1/20/11 Wind siting issue back on the floor with Walker's Senate Bill 9 AND What to do about advocates of Big Wind smashing concerned resident's yard signs?
Looming battle over wind turbines
Is Governor Scott Walker picking a fight with the state’s wind energy industry? It may be shaping up that way. The governor wants a second look at the process for placing wind turbines in Wisconsin, citing the concerns of adjoining property owners and businesses. Walker said this week that such concerns “had not been addressed.” The current Public Service Commission rules were finalized in September of 2010, after a nearly year long public process that began with the passage of enabling legislation which drew bipartisan support. “We thought it was more important to address that through the legislative and executive branches,” Walker said.
“The legislature was engaged in this issue for more than two years,” said Keith Reopelle with Wisconsin Environment. “They passed a bill, which like most complex pieces of legislation left the details up to a state agency which actually has expertise in that area.” Reopelle noted that the Public Service Commission held a lengthy series of public hearings in order to develop the rules.
Walker, who emphasized jobs creation during the campaign for governor, and who has called a special legislative session on jobs and the economy, said the intent in changing the setback rules for wind turbines is not to cost the state more jobs. “Certainly, we don’t want to do things that have an economic impact. By the same token, I think for adjoining property owners there’s some serious concerns out there, and we’re trying to balance the two,” the governor said.
Wisconsin Environment’s Reopelle said that changing those rules would “bring to a screeching halt” up to ten projects around the state. And he noted, there jobs at stake, as manufacturers in communities around the state are now producing components for wind turbines.
WHAT DOES IT SAY?
Under current law, (ACT 40) the Public Service Commission (PSC), with the advice of the wind siting council, must promulgate rules specifying the restrictions that a city, village, town, or county may impose on the installation or use of a “wind energy system,” which is defined as equipment and associated facilities that convert andthen store or transfer wind energy into usable forms of energy.
The restrictions must satisfy certain conditions, including preserving or protecting the public health or safety and not significantly increasing the cost of a wind energy system or significantly decreasing its efficiency.
In addition, the subject matter of the rules must include setback requirements and decommissioning, and may include any of the following:
electrical connections to the power grid
maximum audible sound levels
proper means of measuring noise
interference with radio, telephone, or television signals
or other matters.
Current law prohibits a city, village, town, or county from placing a restriction on the installation or use of a wind energy system that is more restrictive than the PSC’s rules.
This bill imposes additional requirements on the PSC’s rules.
The bill requires that, if a PSC rule involves a person who is affected by a wind energy system, including a rule that requires written notice, the rule must ensure that such a person includes an “affected owner,” which the bill defines as the owner of property located within one−half mile of property on which a wind energy system is installed or proposed to be installed.
In addition, the rules must allow an affected owner who has entered into an agreement with an owner or operator of a wind energy system regarding the installation or use of the wind energy system to terminate the agreement upon giving written notice of the termination no later than 10 working days after entering into the agreement.
Also, the rules must require any individual who negotiates an agreement with an affected owner on behalf of an owner or operator regarding an interest in real estate related to the installation or use of a wind energy system to make a written disclosure that the individual is licensed as a real estate broker or is exempt from such licensure.
The rules must also require inclusion of the written disclosure as an addendum to such an agreement.
Additionally, the rules must require an owner or operator to provide a copy of a brochure prepared by the PSC to an affected owner prior to entering into an agreement with the affected owner regarding the installation or use of the wind energy system.
The brochure must describe wind energy systems, requirements under state law applicable to wind energy systems, including any provisions of the PSC’s rules that allow for waiver of any such requirements, and the possible impacts of wind energy systems on property owners, including affected owners.
In addition, the bill eliminates the requirement for the PSC to promulgate rules regarding setback requirements, and requires instead that the owners of certain wind energy systems comply with setback requirements specified in the bill.
The bill’s setback requirements apply to the owner of a “large wind energy system,” which the bill defines as a wind energy system that has a total installed nameplate capacity of more than 300 kilowatts and that consists of individual wind turbines that have an installed nameplate capacity of more than 100 kilowatts.
The bill defines the owner of a large wind energy system as any of the following:
1) a person with a direct ownership interest in such a system, regardless of whether the person was involved
in acquiring the necessary rights, permits, and approvals or otherwise planning for the construction and operation of the system; or
2) a person acting as a developer of a large wind energy system by acquiring the necessary rights, permits, and approvals for or by planning for the construction and operation of the system, regardless of whether the person will own or operate the system.
The foregoing definition is similar to a definition in rules promulgated by the PSC.
Under the bill, the owner of a large wind energy system must design and construct the Under the bill, the owner of a large wind energy system must design and construct the system so that the setback distance is at least 1,800 feet.
However, the bill allows for a setback distance of less than 1,800 feet if the owners of all of the
following agree in writing:
1) properties adjoining the property on which the large wind energy system is located; and
2) properties separated only by a right−of−way from the property on which the large wind energy system is located.
The bill also specifies that setback distance must be measured as a straight line from the vertical center line of the wind turbine tower of the large wind energy system to the nearest point on the property line of the property on which the large wind energy system is located.
This requirement is similar to a requirement in rules promulgated by the PSC.
Current law requires the wind siting council to submit a report to the legislature every five years that describes the following:
1) peer−reviewed scientific research regarding the health impacts of wind energy systems; and
2) state and national regulatory developments regarding the siting of wind energy systems. The report must also include any recommendations for legislation.
The bill requires the wind siting council to study the impacts of wind energy systems on property values and to include the results of its study in the report.
SUPPORT SENATE BILL 9: WALKER'S WIND SITING REFORM
Better Plan encourages you to take a moment right now to contact Governor Walker's office to thank him for including these more protective requirements in this bill and to also contact your senator and representative to encourage them to support it.
CONTACT Governor Scott Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
115 East Capitol
Madison WI 53702
SAMPLE LETTER TO A SENATOR FROM A RESIDENT OF ROCK COUNTY
Dear Senator Cullen,
I’m writing to ask you to support Senate Bill 9, concerning wind siting issues in our state.
Five Towns in Rock County lawfully passed wind siting ordinances which were overturned by Act 40 — legislation which stripped local government of the power to regulate wind energy systems in their communities.
Other towns in your district were also considering wind ordinances before Act 40 took away that right.
Rock County Towns with lawfully adopted ordinances include
Town of Janesville,
Town of Center,
Town of Spring Valley
Town of Magnolia
Town of Union
The ordinances were a product of over a years worth of work and expense. All four towns would like to see their ordinances restored, all of them call for a health and safety setback of 2640 feet from homes unless a homeowner agrees to have a turbine closer and also a more protective turbine noise limit than that provided by the state.
Although Governor Walker’s bill doesn’t address these health and safety issues directly, his bill does help to protect property rights and certainly provides greater setback protection than the PSC’s wind-developer-friendly guidelines.
This bill is also clear about allowing individual homeowners the choice to have turbines closer to their property line if they wish to enter into an agreement with the developer.
The jobs that wind farms will bring to Wisconsin are for the most part short-term construction jobs which are frequently done by construction workers called in from out of state. After the turbines are up, the jobs that remain are few.
Many Wisconsin residents now living in wind projects desperately want to move away because of turbines sited too close to their residences, but cannot sell their homes because few buyers want to live so close to turbines that are 40 to 50 stories tall.
Current PSC setbacks are just too close to homes. Wind project residents sleep is disrupted because of nighttime turbine noise. TV, radio and cell phone reception has been disrupted by the turbines as well.
Although not perfect, Governor Walker’s bill is an important step toward protecting Wisconsin residents by requiring more responsible siting guidelines. I urge you to support it.
To see how close the turbines are to homes in PSC approved wind projects in Wisconsin, please watch this very short video. It contains photos of Wisconsin homes in wind projects.
This one, shot in Fond du Lac County by a wind project resident clearly shows why living with wind turbine shadow flicker is such a nightmare for so many families.
Town of Spring Valley
SIGN VANDALISM RAISES CONCERNS
January 20, 2011
By Carl Johnson
Last February, some residents in the area of the proposed industrial wind facility in southern Brown County began posting signs expressing concerns for the potential impacts the project would have on their health, environment and property rights and values.
Individuals displaying signs have conformed to town ordinances. Now, signs in the towns of Holland, Morrison and Glenmore are being vandalized, raising objection to a more serious level.
Someone in the community is willing to violate private property laws to intimidate neighbors and limit their freedom of speech.
Did the signers of turbine contracts have any concern for what effects their actions would potentially have on the lives of their neighbors?
Do they now feel any responsibility for the backlash of community reaction?
At a Holland town meeting last summer, a contract signer who demanded removal of signs with “contentious messages,” sadly put the issue into perspective declaring, “Last year those people were my friends.”
Of the many messages expressed on the placards posted by Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, one prophetically states, “Wind energy projects destroy communities.” The acts of vandalism are ample proof of that.