PSC COMMISSIONER'S OPENING REMARKS ON WIND RULES, AUGUST 19, 2010, open public meeting in Madison at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
COMMISSIONER MEYER: Just on how we proceed with the wind siting question, given that we're going to take it up on Monday-- I guess I could do one of two things as we go on- what I'm prepared to do today was to sort of walk through each section and talk about changes that I think we should consider-- but think I'd like an opportunity sometime, whether it be today or Monday to maybe address more generally things like shadow flicker and setbacks--- I'm just wondering if you think that's more appropriate today or that's more appropriate Monday.
CHAIRMAN CALLISTO: No, I—what we're talking about here is the wind siting rules- it's the next agenda item so in terms of process -- before we make any opening statements, if any-- this is clearly going to be a multiple day process so I'm comfortable with whatever you're comfortable with-- we can-- we're clearly going to have some discussion today about principles, we may have some discussion about the structure of the rule and I also I do have some red lines that I think are relatively minor or are so important that I think we should start thinking about them today in order to meet our very aggressive time line.
So I was inclined to start walking through the rule and as major issues arise we can talk about them. If you have a different structure you are more comfortable I can do it that way as well.
MEYER I think-- I think I'm fine with that -- I think my thinking would be to just kind of walk through, see where you're at, see where you're at, you can see where I'm at see where I'm at--- but maybe the more generally speaking to -- you know--shadow flicker, noise or setbacks or things like that I think would want to understand better where I think the rule is going---
CALLISTO Sure. Sure.
[Speaking over each other-- inaudible]
MEYER: ---- a work in progress
CALLISTO: --- at least one more meeting, I would suspect.
COMMISSIONER AZAR Where I am, I've got-- I certainly have sort of discussions of the issues—but I have –again- put my lawyer hat on-- and literally have gone sentence by sentence and done a redline, I’m working with staff on where I think we can improve the rule. So I’m not sure how you guys want to take those line by lines because that will take a long time and-
CALLISTO: It will and that’s not—I don’t want to say it’s not workable – I mean—at-- at some level we to have to give the concepts to Deb – we’re going to have the [?] check off on the rule—not check off but after we get all these concepts to staff—which is going to evolve in our own---certainly in our own private space we’ll have walked through each of the lines and then we’re going to come back on that last day and see what’s there but ideally in this next meeting or two we can give them enough very clear guidance so that when we have that final presentation to us and we meet out here then it’s going to be nothing more than at that point, hopefully, fly-specking the rule.
AZAR: So Mr. Chairman are you recommending that I just give my word changes to staff and not raise them here?
CALLISTO If its--- I think we should discuss issues that are large here. If you have suggestions to staff I don’t think that violates any of our standing rules or obligations on minor word tweaks. That’s fine. I don’t know how you feel, Chairman Meyer.
MEYER Fine with that. My goal today would be to walk out of the room understanding the big changes that either of you want and you understand sort of the bigger changes that I would want, if there are smaller grammar kinds of things [inaudible] I’m not sure today’s the day for that.
CALLISTO Yeah, let’s see how far we get on that. It’s been a slow slog as I’ve gone through—and I’m sure you have so it may take us-- we may not get through the entire wind rule today.
"There will be individuals who live close to exisiting and future wind farms who will disagree with these standards we set. As I do in all siting decisions, I feel for these people, but I believe we will treat them fairly and balance their concerns with the state’s real and important drive to advance clean energy projects."
-PSC Chairman Eric Callisto
CALLISTO: [Reading] Opening statement. We are taking up the wind siting rules as I’ve noted in anticipation of approval and moving them to the legislature for review.
This has already been a wild ride and the commission hasn’t even weighed in. I want to thank all of those who helped to get us to this spot. First and foremost the wind siting council led by its Chair Dan Ebert and Vice Chair Doug Zweizig.
The Council has met over 20 times during its short existence. It has debated all the relevant topics and from my perspective has provided a very valuable recommendation to the commission.
My thanks as well to the hundreds of commentors who have shared their views with us.
This rule making is unlike any I’ve every been involved with and the critical eye brought to its promulgation by citizens across the state and the country will make it a better product.
Finally, my thanks to commission staff who have worked tirelessly in support of meeting the aggressive timeline I laid out for them. They have earned some rest but given how our discussion is going to go, they are not going to get it for a couple of days.
CALLISTO: That the final Wind Council report was not a concensus document in every regard is not surprising. Nor has it diminished the value of their product. Were these issues so easy we would not have needed the passage of Act 40, a critically important mandate that took two legislative sessions and many modifications to pass.
Were these issues so susceptible to easy resolution we would not see them recurring in every instance when wind siting is discussed regardless of the forum.
They have been front and center and highly contested in decisions the commissioners made in every wind farm CPCN or CA.
And were these issues so easy we would not have now before us a substantial amount of credible evidence that supports balance as we move forward.
That balanced approach is often the hallmark of our best work here at the commission, and it surely will play a central role as we promulgate this rule.
My balancing of the real issues at stake will be guided appropriately by the enabling statute. Act 40 laid out a clear mandate to this commission. It requires us to set statewide standards for these smaller projects to insure statewide uniformity and to insure that clean, valuable wind projects continue to be built in Wisconsin.
The act puts a difficult but very important obligation on this commission. We are to create standards that by legislative design limit local government’s discretion. That is no easy pill for Wisconsin communities to swallow and I don’t take the responsibility lightly.
But the legislature has determined, and I completely agree, this is an issue of statewide importance.
In setting these standards we are not going to go as far as the wind advocates want, and we certainly will go farther than those who want to dramatically limit wind farm siting.
There will be individuals who live close to exisiting and future wind farms who will disagree with these standards we set. As I do in all siting decisions, I feel for these people, but I believe we will treat them fairly and balance their concerns with the state’s real and important drive to advance clean energy projects.
" Our goal is to promulgate uniform wind siting rules that will allow the wind development community to successfully and responsibly propose and develop wind projects in Wisconsin to take advantage of favorable wind regimes."
PSC Commissioner Mark Meyer
MEYER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Reading] First and foremost thank you. There were so many of you that came together to get this work done in a timely way. The number of participants, council, particularly I want to thank the council, Dan Ebert and Doug Zweizig, chair and respectively for insuring meetings ran smoothly and the meetings were curteous and productive in the face of strong opposing positions.
I want to thank the members, Dave Gilles, Tom Green, Jennifer Heinzen, Andy Hesselbach, George Krause Jr. Lloyd Lueschow, Jevon McFadden, Tom Meyer, Bill Rakocy, Dwight Sattler, Ryan Schryver, Michael Vickerman and Larry Wunsch.
I want to make a special comment about Mr. Wunsch’s participation in the process, he’s a landowner who currently lives near a wind energy system, the promulgation of these rules will have no effect on his property but his input has been formative regarding the process and effects of siting decisions on individual properties and landowners.
Together the council represents over 900 hours of volunteer time that has be spent insuring these rules represent the interests of the stake-holders and Wisconsin citizens.
While I may not agree with all the recommendations of the council, I’m grateful and well informed by the work they have put into this effort.
I’d also like to applaud staff’s work on these rules. They’ve been tireless and committed to this process in a way that demonstrates the professionalism and dedication that this staff [inaudible] around the country on many important issues. Their work, commitment and professionalism is what allowed us and the council to reach concensus on many issues and develop a draft that captures the concerns and input of those stake holders. Deb Erwin, Dan Sage, Joyce Dingman [inaudible] and John [inaudible] Thank you.
While the chair has already gone through the processing path these rules have taken I want to highlight that it was a very open and inclusive process that started in 2009 with Wisconsin act 40 in September of 2009, statement of scope the following November, followed by public hearings in Fond du Lac, Tomah and Madison,a written comment period that ended July 7th 2010, which I should note we got over 1800 comments, which I have to say is more than I’ve ever seen in an individual case here at the commission in my six years.
Following that there were council meetings, 21 in all, that started in March of 2010 and ended on August 16th, 2010.
Going to the legislature, if you look at the newly created statutes it’s clear the legislature intended this to be an on going discussion.
The wind siting council is now a long standing body with an obligation to inform the commission on the promulgation of this rule as well as on an ongoing basis as we gather more information and learn more about wind siting and its effects on the people and communities [in] which they are sited.
Now not up for debate is whether there are sufficient wind resources in Wisconsin, whether wind should be considered as part of the states generation portfolio and whether the state or municipalities should create the rules for wind siting. These questions have been asked and answered.
Our goal is to promulgate uniform wind siting rules that will allow the wind development community to successfully and responsibly propose and develop wind projects in Wisconsin to take advantage of favorable wind regimes.
Our goal is to also identify how and when political subdivisions can create its own rules with respect to the siting of wind energy systems.
Wisconsin is heavily coal dependent and allowing the possibility of wind development is essential in diversifying the energy resources in our state.
We also have to balance the interests of wind developers with those of landowners. Both participating and non participating landowners. In particular, Act  requires us to specify the restrictions a political subdivision may impose on the installation or use of wind energy system, provide setbacks for reasonable protection from any health effects from noise or shadow flicker and to address decommissioning.
In addition the commission may address issues of visual appearance, lighting, electrical connections, the power grid, setback distances, maximum audible sound levels, shadow flicker and the proper means of measuring noise, interference with radio, telephone, television, as well as other matters.
Based on the comments received, the recommendations of the council and staff input, we’ll be addressing all the issues specifically as mandatory in discretionary issues outlined in Act 40 as well as notice compliance, stray voltage testing, compliance with electrical standards, emergency procedures, complaint process, political subdivision procedure, and commission procedure.
In addressing the Act 40 requirements, comments, council process of recommendations all propose what rule language thus meets all those issues.
Let me say at the outset this is meant to be and has been an open process and I’m open to discussion with my colleagues on this issues on how each of you think the language of the rule will best serve the interest we’re tasked with balancing.
Finally I want to acknowledge in setting these rules and making individual decisions in individual cases we ask people to make sacrifices for the good of the whole.
I’m comforted by the ongoing nature of this process as well as the commissions authority under proposed rule 128.02 to deviate from the rules in exceptional and unusual circumstances.
CALLISTO: Commissioner Azar?
"While reviewing the proposal rule, I was keenly aware of the distinctions between preventing the potential harm and mitigating that harm.
My recommendations seek to prevent the harm for the vast majority of the general public."
-PSC Commissioner Lauren Azar
AZAR: This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made during my tenure as commissioner. While some issues that need to be resolved are easy, others are not.
Before I begin I’d like to thank the members of the wind siting council who worked hard to develop the recommendations before us, and the commission staff, they’ve done a stellar job with drafting this rule and staffing the council.
Let me say from the start, based on the record of this case, I believe the health of a small portion of the population could be adversely affected by wind turbines, primarily through noise and vibration.
Frankly there is a strong suggestion that these adverse effects could be serious for a small percentage of folks.
Unfortunately we don’t know precisely why these people are affected, we don’t know what percentage of the population is affected and we don’t have a correlation between the levels between the emissions and the adverse affects.
In short, there are a lot of unknowns. I will be recommending that we ask the wind siting council to investigate and make recommendations on several issues. Though our information is not currently complete, I believe there is a good reason to pass a rule now, recognizing it will be a work in progress.
My goal today is two fold; protect the public while simultaneously removing barriers for wind development. While some may think this balance is impossible, I do not.
Indeed the more information that we as a commission obtain, the greater likelihood that we can meet both ends of that goal. Accordingly, as we gather more information, I believe the commission can and should refine these rules.
Make no mistake. As wind energy is developed in Wisconsin, it will affect the residents living around the turbines. This commission cannot eliminate all of those effects. All of us bear burdens for the good of our society, but some bear burdens greater than others.
It’s sobering to have to determine the amount of burden that may be placed on a community. Based on our dialog today it may seem that we make these decisions with ease. Let me assure you that these are heart wrenching decisions. We make these decisions recognizing the sacrifices that will follow.
Indeed, I have heard from people living in existing wind energy developments who have—who state they have been adversely affected and we hope that these rules will address the issues that they have raised in future developments.
While reviewing the proposal rule, I was keenly aware of the distinctions between preventing the potential harm and mitigating that harm.
My recommendations seek to prevent the harm for the vast majority of the general public.
First, these rules will establish standards that must be complied with or there will be consequences. Additionally my hope is we develop rules that recognize that some people are particularly sensitive to the emissions from wind turbines. In these cases, the developer must mitigate that harm, or at least I believe so.
Should these mitigation techniques fail in these rare circumstances I believe we should pass rules that protect these particularly sensitive residents.
If after mitigation the wind energy system is causing significant and verifiable adverse health [inaudible] I will be proposing that the developer be required to purchase the protected party’s home at market value.
In conclusion I want to address two critiques that have been made about the process of this rule making.
First, there are allegations that the council members that were appointed do not fit the profile mandated by the legislature. Simply, I disagree with that allegation.
Second, several parties have asked the commission to delay promulgating these rules so that further information can be developed. I found there is a dearth of information on some of these issues which makes policy making on those issues difficult.
However, according to one of the briefs, there is around 600 megawatts of wind waiting to be developed and development is halted until this rule is completed.
While I like to make decisions based on complete information, it is unclear when we will receive that information, hence, I think we need to develop the rules that include safeguards addressing some of the unknowns while simultaneously allowing responsible wind projects to be developed.
I believe we can develop rules that accomplish both.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONERS
The PSC is composed of three full-time Commissioners who decide the cases brought to the PSC for changes in utility operations, rates and for construction projects after a complete and thorough review of all the records compiled in the case, including public comments.
Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate for staggered, six-year terms.
One of these Commissioners is appointed chairperson by the Governor for a two-year term. The Commissioners Office, under the direction of the Chairperson, has oversight of all PSC staff related activities.