What is HB 401 and local control?

 

House Bill 401 (HB 401) was introduced by Representative Bill Reineke of Tiffin. The bill gives local townships the ability to hold a referendum vote on wind projects that have already been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). This is called local control.

What is local control?

Local control allows residents to vote on a project or proposal.

 

Why is local control bad?

Local control sounds like it is a good idea. Allowing citizens to make decisions for their own communities seems like the best form of democracy, right? 

But here’s the thing.  Wind projects already go through an intensive process with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) to get approval, including public comment periods where citizens can voice their opinions to the OPSB.  Companies proposing to build wind turbines also go through a rigorous application process that includes an adjudicatory process. It makes sense for the OPSB to be in charge of this process, because it has subject matter experts, people who have spent their entire career making sure that Ohio has the energy and infrastructure that it needs to remain competitive.  In the case of HB 401, local control would make OPSB’s process irrelevant; even if OPSB approved a project that was shown to be necessary, beneficial and safe through an exhaustive process, it could still be voted down.   

 

Aside from the thorough approval process that wind projects are subject to, there are also financial reasons that local control is not the best practice. According to the HB 401 Fiscal Note, the estimated costs for the referendum vote would be range from $800-$1,500 per precinct.  This could be a huge expense for rural counties.

 

How could this impact a new wind industry in Ohio?

It is exciting to bring new industries into a state and a community. They can bring jobs, tax revenue, and economic security to communities. However, companies are less likely to invest in places where there is a great deal of uncertainty. If a community can kill a project, why would a company be interested in investing? They wouldn’t.

Communities would also be subject to anti-wind efforts pouring money into propaganda campaigns that could sway opinions of those voting on a referendum. Companies would have to spend hundreds of thousand’s combating false narratives that may pop up, taking away from local investments and local programs that these industries could help fund.

The Nitty Gritty

What’s the OPSB?

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) is the entity that has the authority to approve energy projects, including oil and natural gas, coal, and wind.

 

Who are the OPSB commissioners?

All of the OPSB commissioners are subject matter experts in their field and include: Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Director of Department of Agriculture, Director of the Development Services Agency, Director of Department of Health, Director of Department of Natural Resources, and a public member.

How does the OPSB approve projects?

The OPSB has an application process for all wind developers. The application process includes public comment periods where citizens can express their opinions to OPSB staff on the projects. The application process for wind projects is lengthy.

There are 7 criteria to approve wind projects:

  1. The nature of the probably environmental impact

  2. The facility must represent the minimum adverse environmental impact, considering the state of available technology and the nature and economics of the various alternatives, and other pertinent considerations

  3. The facility is consistent with regional plans for the expansion of the electric power grid of the electric systems servicing this state and interconnected utility systems and that the facility will serve the interests of electric system economy and reliability

  4. (5) That the facility will comply with Chapters 3704., 3734., and 6111. of the Revised Code and all rules and standards adopted under those chapters and under section 4561.32 of the Revised Code. In determining whether the facility will comply with all rules and standards adopted under section 4561.32 of the Revised Code, the board shall consult with the office of aviation of the division of multi-modal planning and programs of the department of transportation under section 4561.341 of the Revised Code.

  5. That the facility will serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity;

  6. In addition to the provisions contained in divisions (A)(1) to (6) of this section and rules adopted under those divisions, what its impact will be on the viability as agricultural land of any land in an existing agricultural district established under Chapter 929. of the Revised Code that is located within the site and alternative site of the proposed major utility facility. Rules adopted to evaluate impact under division (A)(7) of this section shall not require the compilation, creation, submission, or production of any information, document, or other data pertaining to land not located within the site and alternative site.

  7. That the facility incorporates maximum feasible water conservation practices as determined by the board, considering available technology and the nature and economics of the various alternatives.

    1. If the board determines that the location of all or a part of the proposed facility should be modified, it may condition its certificate upon that modification, provided that the municipal corporations and counties, and persons residing therein, affected by the modification shall have been given reasonable notice thereof.

    2. A copy of the decision and any opinion issued therewith shall be served upon each party

What does all of this jargon mean? It means that there is a lengthy process and consideration for the wind projects. This is not a decision that is made lightly.

Here is an application process timeline that includes all of the steps in the application process. http://www.opsb.ohio.gov/opsb/?LinkServID=AFBB7552-C587-C103-CBF9480A93645E04

 

How could wind projects benefit your community?

Wind projects bring corporate investment into the communities. Projects will also create a tax base that will allow for expanded emergency services, roads, schools, and other local projects. According to the HB 401 fiscal note, the current pending applications with the OPSB could bring millions of dollars in annual revenue for communities.

 

Now that I’m armed with all of the facts, how can I get active and weigh in against HB 401?

HB 401 will have its third hearing in House Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday, December 3rd at 11 AM in Columbus. During this hearing, you will be able to speak against the bill and how it would prohibit wind companies operating in Ohio. If you are not available to be at the hearing in person, you can also submit written testimony.   

We’ve made it easy for you. Below is a template of written testimony against HB 401.

I am writing to express my opposition to House Bill 401 (HB 401) that would bring local control to the communities within the footprint of wind development projects. Unfortunately, this bill has devastating fringe consequences which hinder economic and industry growth in the state of Ohio.

This bill would unfairly target wind development projects by allowing municipalities to put wind projects to a referendum vote even after the project has planned, financed, mapped out and even approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board, the agency whose mission it is “to support sound energy policies that provide for the installation of energy capacity and transmission infrastructure for the benefit of the Ohio citizens, promoting the state's economic interests, and protecting the environment and land use.”  Despite all of this planning, commitment and diligence, a last minute kill switch would be in place for wind projects, which would certainly severely dampen the interest of private companies considering making investments in wind projects in our state.  The bill also sets a dangerous precedent for more legislation to be written which targets other energy industries looking to expand into Ohio. While HB 401 proposes only wind turbine development be subject to a local referendum,  this precedent could eventually go as far as to include  natural gas refineries, coal plants, and nuclear power plants up to a referendum vote. This sort of threat will drive investors out of Ohio for the same reason wind development is being driven out. It is simply a risk that industry would not find in other states.

I urge you to oppose the advancement of HB 401. Wind development is a multibillion dollar industry which could help rural development and increase the state’s energy security. It is up to the state’s legislature to, at the very least, not get in the way of positive opportunities for economic development that can provide support for residents.

 

Sincerely, ​