5/14/09 Can I Get a Witness? Quotes from wind farm residents, More testimony and news from the hearing at the capitol on the turbine siting reform bill
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For the next two weeks Better Plan, Wisconsin will be presenting transcripts of some of the testimony given at the May 12 public hearing at the Captiol regarding turbine siting reform. [Click here to download the bill]
|05.12.09 | Joint Public Hearing: Assembly and Senate Committees on Energy|
The Assembly and Senate Committees on Energy held a joint public hearing on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. They heard public testimony on Assembly Bill 256 and Senate Bill 185, relating to regulation of wind energy systems and granting rule-making authority.
Testimony given at the Public Hearing on Turbine Siting Reform by Wisconsin State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, (D-Manitowoc) before a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail and the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities.
Senate Bill 185 and Assembly Bill 256 direct the Public Service Commission, after public input, to establish permitting standards to be applied by local or state government to wind energy installations, regardless of size and location. Bob Ziegelbauer is a state representative from Manitowoc, and Manitowoc County executive.
I'm here today to speak in opposition to these proposals, which work to undermine the confidence people have in the value of local government and the even-handedness of their state government.
In the Manitowoc County area, we are very interested in efficient new energy technologies. We host two valuable, highly efficient nuclear plants (and if you're really serious about producing low-cost electricity for a long time, we would love to put one more between those two). Our workers manufacture the towers that support the wind turbines. And, the city of Manitowoc operates a new, clean, coal-power plant in the middle of town, a block from my house, three blocks from the courthouse.
We are "all in" on the energy economy.
The issue here is actually a fairly simple one: Do you trust people in their local communities to make serious land-use decisions on important issues? These bills say very clearly that you do not.
Nearly five years ago, when it became clear that the demand for wind power sites would include our area, town and county government embarked on the intense process of trying to make the difficult land-use policy decisions contemplated under existing state law.
After a failed first attempt to create a suitable county wind power ordinance, the county board took a "time out" by declaring a moratorium on projects while it convened a special study committee to write a new ordinance. That committee, a balanced mix of citizen and elected officials encompassing all the principal points of view, took significant public input and agonized over the implications of making wind tower siting decisions.
After more than a year of serious deliberation, their work product, a comprehensive wind power ordinance, was overwhelmingly passed into law by the Manitowoc County Board in 2006. That both sides of the debate came away from the process a little unhappy with the results speaks highly of the quality of the work they did.
It continues to be tested, defined and refined according to the appropriate due process that is available at the local level for these issues. This (legislation) would throw all that work away.
These bills are ultimately a power grab, couched in the usual excuses — artificially-created minimum requirements for alternative power generation, speculative theories about man-made global warming, impatience with local decision making, and frustration with due process.
I'm here today to stand up for those local officials and the process of making local decisions throughout the state. Their work and the work of similar groups of local officials, who took their responsibilities seriously and in good faith waded in to address controversial issues in their communities, should stand and not be washed away because "Monday morning quarterbacks" from 150 miles away don't like the result.
These proposals tell local officials to get out of the way, dodge the tough issues, and because people in Madison know better; you'll decide.
I urge you not to pass these bills.
Testimony From Douglas Zweizig, Acting Chair of the Town of Union (Rock County) Plan Commission
May 12, 2009
I am speaking today in opposition to AB-256 that proposes to remove control over the placement of large wind energy systems from local governments.
For a sixteen-month period, ending in November of 2008, I served as the acting chair of the Town of Union (Rock County) Plan Commission as it developed its Ordinance No. 2008-06, Wind Energy Systems Licensing Ordinance.
Extensive work of a volunteer citizen Wind Turbines Study Committee, the Union Plan Commission, and the Town of Union Board was made necessary because the Wisconsin Public Service Commission had failed in its responsibilities to fully investigate or consider the impacts on human health that result from proximity to large wind turbines.
I am concerned that, if decisions on the rules governing placement of large wind turbines is given to this same negligent Public Service Commission, great harm to Wisconsin residents will result.
We already have enough evidence of harm to human health resulting from sound from large wind turbines now operating in Wisconsin.
I must admit that when I first began to inform myself about this issue, I was skeptical of the seemingly hysterical reports of effects of sound from the turbines. After all, seen from a distance, they seem rather elegant, slow-moving providers of green energy.
However, as I have learned more and have visited properties surrounded by large wind turbines, I have come to understand that what looked like hysteria was more likely desperation expressed by citizens who were suffering serious effects, had been failed by their government, and were either going to have to move (if possible) or suffer these effects for the next thirty years.
I am strongly in favor of alternative energy sources. My wife and I have installed a geothermal heating/cooling system on our rural property and are investigating investment in photovoltaic and wind energy systems. However, I think that there has been too little attention paid to the personal property aspects of large wind energy systems.
While I believe that the state should allow great latitude for what one does on his/her own property, I also believe that the state should carefully consider what effects a property owner can produce on neighboring properties.
In effect, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has chosen to ignore these effects on neighboring properties, and our township was required to expend extensive money and volunteer time to develop an ordinance that protects our residents’ health and safety and property rights.
Now comes proposed legislation to override local control at the locations where wind turbines would be sited and to give control over the standards to the Public Service Commission.
Wind turbine vendors, utilities, and utility-supported renewable energy groups support the proposed legislation. But the Public Service Commission has already had its opportunity to develop responsible standards, and failed to do so.
In its Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin, put forth to provide guidance for local governments, the Public Service Commission recommended that it was safe to locate a 400-foot wind turbine within 1,000 feet of a neighbor’s residence.
When the Town of Union’s Wind Turbines Study Committee sought to determine how PSC knew that this 1,000-foot setback would protect the neighbor’s health and safety, it required a Freedom of Information Act request to learn that the PSC was taking the word of an out-of-state utility and had made no independent determination.
Now it appears that the PSC has abandoned its own guidelines and has withdrawn the Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin from its website.
In 2007, the Public Service Commission received and ignored a communication from board-certified experts in acoustics and community noise with critiques of the Public Service Commission’s recommendations and offers of unpaid assistance.
This inadequate approach to the development of its recommendations suggests that the Public Service Commission will be insufficiently protective of the property or health of Wisconsin residents.
When asked about health and safety effects of wind turbines, EcoEnergy (the company proposing to locate wind turbines in our township) as well as our local utility simply have denied that there are any concerns, using statements such as “The noise from wind turbines is about the same as a refrigerator running in the room. “ or “The noise from wind turbines is masked by the sound of the wind blowing.”
These often-repeated statements are demonstrably false and would be laughable if they weren’t so disrespectful of the people suffering from sleep deprivation and other chronic health effects resulting from bad placement of wind turbines in Wisconsin.
If they believe what they’re saying, they can’t have listened to their own turbines.
They are counting on the ignorance of landowners, editorial writers, and, frankly, legislators to allow them to make such deceitful claims. (Yet, while denying any adverse effects from placement of wind turbines, EcoEnergy uses the word “mitigation” a lot— betraying their recognition of the need to counteract the effects of wind turbines on humans in their vicinity.)
The language used to promote this bill—such as, “uniform siting standards,” “protecting and creating ‘green collar’ jobs,” and “a sensible wind energy policy”—sounds desirable and sensible, but, given the behavior of the key players who have lobbied for this bill, the justifications given are simply spin.
These parties have not behaved responsibly or in good faith in the past and cannot be expected to give adequate care to the welfare of Wisconsin citizens.
Finally, this legislation is not just a bad idea, but is unnecessary and meddlesome in local affairs.There are already enough safeguards in place to limit unreasonable local ordinances.
Unduly restrictive local ordinances can be challenged in court. If the wind turbine companies and utilities have a case to make, they would only have to make it in court one time to affect similar cases.
Further, many ordinances, including ours, contain “good neighbor agreement” options that would allow setbacks closer than the ordinance stipulates if the affected landowners agree.
The parties in support of this proposed legislation are trying for a short cut by trying to put the Public Service Commission—an agency they have already co-opted—in charge so they don’t have to address the troublesome issues of health, safety, and property rights.
I would ask that the committees considering this legislation not report it out or the legislators to vote against this attempt to override local control over the welfare of citizens.
I thank the Committee for the opportunity to speak today on this important issue.
Plan Commission member,
Town of Union, Rock County
Evansville, Wisconsin 53536
[Note: Due to time constraints this testimony was not read aloud, but was submitted to the committee]
Testimony from Graceann Toberman, Clerk/Treasurer, and resident, Town of Magnolia in Rock County, Wisconsin
Hi, I'm Graceann Toberman, I live in the Town of Magnolia in Rock County. My family and I live on a farm where we raise crops, beef cattle and chickens.
We are very concerned about the health-effects of the wind turbines.
Our town and neighboring towns researched the pros and cons and feel the distance these are placed from our homes and farms is the key component of siting them correctly.
The previous state model wind ordinance okayed turbines to be sited 1000 feet from our homes. The Public Service Commission approved this.
Our town has rolling hills with a few steep ridges. These ridges are zoned highland conservancy to preserve the land and protect from erosion. Farmers are not allowed to farm on these steep slopes and houses and driveways are not allowed. Yet the wind companies want to build there.
The people living in the surrounding area, their families and farming livelihood would all be changed. I think it is important to be careful not to ruin the livelihood of people who are farming and producing much needed food.
It would be terrible to trade this for wind turbines that have been proven to harm the health of people , if not sited correctly. We are in favor of renewable resources. Because no two communities are exactly the same, please let the local officials, who know the lay of the land, the needs of the community and are better able to watch out for the health and safety of their residents --have a voice at the siting of the turbines.
Today I heard many people complain about the "patchwork quilt"of rules in Wisconsin.
The state is a beautiful patchwork quilt, all towns are different and that is why the siting rules need to be fit to each community.
I have been the treasurer of Magnolia for 16 years. When someone talked about how much money the municipalities will be losing from payments - it upset me because it isn't true.
The towns have never received payments - how can we lose something we never had? The cost of the turbines, 3.5 million each, was also mentioned – This money is coming from Spain and now our wind will be foreign owned.
We have heard from many people today that are really being hurt from health effects and yet others still say "but we are closer to our renewable requirements! At what cost are we doing this?
Thank you for listening to me.
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