WIND BREAKER: Legislation to take away control of wind, solar farms from counties

Photo by Gonz DDL on Unsplash

Indianapolis, Ind. — Legislation running through the Indiana Statehouse is poised to take away county rights to regulate windmills and solar farms. HB 1381 has already passed the Indiana House of Representatives. The bill heads to the Senate Utilities Committee next week.

“We just want to maintain our independence to make these decisions on our own.” Paul Levett, who owns more than 100 acres of land in Marshall County, said. “I am not opposed to renewable energy, I just want local rule. You should be able to decide what goes in your backyard.”

Levett owns 116 acres in a county that banned windmills back in 2013. He opposed the turbines in his county then, and still opposes them now.

“HB 1381 is taking away county rights.” He said.

Those county rights are known as “Home Rule,” a state law that allows counties to govern themselves and make independent decisions across a broad range of issues.

“We believe this is an issue that needs to be decided on the local level.” Jenny Miller, with Hoosiers for Home Rule, a 501(c)4, said. “Over 30 counties have already said wind is not right for their county.”

Hoosiers for Home Rule is a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting county rights to maintain their own land use control. The organization is working to stop HB 1381 from becoming law.

“We’re trying first to get it defeated in the Senate Utilities Committee.” Miller said. “We’ve also hired a lobbyist to work on getting this bill defeated.”

The bill, authored by State Senator Edmond Soliday (R), would set uniform state-wide standards for wind turbines and solar farms across the state. According to Soliday’s press secretary, the bill “will serve to foster investments in renewable energy throughout the state, but especially in rural Indiana, bringing hundreds of millions in capital investment and tens of millions in both tax payments and landowner payments to Indiana. These statewide siting standards will serve as “backstops” to local zoning ordinances while still preserving a local government’s ability to issue permits and approve or deny a project on its merits as long as it, at a minimum, meets the new siting standards.”

“They’re making it look like the counties still have authority, when they don’t.” Miller said. “The wind and solar companies will be able to appeal to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to make a final decision.”

Miller believes the ability to appeal to the IURC is a main issue that will take away county rights.

“Wind and solar companies will win every time.” She said. “The bill paves the way for big wind and big solar… it lines the pockets of these companies at the expense of rural communities.”

“Indiana is a diverse state.” Miller added. “There is not a one sized fit-all solution to this subject. This is an egregious attack against Home Rule.”

Companies, such as Amazon, have declared goals to move toward 100% renewable energy sources. There are 7 Amazon fulfillment centers and warehouses across the state. There’s also the concern of losing out on attracting new business to Indiana.

“There’s a market for it” Senator Soliday’s Press Secretary told REAL News Michiana. “We don’t want to have to buy (wind energy) from outside of the state.”

However, Miller says there’s already a surplus of wind energy being produced in the state.

“Indiana is already the 12th in the country in wind production and we’re not even keeping it. We’re sending it to other states.” She said.

“Soliday likes to say there’s a market for this. The only reason there’s a market for this is because of huge government subsidies. It’s a distortion of the market.” Miller added.

So far, multiple county governments in Michiana have passed resolutions in opposition to the legislation as detailed in stories by the Goshen News in Elkhart County and the Times Union in Kosciusko County.

Miller is hoping public pressure will preserve Home Rule.

“We are working on getting constituents to call senators on the Senate Utilities Committee to voice their opposition.”

To find out if one of your senators sits on the committee and for information to contact them, you can visit the Hoosiers for Home Rule Facebook page.


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