Seven wind warriors, aka “The Gang of Seven” traveled to Columbus on Wednesday to testify before the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee in support of the provision in HB 6 to give local township voters the right of referendum to either accept or reject an approved wind project which has received a certificate from the OPSB. A link to all of the testimony is http://www.ohiosenate.gov/committees/energy-and-public-utilities/document-archive. Click on June 19th and scroll down to read the testimony of Julie Johnson, Kevin Ledet, Terry Rittenhouse, Brenda DeLong, Kathleen Davis, Walt Poffenbaugh and Chris Zeman. In addition to the oral testimony, you will find the written testimony of Barbara Behling, Zach West, Dian and Anthony West, Katie Elsasser, Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner, Krista Beck, Jim Feasel, Dave Carrothers, Township Trustee Bill Frankart, Township Trustee Jeff Harmon, Deb Hay, Judge Steve Shuff, Greg Smith and Van Wert County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum. Twenty-one witnesses in support of giving people impacted by wind development a voice in determining the future character of their community.
The written testimony of Krista Beck includes a map which graphically depicts the cumulative effects of four proposed wind developments in the Erie-Huron-Seneca area that will cover 250 Square miles. Deb Hay points out there are at least three additional projects in the pipeline for the same area. Kathleen Davis asked in her testimony concerning Scioto Ridge, where five different units of government adopted Resolutions in opposition: “Scioto Ridge was nevertheless granted a certificate by the Ohio Power Siting Board. Did the Board have a different understanding of what was best for our community? Did they think our local cost-benefit determination was irrelevant? Did they lack the authority to consider the community’s wishes? We and many other targeted communities are incensed at the inequity of Ohio’s renewable energy policies that disenfranchise her people.”
These witnesses all eloquently raised the problem of disregard for local land use and economic development strategies of the community. Judge Shuff noted in his written testimony “In my personal and professional experience, major issues that affect local property owners and their rights should be decided at the local level. This is absolutely true involving wind farms. My opinion is based on Ohio’s Constitution. Art. I, § 1 that “acquiring, possessing and protecting property” is an inalienable right.”
What is next?
The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee intends to introduce a substitute bill on Tuesday. Because AWEA and MAREC did not testify on the 19th, we think they believed there was no need to testify because the local referendum language would be removed from HB 6. This is probably a sure thing despite our best efforts. We could be wrong but are not getting our hopes up. The bill will then go to the House for Concurrence and we do not know what will happen there. In the meantime, we will just sit tight. It is our thinking that the issue of referendum might have been the single greatest threat to the wind lobby causing them to back off other provisions in the bill like doing away with the mandates. We also think that there will be little chance that any stand-alone setback reduction bill will be possible without also incorporating the local referendum. So the worst that happens is things stay the same as they are today.