Calumet County wind ordinance in jeopardy; Welch softens PSC rhetoric

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Jim Collar in the Green Bay Post-Crescent:

CHILTON — Calumet County’s crusade to create restrictive blanket rules for turbine construction suffered another setback after the state Legislature passed a bill this week that would create a statewide standard for placing turbines.

The bill will hit the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it. County Board Chairman Bill Barribeau said state standards — which would be set by the Public Service Commission — would override local ones.

The county’s wind turbine ordinance dictated setbacks and maximum heights and sound levels for all turbine construction within its zoning jurisdiction. An appeals court struck down the ordinance in July, saying each proposed project has to be reviewed on its own merits.

The county has appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which might be the county’s last resort as renewable energy advocates and business interests have banded together to push for less-restrictive rules for building turbines.

“The board will decide whether to continue forward or not,” Barribeau said of the county’s petition to the Supreme Court, “but I’d assume we would.”

Calumet County has been a hotbed of debate in recent years that’s largely pitted farmers against those in residential areas as developers set eyes on its windy terrain. . . .

Bob Welch, a former state senator and consultant for Calumet County Citizens for Responsible Energy, said that because the bill asks the Public Service Commission to establish the rules, residents still would have a voice in creating reasonable solutions for turbine placement. The citizens group is one of several that organized in opposition to wind-farm projects in the county. . . .

Wind-farming opponents have gone beyond basing arguments against turbines on aesthetics to concerns over whether turbines set close to homes can cause health problems for residents. Those will be among arguments presented to the Public Service Commission when it considers a statewide standard.

“(The Public Service Commission has) been known to take science-based views, and we’re pretty confident that the science is on our side,” Welch said.


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