Realtors and WMC square off on Walker attempt to block windpower development

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: General | Tags: , , |


From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The state Legislature moved with remarkable speed during its special session to enact proposals advocated by Gov. Scott Walker.

The single great exception: a bill to restrict development of wind farms.

Of 10 bills considered by the Legislature in the special session that began Jan. 4, the wind siting bill is the only one that didn’t clear the state Assembly.

Legislative leaders last week decided to stop consideration of the Walker bill, saying they would move to address wind siting in a different way. The move came one week after Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, announced its opposition to the wind siting bill. It’s the only plank of Walker’s special session platform that WMC opposed.

The energy proposal runs counter to Walker’s jobs agenda because it threatens to block several large wind power projects, with an investment valued at $500 million, this year and next, wind power advocates say. But Walker is concerned about the cost of wind power and says the state needs to have a better balance between wind development and property rights. . . .

The Wisconsin Realtors Association said it worked with Walker’s transition team to craft a proposal that would effectively block the PSC’s standard, which was established after eight months of study. The Concerned Realtors Committee was a key backer of Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, donating more than $43,000 in 2010, campaign finance records show.

The governor’s bill was backed by the Wisconsin Builders Association and Wisconsin Towns Association as well as local community groups that have organized to block wind farms, such as the one Chicago-based Invenergy has proposed in Brown County. . . .

The focus on the issue now shifts to a public hearing Wednesday before a legislative committee that reviews rules like the one forwarded by the PSC.

“There are still members of our caucus who have an interest in making a change,” said Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). “The final discussions on what that change is and what route that change is going to take through the Legislature is not determined. It’s still a work in progress.”

“There are lots of discussions going on on how to come up with a compromise,” state Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) said.

He considers the 1,250-foot setback insufficient. But Cowles, who was the author of a bill that resulted in more renewable energy springing up across the state, doesn’t want to see wind development halted.

The Walker bill was met with a barrage of criticism, not only from WMC but also from wind energy developers, advocacy groups and wind energy manufacturer Tower Tech Systems in Manitowoc, which President Barack Obama visited last month. Tower Tech joined other suppliers in raising concerns about the chilling effect the bill would have on jobs and investment.

Talk of a compromise doesn’t please Jeff Anthony, a former We Energies renewable energy strategist who is now director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association.

“From our perspective, the compromise is what we’ve been working on the past two years,” Anthony said. “The compromise went through the legislative process and the regulatory process.”

Wind developers initially sought a setback of 1,000 feet from homes before the PSC adopted a 1,250-foot setback.

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    A statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices in Wisconsin.

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