Oh my, where to start? Comments on the Ohio Power Siting Board’s proposed rules have been submitted and are posted on the OPSB website at http://dis.puc.state.oh.us/CaseRecord.aspx?CaseNo=16-1109.
Terrence O’Donnell, son of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell, filed two comment letters. One is filed as counsel for the LeedCo Icebreaker project in Lake Erie and the other is on behalf of MAREC (Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition). Not surprisingly the comments are full of threats that the proposed rules are so restrictive as to prohibit the development of wind in Ohio. Repeatedly, this cry rises no matter whether the topic is ice throw, shadow flicker, noise, decommissioning, whatever. At one low point, MAREC insists that the word “noise” be eliminated due to its negative connotations and replaced by a more neutral term like…”sound”. Gee, we wonder what the folks at INCE (Institute for NOISE Control Engineering) , the professional association for “noise” would think of that? Sort of like calling 600’ foot tall wind power plant arrays “farms”.
Consider: MAREC requests that throughout the rules the term “noise” be eliminated and replaced with the term “sound.” “Noise” has a negative connotation that indicates loud, harsh, or disturbing sound. It would be more appropriate to use a descriptive term that is not pejorative. The term “sound” more correctly denotes what is being measured in accordance with the wind farm requirements in new Rule 09. As explained in greater detail below, it is crucial for the wind industry in Ohio that the sound level be measured at an appropriate and reasonable location. MAREC’s concern is that, if the sound level is measured at the property lines (as proposed throughout the rules) wind project development in Ohio will be devastated. Therefore, sound measurements should focus on the applicable residences that could potentially be affected by the sound level, i.e., structures that are inhabited.
It may interest readers to know that noise regulation was originally the province of the US EPA which carried out investigations and studies on noise and its effect on the public health and welfare through the
Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC). In 1981 the federal government decided that noise issues were best handled at the State and local level. As a result, ONAC was closed and primary responsibility of addressing noise issues was transferred to State and local governments. However, EPA retains authority to investigate and study noise and its effect, disseminate information to the public regarding noise pollution and its adverse health effects, respond to inquiries on matters related to noise, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations for protecting the public health and welfare, pursuant to the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978. (Source US EPA). Given that the EPA turned over noise regulation but local zoning authority for industrial wind was pre-empted by the State of Ohio, it is especially important that the OPSB adopt rules protective of the health and welfare of the community. And calling it noise is an accurate, descriptive term.
THE WORST comment is the letter from the Ohio Environmental Council. Consider: When the statute was passed, there was no public discussion and no analysis on whether or not the increased setback distance was necessary, as it was enacted hastily in Ohio House Bill 483 (Amstutz – 130th GA). As a result, the revised setback has effectively zoned new wind projects out of the state, decimating the prospect of new wind projects, and injuring clean energy progress. Until 2014, Ohio was attracting millions of dollars in investment in new wind energy projects. As a result, Ohio’s air quality improved, new jobs were created, and local governments began seeing new revenue coming in to support their operations. Sadly, this progress was all but halted by the abrupt enactment of these overly burdensome wind turbine regulations that created unnecessary red tape for investors and project developers, specifically the implementation of the unnecessary and overly burdensome setback requirements promulgated by this proposed rule. It has effectively placed a moratorium on new wind development, and there has been no new wind applications approved since the new setback requirements were enacted.
We don’t believe the OEC claims that industrial wind has already “improved Ohio’s air quality”. A recent study by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity estimates the federal Clean Power Plan will have a small effect on temperature and is the equivalent of reducing rising sea levels by “the thickness of one to two human hairs.” If that is the assessment for the entire impact of the CPP, a couple of wind factories in Ohio could not possibly have had a detectable impact on air quality.
The industry comments on the OPSB rules are an all-out assault on property rights of rural landowners. In the face of all of this, we were very happy to read Senate President Keith Faber’s sentiments in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Faber expressed no sympathy for wind developers who claim legislation he supported has made it impossible to develop future wind-farm sites. He said his concern is for the property rights of neighboring landowners who are not being compensated for the impact of the turbines on their land. He said he has had discussions on the issue in his office and in the Indian Lake area of Ohio. Indian Lake is in Logan County, northwest of Columbus. “
While the rule-making process is underway, the Icebreaker project proposed for Lake Erie is in the pre-application stage at the OPSB. Reports are coming in of criticism from organizations representing the Great Lakes in the US and Canada. Our friends at NAPAW have renamed it “Wing Breaker”! The wildlife compliance comments from the wind industry indicate that bird and bat issues may be more of a problem for them than we knew. They appear to want to water them down and remove references to federal programs designed to protect avian species. This comes at a time when researchers are documenting that “there is evidence that wind facilities may be having continental-scale impacts on some bird populations.”
While they did not choose to file comments on the OPSB Rules, The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund released a study this week intended to provide the Governor with justification for reinstating the renewable mandates. And for good measure, they threw in a plea for rollback of property line setbacks. Elsewhere, a study from the Independent Institute was interesting in that they assert the exaggerated claims of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as an “historic and important step” that “takes real action on climate change” and is “fair” and “flexible” is an attempt to distract people from asking questions like, “Who will pay for this?” and “By how much will the CPP reduce climate change?” Maybe the screams and yells about property-line versus residence setbacks is an attempt to distract people from those same substantive questions.