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House Bill 401 is Just a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Recently, a bill to give townships the option of holding a referendum vote on wind turbine projects has made its way through the final round of committee hearings and is awaiting a vote to see if it will advance to the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives. Introduced by Representative Bill Reineke and Senator Rob McColey, the bill has been the center of much controversy for those following development of wind energy in Ohio.

This bill serves as a staunch reminder that Ohio is one of the most difficult places to build wind generation projects in the entire United States. What’s even more concerning is the dangerous precedent for any industry attempting to invest in Ohio. For a state that relies on industry for economic support to come out in opposition to wind development is as misguided as it is short-sighted. At the opponent hearing for House Bill 401 held in December, Rep. David Leland said he ‘didn’t remember anyone talking about having referendum votes when it came to natural gas development.' So, why should wind be subject to additional barriers for projects to get off the ground?

The disparate treatment of wind turbines by this bill, and the aggressive setback laws governing turbine placement, is unfair and potentially debilitating to an industry that wants to grow the state’s economy and improve its air quality. HB 401 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s disguised as legislation that is friendly to communities and gives them the ability to decide whether they want to have a project in their community. The reality is that this legislation is an all-out assault on wind energy that is also the incubator for innumerable unintended consequences for any other capital investment in the state. Beyond all of this, HB 401 is not necessary. There is already a body that governs the siting of power projects in Ohio, the Ohio Power Siting Board, or the OPSB. The OPSB has a robust process that takes into account the concerns of citizens with regard to wind projects and other energy projects in Ohio. Bills such as HB 401 undermine the OPSB’s process, and the professionals who run that organization.

Northern Ohioans for Wind encourages state lawmakers to let the OPSB do its job and stop treating wind development differently from any other power source. Wind is here and it’s here to stay.

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