and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of state programs.” The regulation of economically significant wind turbines is a state program run by the Ohio Power Siting Board. If the setback change in HB 483 is deemed unconstitutional, it is likely to have the unintended consequence of also invalidating many other laws that were adopted in connection with appropriation bills. The General Assembly would likely not be happy with such an outcome.

Speculation is that this is a “Hail Mary Pass” being thrown as the time is running out to enact legislation repealing the 2014 setback. It is a serious matter nonetheless. The case is in the Paulding County Court of Common Pleas. If big wind can’t get what they want through obtaining sufficient Good Neighbor Agreements, they want to take what they need by invalidating the current law. Paulding County Commissioner, Tony Zartman, is quoted below saying, ““We strongly support this action. In fact, our concern over this unconstitutional maneuver is so great that we are currently considering joining the case ourselves. We believe filing this lawsuit is in the best interest of our community and our future economic growth.”

Of interest is the announcement of LafargeHolcim, a large cement company in Paulding. Along with ONE Energy, LafargeHolcim will build three turbines to power its facilities. We recall that in 2013, LafargeHolcim was featured in the press as a large provider to the wind industry. They provided the concrete for the Blue Creek turbine foundations and for the roads traveled by heavy equipment used to build the facility.

In Huron and Erie Counties, Apex announced the initiation of the Emerson Creek development formerly known as Firelands Wind. On November 8th, Apex representatives invited landowners and potential leaseholders to its office in Bellevue to assure the community that their cats kill more birds than wind turbines and the impacts won’t be “that drastic”. On November 15th, Apex held its formal Public Meeting but when they spied an anti-wind activist from Seneca County at the meeting, they asked the Deputy Sheriff to throw her out. [Note to Apex: Not really a good look, guys.]

At the Nov. 8th meeting, “Eric Jennings, a Minneapolis resident who said he owns a lot of Huron County land, is eager to host turbines because he said they help combat climate change.” It is believed that much land in Erie and Huron Counties is owned by absentee owners like Mr. Jennings. People who stand to make money but do not have to live with the adverse impacts are often targets of developers. This is another reason why the local township residents should be given the right to vote for or against a wind project. Mr. Jennings and other absentee landowners would not be eligible to vote.

Apex also announced a revised plan for Republic Wind would be presented to the Seneca County community in December. We are putting our money on December 24, 26 or some time between Christmas and New Year’s.

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Iberdrola, EverPower, NextEra, Apex, Swift Energy…they are all talking to your Representatives…Are You?