Ohio testifies against (HB 114) BigWind in a BigWay

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Yesterday was a huuuuggge day at the Statehouse where rural landowners from
Champaign, Van Wert, Seneca, Huron, Richland, Allen, Hardin and Logan
Counties assembled to provide opponent testimony against the proposed
setbacks in Sub. H.B.  114.   Fifty-three separate testimonies were
submitted for the record and twenty of them were presented verbally by a
great group of people including a Van Wert County Commissioner. All
testimony can be downloaded or viewed on the Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Committee website at
http://www.ohiosenate.gov/committees/energy-and-natural-resources/document-a
rchive .   The room was packed and those who made the long trip to Columbus
left quite an impression on anyone who saw us fill the main floor and the
balcony. We spent 3 1/2 hours stating our concerns and Chairman Balderson was kind enough to let everyone say what they came to say without time constraints.

We rebutted the notion that Ohio’s setbacks were the most restrictive in
the nation by showing that the universe of states to which we can be
compared is just four states.  If H.B. 114 is passed with 1.2x turbine
height setbacks, Ohio will have the third least protective setbacks in the
nation with South Dakota (46th in population rank) and Wisconsin being worse
than Ohio.  Wisconsin measures 1.1x turbine height to the property line and
1,125′ to the residence.  The Wisconsin Town Association adopted a
Resolution a few years ago calling for a Moratorium on further wind
development and the Brown County Board of Health deemed them to be a human
health hazard.

We presented a powerful testimony documenting the property losses
experienced inside the Blue Creek Wind project.   We uniformly presented
opposition to measurement from anything but the property line and opposition
to any reduction in current setbacks.  We all demanded that people inside a
project footprint have a vote in whether or not a project should be
approved.  One opponent actually lives inside Blue Creek.  She described
the awful nuisance effects and said there were times she had to leave the
area.

Senator Dolan was ready with questions we suspect were prepared for him by
the wind lobby.  He was essentially the only one speaking on behalf of wind.

*       Sen. Dolan said OPSB siting was unique in the US and makes Ohio’s
wind siting the most professional, responsive and protective in the nation.
He said no other state has what we have. But OPSB’s siting decisions
routinely wind up in the Ohio Supreme Court because they are flawed. Both
county and township governments have been intervenors and their concerns,
like the citizens,  have been disregarded.  OPSB has not adopted all the
siting rules they were required by law to adopt; they have no standard for
Low Frequency Noise; they do not enforce the law requiring property line
setbacks for amended certificates; they deny requests for safety manuals and
on and on.   One Supreme Court  Justice once opined that   “Where there is
no rule, there can be no violation, and there will be no need for an
amendment.”  That seems to us like the OPSB philosophy.

*       One point in our testimony that should be reinforced is that, in
almost every other state, the setback is established via local zoning
ordinance.  In 27 states, there are numerous issues that state Public
Utility or Public Service Commissions evaluate when processing an
application for a wind project certificate but setbacks are not one of them.
(In some instances, the developer can appeal to the state Public Utilities
Commission if they object to the local zoning.)  When other state
governments issue a certificate, they simply verify the application complies
with the local setback and that  a local zoning permit has been issued. That
is what the National Conference of State Legislatures’ survey reveals.
Moreover, it reveals that almost every local zoning ordinance measures
setbacks from the property line irrespective of differences in distance.
Even AWEA’s setback  chart confirms this.

*       Sen. Dolan continues to assert that granting PILOT constitutes local
control even after testimony that EverPower’s representative told the family
of a witness they intended to build without PILOT. Dolan
attacked the witness saying she was spreading “hearsay” that was not
credible.  Dolan tried to get Julie to agree that there was no longer a
project in Champaign County because EverPower had been denied PILOT.  She
said she did not know that to be true.    Another thing to consider is that
an increasing number of developers are building the wind facilities and
selling them – to corporations; to other wind companies and to utilities.
These developers will not have to pay the tax because they won’t own the
project anymore.  Any company with a deep pocket and desire to appear green
(think Amazon or AEP) can afford to pay.

*       Sen. Dolan continues to assert the “two-pronged” setback – from the
property line and the residence addresses our concerns.  This is absolutely
laughable but it continues to have some kind of traction with legislators.
The only thing that matters is the distance from the property line. Anything
beyond that is irrelevant. The nuisance effects cross the line onto the
property on which these people pay taxes.  Although we continue to  say it
is trespass zoning and that the participating property-owner is given an
easement and compensated while the non-participating property owner carries
the burden, risks loss of property value and becomes a prisoner inside his
own house.

*       Sen. Dolan asked a witness if she would be willing to have the County Commissioners make the decision on approving a wind farm.
She said “no”.  She said some Commissioners are leaseholders.  (They also
have a conflict of interest in accepting the discretionary money which is
part of the PILOT and which can fund their own salary increases.) She
asserted the only acceptable thing would  be a vote of the affected people
inside the footprint.  It came through pretty clearly that local voters need
a voice.  A Van Wert County Commissioner stated that, even if the
people in the affected area do not have an opportunity to vote, the
Commissioners would take a straw poll anyway and that would guide them.
He also made the important point that giving local control to the
voters forces the wind companies to negotiate.  Right now they have no
incentive to negotiate and they ignore the concerns of the local community.
Related to that, he said in Paulding County the wind developer provided
a $5,000 bond to dismantle the Timber Road project.  That exposes the county
to a future liability that they probably will never be able to afford to
address.

*       Sen. Dolan asked us to acknowledge that the 2,300′ property line
setbacks adopted in Rush County, Indiana meant that a wind project could not
be built.  We said that was the choice of that community.  Further noted, Allen County, where Fort Wayne is located, voted to ban wind turbines. Noted, too, was the manager of the Blue Creek Wind Farm chose to live in Fort Wayne where he and his family would not be exposed to wind turbines. One size does not fit all.  Why
should it matter that a wind project would need to go elsewhere where they
can be accommodated?   It should be obvious to everyone that it is wrong to
facilitate a hostile takeover of a community.

*       We understand part of the reluctance to permit local zoning comes
from the Farm Bureau who thinks regulation in a rural area is the camel’s
nose under the tent and will legitimize future rural regulation such as for
hog farms.  That issue was squarely addressed in the testimony of our witness
 who said anyone who chooses to live in the country accepts that there might be pests and unpleasant odors from animal farm operations. But NO ONE expects to live inside an industrial power plant.  The farm lobby should not get away with conflating hog farms and industrial wind despite their continuing to call them “farms”.

If HB 114 were to pass in its present form, Ohio would become the dumping
ground for developers who want to site turbines ‘on the cheap’ near
transmission, rather than in more remote locations that have higher
transmission costs but fewer people.

As all of the debate continues, we are seeing more courts upholding
challenges from people who anticipate problems with proposed wind
developments.  There is recent court-related activity from Indiana, West
Virginia, Minnesota, Kansas and New York.

As noted above, Ohio does not have a standard for low frequency noise which
is below the threshold of hearing but can harm you.  We cannot see x-rays or
ultraviolet rays yet we understand exposure to them can harm us.  LFN is
harmful even though we cannot see it.  One opponent submitted written
testimony on this issue and we also recommend a good video to watch for a
better understanding of LFN at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=194&v=ZXCZ3OyklrE .

Thank you to all who traveled and submitted testimony! veryone should feel proud to Every single person mattered —democracy in action!!

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