Walker’s wind proposal is hasty

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an editorial in the Appleton Post Crescent:

The issue of wind turbines and where to put them is a hugely controversial issue in Wisconsin. It’s a hugely complex issue, too, with numerous perspectives and philosophies about it.

That’s why Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to change the rules about wind turbine siting is hasty and ill-considered.

As part of his regulatory reform legislation, Walker wants to change the minimum distance from a turbine to the nearest property line from 450 feet to 1,800 feet.

By doing so, he’s interjecting himself into a debate that has been going on for a long time — and had seemingly reached a conclusion — without a solid grounding of rationale.

The wind turbine issue has been most notable in eastern and northeastern Wisconsin because its wind patterns are conducive to generating power. In recent years, the debates had been conducted at the town or county level. They were often fierce debates, pitting neighbor against neighbor and sometimes family member against family member.

The prospect of a patchwork of regulations that may vary greatly led the Legislature to determine there should be a statewide standard. The Public Service Commission appointed an advisory committee to recommend one. Last year, the committee — stacked with wind energy proponents — came up with the 450-foot rule and another that said a turbine had to be 1,250 feet from a neighboring residence. The PSC approved the recommendation and the rules are supposed to take effect this year.

It’s understandably a divisive — and personal — issue. If you were a property owner, would you want a turbine near your home? Would you be concerned about its effects on your property value, health and quality of life? Sure.

But there’s also the perspective of economic development. Wind-turbine construction is a budding industry in Wisconsin. In fact, New North, the economic development organization for northeast Wisconsin, has a specific focus on promoting the many companies in our area that are or could be involved in building wind turbines.

Wind industry proponents say Walker’s rule will kill their business in our state, costing $500 million in planned projects. They say Walker’s just carrying the water for the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Those who identified themselves as being in the real estate industry gave more than $500,000 to Walker’s $9 million campaign, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


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