Monday, February 11, 2008

Proposed Wind Energy Ordinance

The Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition have proposed an ordinance to the zoning board that would regulate wind energy development in the county to protect citizens, the environment, and the common good of community. The regulations were drafted from zoning laws of counties in other states experienced with wind energy and follow recommendations set forth in the Governor's guidelines for wind energy development in Kansas.

Given the unprecedented scale and impact of this development, no one can reasonably deny that such regulations are needed. In fact, the need for most of these regulations has been implicitly recognized by Iberdrola in their own "Good Neighbor Agreement" in which they request easements for noise, shadow flicker, communications interference, construction impacts, etc. The proposed ordinance explicitly provides for such mitigation agreements with a developer. However, it is the Coalition's position that the burden should be on the developer to abide by explicit regulations and conditions, rather than on residents to accept or reject an arbitrary proposal put forth by the developer.

The proposed regulations distinguish between small hobby-type turbines, personal turbines for farm use, and large industrial-scale wind energy facilities. Developers of industrial facilities would be obliged to follow regulations in the following areas, among others:

• Turbine setbacks from homes, property lines and sensitive areas
• Mitigation of soil erosion during construction
• Restoration of roads and bridges post-construction
• Preservation of water quality
• Restoration of any communication signal loss
• Limitation of noise pollution
• Electrical safety
• Deposition of adequate bonds to cover decommissioning
• Insurance requirements

The Coalition has repeatedly stated that it is not opposed to wind energy provided it is properly sited and responsibly developed. The proposed regulations do not rule out a wind energy facility in Ellis County, but simply ensure it will be sited so as to minimize negative impacts on the community, rather than simply to maximize profitability for the developer.

Proponents can argue that some of the proposed regulations are too stringent, but they cannot argue that they are not needed. The specifics can be debated, but a public consensus could be reached. To proceed with this development as is, without any regulatory control, would grant Iberdrola free rein to do as they please on 10,000 acres, without holding them to any environmental standards, and without providing the community any legal recourse in worst-case scenarios. Do we really need the development that badly?

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