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Monday, October 10, 2011

Walker refuses to break wind siting deadlock

From an article by Clay Barbour in the LaCrosse Tribune:

Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in potential economic development are stuck in limbo as officials continue to argue over new wind siting rules.

The new rules, more than a year in the making, were suspended earlier this year just before they were to go into effect. A legislative committee sent them back to the Public Service Commission, which was tasked with finding a compromise between both sides.

Now, some seven months later, PSC officials say they are no closer to a deal than when they started. Meanwhile, wind farm developers such as Midwest Wind Energy and Redwind Consulting are sitting on their hands, and their money.

“Right now, we just don’t have a path forward in Wisconsin,”said Tim Polz, vice president of Midwest Wind Energy, a company that suspended work earlier this year on a large wind farm in Calumet County. “The uncertainty is just too much now.”

Polz said Chicago-based Midwest already spent three years and about $1 million on the Calumet County project. In full, the company expected to spend upward of $200 million on the project, employ 150 to 200 construction workers for up to 18 months and five to eight people full time after that. . . .

Walker said he is aware of the stress caused by the delay but feels it is important any rules be fair to both sides, respecting property rights and the future of the wind industry.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, plans to introduce a bill Monday to call for a moratorium on wind turbines until the PSC receives a report from the Department of Health Services on possible health effects of wind farms.

“It is more important to fully vet, understand and communicate to the public the potential changes than the specific timing of when they are adopted and enacted.” Walker said. “It is important to note that whatever proposed changes are made, there are effects on a number of different areas of the economy.”

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