Wind Project Referendum Bills Introduced

Last week, legislation to allow local residents to potentially block proposed wind developments was introduced. Sen. Rob McColley and Rep. Bill Reineke, along with local activists, held a Statehouse press conference to announce Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 401.

The bills would permit a local referendum on wind energy projects after they’ve received Ohio Power Siting Board certification – and even after construction has begun. No other generation source is subject to a similar public referendum, and such a requirement would kill almost every wind project moving forward in the state. This represents a dangerous precedent and reverses the regulatory certainty developers and investors rely on to make business decisions and investments in Ohio

During the spring, a similar amendment was inserted into another bill but was removed before the bill was voted out of committee.

At the time, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce urged removal of this provision because, once a wind project has been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board, the wind developer has already invested millions of dollars on impact studies, certifications and other pre-development requirements. It would be unreasonable to subject a project to a local referendum this late in the game.

Proposals such as SB 234 and HB 401 do not create a friendlier business climate in Ohio. In fact, they do just the opposite. If passed, these bills could give wind developers cold feet and prevent them from ever doing business in the state, depriving Ohio of economic development opportunities that could generate millions of dollars of tax revenue, create both construction and long-term jobs and contribute to diversifying our economy. If lawmakers believe local residents should have a stronger vote in the process, a more balanced approach is needed.

Once these bills are assigned to committees, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce will be weighing-in.