6/17/09 Assembly Bill 256 and a word from Sister Betty Wolcott on on health, safety, sustainability, diversity, birdsong and a beautiful clear sky.
On Wednesday at the Capitol in Madison, the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities will hold an Executive Session on Assembly Bill 256. [click here to download the bill]
This bill will strip local governments of their power to regulate the siting of industrial wind farms and give this power to three appointed members of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
It will also overturn the six Town ordinances and two County ordinances created, approved and adopted by local governments in our state. These ordinances were created to protect resident's health and safety in response to the inadequate protections provided by the state in its draft model ordinance.
The state's draft model ordinance has since disappeared from the Wisconsin.gov website. [Better Plan still has a copy of this ordinance- click here to download]
The draft model ordinance lays out the PSC approved guidelines used in the wind farm siting disasters of Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties.
Trempealeau County is one of two counties in our state that adopted an ordinace which put public health and safety over wind developer's wishes. It's a solid ordinance which has been derided by wind developers and lobbyists but never challenged on its merits.
Below is testimony presented at the public hearing on this bill on May 12, 2009. It was given by Sister Betty Wolcott, a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi Congregation, who was also a member of Trempealeau County’s Wind Energy Advisory Committee.
After you read it, please send an email to each of the committee members posted below this testimony to ask them not to support this bill as written, and to consider the message in the testimony of Sister Betty Wollcott.
Ask them not to pass legislation that would overturn ordinances created specifically to protect the health and safety of residents of our state, and instead have the courage to challenge these ordinances on their merits. Ask them to look more closely at the immediate benefits of promoting conservation and efficiency in our state.
Better Plan, Wisconsin is grateful for Sister Betty Wolcott's willingness to allow us to post her testimony here.
Testimony on the Proposed Uniform Wind Ordinance Bill for Wisconsin: SB 185/AB 256 –May 12, 2009
My name is Betty Wolcott.
I live near Osseo, Wisconsin, where I work with others in maintaining a natural area called The Woodlands.
For most of my life I have been an advocate for healthy and sustainable human-Earth relationships, thanks to my dear mother.
My congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, is committed to stopping global warming with a focus on energy conservation and efficiency.
I am a member of Trempealeau County’s Wind Energy Advisory Committee and I’m proud of the ordinance we developed for the purpose of protecting the public health and safety.
It was hopeful to work with citizens who cared enough to do the difficult research--research that extended over two years for some and for many of us over six months.
We learned that people who live near large wind turbine installations without adequate setback distances can suffer from sound, low frequency vibration, headaches, sleep disturbances and shadow flicker to name a few effects.
In addition to physical impacts are the psychic and spiritual effects of losing the peace and beauty of a cherished landscape. In response to these and many other concerns, we crafted an ordinance for Trempealeau County that we believe gives the public reasonable protections.
I am concerned that a Uniform Wind Ordinance Bill would deny citizens their right to have a voice and decision-making power in projects that greatly impact their lives and their unique environments.
This bill refers to areas where people live as “political subdivisions” but we are really talking about diverse communities of land, water, trees, people and all kinds of wildlife.
This legislation is about removing restrictions to the development of commercial wind systems.
I believe it feeds the illusion that we can solve energy needs and global warming by installing more wind turbines.
Many of us here and abroad are asking for more facts about wind energy. How efficient is it when the back up power is figured in? What are the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions? What are the health and safety impacts on people and the environment?
I feel we are dealing with a technology that is fast becoming outmoded. Smaller, more localized energy sources are being promoted as more practical, efficient and less invasive.
All across the world we are hearing from more and more people—including some leading environmentalists, experts in energy, ecology, and conservation -- that the cheapest, most effective and safest way to assure an adequate energy supply is to increase energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy.
The rewards are great: energy is saved, there is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the results are lasting and there is minimal disruption of the environment.
We can pour all the clean energy we want into drafty homes and buildings and we can keep on using inefficient technologies and appliances and we will not reach our clean energy or greenhouse gas emissions goals.
Weatherizing homes and businesses, retrofitting, and changing to efficient machines and appliances will provide many with needed work, save energy and again be for the long term.
Of course we need some financial help to do that and while some will be provided in the stimulus bill it isn’t nearly enough to do what needs to be done. Until we do the conservation and efficiency work we won’t have data as to the amount of energy we really need to produce.
One further consideration that needs attention is the fact that weather patterns are changing due to climate change and wind currents are becoming more erratic and unpredictable. Recently wind speeds of 60mph were predicted and we were advised to tie everything down that could be blown around. This offers great challenges for large wind turbines.
People in local communities ask that their voices be respected; they know their areas and they know they are not the same across the State.
They need to be more fully engaged in solving our energy/global warming challenges. Having seen the devastating effects of global warming as he travels the world, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, advises: “We should remember the best minds are the farmers, doctors, and community leaders at the local level who have worked out ingenious solutions to urgent challenges.”
I believe we have a responsibility to future generations to leave them a world that runs more efficiently on less energy and that places a priority on health, safety, sustainability, diversity, birdsong and a beautiful clear sky.
This will take the goodwill, involvement, and wisdom of everyone.
An ordinance that gives a single commission the authority to approve the rules, regulate, and direct the appeals process is unworthy of our great state. Please do not vote for this bill. Thank you.
Betty Wolcott, OSF
May 12, 2009
Note from Better Plan: Please take a moment to send each of these Committee members an email urging them not to pass AB 256: