10/14/10 The testimony wasn't heard: Wind Siting Council Vice Chair Doug Zweizig on how the Wind Siting Council Failed.
WATCH YESTERDAY'S HEARING ON WISCONSIN EYE
CLICK HERE to watch Wisconsin Eye video of the Senate Committee wind rules hearing yesterday.
After you click on the link, click "Watch" under 10.13.10 Senate committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail
BELOW: Video testimony of Dr. Herb Coussons on the wind siting rules. Unfortunately video testimony was not accepted at the hearing. It has been accepted in the past. No reason was given for the change.
Click on the image above to hear Doug Zwiezig ask the Wind Siting Council a simple question about the rules they were approving. It was a simple question no one was able to answer correctly.
Residents from the counties of Rock, Manitowoc, Calumet, Kewaunee, Brown, St. Croix, Fond du Lac, Dodge, Grant and more who turned out in force at the Capitol to testify against the new wind siting rules created by the Public Service Commission, were surprised that Senator Plale gave the Vice Chair of the Wind Siting Council just three minutes for his testimony about what went wrong on the council.
This critical testimony (below) from Wind siting council Vice Chair Doug Zweizig was cut short at the senate hearing yesterday by the three minute rule.
We are glad to present it here
To Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail
From: Douglas Zweizig, Ph.D., Vice Chair, Wind Siting Council
Re: Clearinghouse Rule #10-057; PSC Wind Siting Rules proposed Chapter 128
Date: October 13, 2010
Good afternoon. My name is Douglas Zweizig. I am retired from teaching at the UW—Madison School of Library and Information Studies where I taught in the areas of management and research methods. I am also a member of the Town of Union (Rock County) Plan Commission, and I chaired that Plan Commission through a sixteen-month process as it developed a licensing ordinance for wind energy systems.
I am an advocate for alternative energy use and have installed geothermal and solar photovoltaic systems at my home. I am speaking today from my experience as Vice Chair of the Public Service Commission-appointed Wind Siting Council.
At the formation of the Wind Siting Council, I was hopeful that this broadly representative group could work together to recommend responsible uniform rules for the siting of wind turbines, but I came to see that the process being followed was flawed, and I was one of the authors of the Council’s minority report.
It seems appropriate for your committee to be holding a hearing on the Public Service Commission-proposed rules as there is considerable evidence that the Public Service Commission did not take seriously the directives in Act 40, the legislation that directed the PSC to appoint the Council and that instructed it in the work that the Council was to carry out. I know that there were a lot of statements made in support of the legislation about the intentions for the Wind Siting Council, and there are descriptions in the Council report of the working of the Wind Siting Council that sound like it worked the way it should have, but the behaviors do not fit that description.
Others will present concerns with the substance of the rules proposed by the Public Service Commission. I want, as a member and Vice-Chair of the Wind Siting Council to report to you on the process of the Council and the ways in which that process did not match the requirements of Act 40.
When the members appointed to the Council were announced, there was widespread objection to the appointments. The minority report of the Wind Siting Council (selection appended on pages 9-14) details some of these concerns, but in brief, even though Act 40 was clear in specifying a balance of interests in the Council, the appointments heavily favored persons with financial interests in the development of large wind energy systems in Wisconsin. I am aware that the Commissioners believe that the legislature desires increased development of wind energy systems, but I don't believe that the legislature desired a bias in the Council that would pre-determine rules favorable to the wind industry and harmful to the health and home values of Wisconsin residents.
I’m going to touch on several aspects of what Act 40 called for the PSC to do with the Wind Siting Council and report on what, in my view, happened. For example, in Act 40, you clearly specified the make-up of this critical committee, the Wind Siting Council. You asked for a balanced Council that would address the concerns of the various parties and that would provide recommendations that accommodated those concerns to the degree possible. What you got was a Council front-loaded in support of wind development, that contained an imbalance of those with financial interests in the development of wind energy systems, and that did not seek to evolve creative solutions to the tensions, only to override any opposition. In choosing a Chair for the Council, the Public Service Commission could have used its opportunity of appointing two public members to appoint someone with stature, skills, and neutrality who could serve as Chair—someone who could help the different interests in the Council listen to each other and craft recommendations that the Public Service Commission and you could move forward with. The appointments of public members that the PSC made squandered that opportunity. Instead, the PSC put forth as Chair someone who was an executive with an electric utility, who had previously issued permits for wind farms as a PSC chair, and who was chair of CREWE (Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy), an organization even at that time lobbying for an extended and increased Renewable Portfolio Standard. While the Chair did make some efforts to urge members to work toward solutions, there was no effort made by the wind industry block to negotiate solutions that would have begun to adequately address non-industry concerns.
Even though you sought a Council that would contain knowledge and experience from a variety of perspectives, this knowledge and experience was either missing or for the most part unused and sometimes misused. Fortunately, there is an almost complete record of the over 30 hours of Wind Siting Council meetings, from observers' videos and, from midway through the process, on Wisconsin Eye (wiseye.org), so observations about the conduct of the Council can be verified.
Here are some examples of how the knowledge and professionalism of Council members was neglected.
One would only have to look at a randomly-selected hour of video of a meeting to see the lack of critical thinking that was operating, and this is the process that produced the recommendations of the Council.
You also directed the Council to inform itself about local government regulations, about health impacts, and about regulation in other states and countries. For example, you asked in Act 40 that there be "one member representing towns and one member representing counties," (15.797 (1) (b) 2.) and said that "the initial member of the wind siting council [appointed as a town or county representative] shall represent a town or county that has in effect . . . an ordinance regulating wind energy systems." (Section 14 (2) (b).) It seems clear from this requirement that you wanted the Council to consider and benefit from the local ordinances that had been developed for the regulation of wind siting. Since the major argument made for the need for state-level uniform standards for wind turbine siting was the existing “patchwork” or “hodgepodge” of local ordinances and since the statute stipulated that a member of the Wind Siting Council should have direct experience with such an ordinance, it may be surprising to you that no examination or consideration of these local ordinances occurred. I had provided copies of my Town of Union’s ordinance to members of the Council, but it was never taken up in a meeting. While it was easy for frustrated wind developers to rail against having to understand and comply with local government concerns, the fact is that local governments spent considerable time and resources to carry out their responsibilities to their constituents. In the case of my small township, sixteen months and an estimated $40,000. was spent preparing a licensing ordinance for wind energy systems. We did not take this task lightly, and we believe that our investigations and work resulted in an ordinance that would allow wind development in our township while being protective of our citizens, but our experience and the experience of other local jurisdictions were not considered as anything other than impediments.
The Wind Siting Council ignored the work that had been done by local governments across the state because it seems the focus of the Council was on the needs of the wind industry and not on the equally legitimate concerns of local jurisdictions.
In a specific case, when I tried to address the issue of complaint resolution and provided language from our ordinance that described our approach (appended pages 15-17), it was not taken as a motion or seriously discussed. Instead, the Chair repeatedly asserted that the approach used by WE Energies should be taken as a model to be used throughout the state.
You asked that "one member who is a University of Wisconsin System faculty member with expertise regarding the health impacts of wind energy systems" (15.797 (1) (b) 8.) be on the Council.
It is pretty clear that you were asking for the best qualified person to be found in public higher education in Wisconsin to inform the recommendations of the Wind Siting Council on this issue of central concern. We now have hundreds of Wisconsin families who are living adjacent to large wind turbines, we have reports of serious health concerns and suspected consequences among these families, we have households abandoning their unlivable homes in order to avoid the effects of wind turbines—it is important to be as sure as we can be that policy decisions on wind turbine siting will not result in compromising the health of wind farm hosts or neighbors. This is why you specified clearly that you wanted to be guided by the highest quality of information.
What you got was not a University of Wisconsin System faculty member but someone who had been hired to teach a course in the medical school, someone whose highest research qualification is a masters degree, someone who had begun to investigate the literature on the "health impacts of wind energy systems" just a few months before being appointed to the Wind Siting Council, and someone who had done no independent investigation of the health impacts of exposure to wind energy systems. It is difficult to understand how this appointment came about, but it is clear that the Public Service Commission did not, as was asked for, look throughout the UW System, but only at the UW—Madison and then, finally, in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
To further underscore your concern with health impacts, you specified that the Wind Siting Council "shall survey the peer-reviewed scientific research regarding the health impacts of wind energy systems" (Section 12, (e).)
The Wind Siting Council did not conduct any such survey. One member of the Wind Siting Council, having a masters degree in Public Health and working for a state agency that had already taken a position denying the health impacts of wind energy systems, was asked to prepare a presentation to be given to the Wind Siting Council. Immediately following the PowerPoint-assisted presentation, there was a limited time for questions. The written text of the presentation was initially promised to be provided, but then was withheld. It is now taking a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a copy of this paper prepared by a state employee as part of his work. Without this text, the basis for the presentation cannot be evaluated. The Wind Siting Council was not provided access to any of the research studies by either copies or links, and the section on Noise in the report of the Wind Siting Council cites studies that were not part of the presentation and that were unknown to the Council. This critical part of your direction was simply not carried out.
In addition, you required that the Wind Siting Council "shall . . . study state and national regulatory developments regarding the siting of wind energy systems." (Section 12, (e).) How did that go? I don't believe that state or national regulations ever appeared on an agenda for the Wind Siting Council. There were no briefing materials prepared or provided to WSC members. When I provided information on New Zealand's reconfirmed and revised noise standard of 5 decibels over background sound levels (appended pages 18-19), a standard that they have found workable and that is supported by both the government and the industry-based New Zealand Wind Energy Association, consideration of it was dismissed by a wind developer by saying that we should not consider any standards from other countries. The Chair, and other industry supporters, thought that was an adequate response.
The only report on regulation from any other states that I have seen from the PSC was appended to the Rules sent to you at the end of August as Attachment A1, "Comparison with Similar Rules in Surrounding States." This information was not provided to the Wind Siting Council. So, for example, we never learned that Michigan PSC has recommended that "setback requirements and noise limitations should continue to be decided at the local level where feasible so that the needs of local citizens can be appropriately considered." We never learned about the Michigan PSC’s recommendation that the noise standard should be measured from the property line, not the residence. We never learned that in Minnesota "a county may adopt standards for large wind systems that are more stringent than those in Minnesota PUC rules or permit standards." And given these differences found in neighboring states, there is a good chance that we could learn a great deal from an unbiased survey of state and national regulatory siting regulation, but that survey was apparently never conducted or at least was not shared with the Council.
While I have been impressed with the professionalism and diligence of the PSC staff, it is clear that the PSC-directed process of the Wind Siting Council has failed to comply with the requirements you included in Act 40
- in making appointments to the Council,
- in learning from local government experiences with regulation of wind energy systems,
- in responsibly investigating the concerns with health impacts, and
This outcome is not what Chairman Callisto promised this committee in May of last year when he said, "I pledge to you a rule-making process that will be open and inclusive. I have no desire to send you a rule that gives you heartburn. My job is to get the rule done right the first time."
I think that you and I would agree that the health and property of Wisconsin citizens and the energy future of the state are all important issues and deserve better attention than they received in the Wind Siting Council. It is sad that the Public Service Commission was not able to make better use of the opportunity provided by Act 40 to develop rules that would promote sustainable wind development for Wisconsin, that would be fair to all parties, that would be workable, and that would promote community acceptance of wind energy systems.
I respectfully request that the rules be sent back to the Public Service Commission to improve the Council membership and process and to carry out the charge contained in Act 40.
Thank-you for this opportunity to report to you. I would be glad to respond if you have any questions at this or any other time.
FIGHTING WIND FARMS AT THE CAPITOL
SOURCE: Wisconsin Radio Network, www.wrn.com
October 14 2010
by Andrew Beckett,
Critics of proposed statewide rules of permitting wind farms in Wisconsin unloaded complaints on legislators, during a hearing at the Capitol Wednesday. A state Senate committee is reviewing the rules from the Public Service Commission, which would create statewide standards for the construction of wind farms.
Larry Wunsch, who served on the PSC advisory panel, says proposed setbacks for wind turbines still leave them too close to homes. Wunsch was also critical of the process the Commission used in crafting the rules, arguing that the panel was stacked with pro-wind advocates who ignored opposing viewpoints.
Tamas Houlihan with the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association voiced concerns about restrictions on aerial crop spraying, warning it could cause delays in treating plants. Houlihan was joined by several other farmers who say they need to react quickly to potential pest threats, and only aerial spraying allows them to do that.
Lawmakers also heard from supporters of the rules, who argue that clear guidelines are needed to keep local governments from creating conflicting standards.
Michael Arndt of Element Power says setback guidelines that are too strict could severely limit where wind farms can be built. Arndt says there’s a misconception that there are large strips of land out there waiting for wind development. However, he says forcing turbines to be built a half mile or more from neighboring properties quickly reduces the amount of land available.
State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail, told dozens of people who turned out to testify Wednesday that lawmakers will likely send the proposed rules back to the PSC for changes.
SOME FARMERS RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT WIND FARM SITES:
SOURCE: Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com
October 13 2010
By Thomas Content of the
Wind farms built in certain areas of the state could end up preventing farms growing potatoes and beans from using airplanes to spray their fields with pesticides and insecticides, agricultural representatives told a state Senate hearing in Madison on Wednesday.
“If large-scale wind energy plants would be sited in areas of intense vegetable production, the result could be devastating crop losses,” said Tamas Houlihan of the state Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.
The group is seeking “some kind of system for compensation in the event of losses due to siting of wind energy facilities that prevent the use of aerial application,” he said.
At issue is a set of rules that the state Public Service Commission developed this summer after a series of public hearings and recommendations by a wind siting advisory council.
Developers are concerned that some of the restrictions may force them to develop wind projects out of state instead of here. And they left opponents of wind farms critical that the PSC didn’t go far enough to restrict how close wind turbines can be built to nearby homes.
Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate commerce, energy and utilities committee, said he wants to see the rules sent back to the PSC for more work. Plale was the author of a bill that led to the rules created by the PSC. If the Legislature does not send the rules back, the rules would take effect.
Nick George of the Midwest Food Processors Association, said sending the rules back would help the agency incorporate a compensation system that the farm groups have developed in consultation with other stakeholders.
Wind developers object that setback rules will make it impossible to build some projects, and deprive the state of economic development opportunities.
Michael Arndt of Oregon-based Element Power said his company is proposing a $300 million project that would create 150 construction jobs and 15 maintenance jobs as well as $2 million in revenue for local landowners.
“And the project may not be viable if the proposed rules are adopted as they stand today. It will force us to basically deploy our development dollars in neighboring states.”
Bob Ziegelbauer, County Executive
Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail
Senator Jeff Plale, Chair
Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 11:00 AM
411 South, State Capitol
RE: Opposition to Clearinghouse Rule 10-057, relating to the siting of wind
Dear Senator Plale & Committee Members:
As I testified at the public hearing held over a year ago on SB 185/AB 256, I was opposed to the wind siting bills then, and am opposed to Clearinghouse Rule 10-057 now.
I continue to strongly support that the siting of wind towers must be made by the local units of government where wind towers will be located.
I strongly encourage the Committee to send the rule back to require local input and decisions.
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?”
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 would throw all that work away.
I encourage you 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 try address controversial issues in their communities should stand; not be washed away because “Monday morning quarterbacks” from 150 miles away don’t like the result.
This proposal tells local people to get out of the way, tells local officials to dodge the tough issues, and because people in Madison know better, you’ll decide.
I urge you to not support the rule and send it back for modifications.
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th Street
Manitowoc WI 54220
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:
For some reason the Senate committee yesterday did not allow short video clips to be shown as part of testimony. In the past this option has always been available for citizens. No reason was given for the change. This is one of the videos that was not allowed to be presented which is unfortunate because it clearly illustrates a key problem with then new rules.
After listening to 6 hours of testimony, including very moving and upsetting testimony from residents now living in wind projects in our state, out-going senator Plale, who was quite jovial during the proceedings, ended the hearing by saying he would send the rules back to the PSC which was not surprising. What is surpising is, given all he heard during the hearing, he will send the rules back with no recommendations.