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Local lawmakers want full review of wind turbine projects

Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel are trying both approaches by filing a handful of bills to repeal all or parts of a 2007 law that streamlined the regulatory and review process for industrial wind turbine facilities. Edwards' Senate Bill 583, cross-filed with House Bill 605 by Beitzel, would mandate that any industrial wind energy facility go through the full review process ..."There's a lot of controversy back home over whether there's enough opportunity now for input from the public," Edwards told the Times-News this week while in Annapolis. "We felt that one way to try to resolve that is to try to repeal (SB) 566 and go back to what was in place prior to passage of SB 566, which sort of short-cuts the process."

CUMBERLAND - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel are trying both approaches by filing a handful of bills to repeal all or parts of a 2007 law that streamlined the regulatory and review process for industrial wind turbine facilities.

Edwards' Senate Bill 583, cross-filed with House Bill 605 by Beitzel, would mandate that any industrial wind energy facility go through the full review process and would omit from the process any possibility of an expedited or "fast-track" review. Current law allows wind energy companies to apply for an exemption to obtaining a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience if the project is less than 70 megawatts. The planned 25-wind turbine project by U.S. Wind Force along the ridge lines of Dan's Mountain has applied for the exemption.

"There's a lot of controversy back home over whether there's enough opportunity now for input from the public," Edwards told the Times-News this week while in Annapolis. "We felt that one way to try to resolve that is to try to repeal (SB) 566 and go back to what was in place prior to passage of SB 566, which sort of short-cuts the process."

Beitzel said current law doesn't permit... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

CUMBERLAND - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel are trying both approaches by filing a handful of bills to repeal all or parts of a 2007 law that streamlined the regulatory and review process for industrial wind turbine facilities.

Edwards' Senate Bill 583, cross-filed with House Bill 605 by Beitzel, would mandate that any industrial wind energy facility go through the full review process and would omit from the process any possibility of an expedited or "fast-track" review. Current law allows wind energy companies to apply for an exemption to obtaining a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience if the project is less than 70 megawatts. The planned 25-wind turbine project by U.S. Wind Force along the ridge lines of Dan's Mountain has applied for the exemption.

"There's a lot of controversy back home over whether there's enough opportunity now for input from the public," Edwards told the Times-News this week while in Annapolis. "We felt that one way to try to resolve that is to try to repeal (SB) 566 and go back to what was in place prior to passage of SB 566, which sort of short-cuts the process."

Beitzel said current law doesn't permit the state Public Service Commission, which conducts the only public hearing required in the exemption application process, to consider factors such as noise, light, public safety and health, or environmental and wildlife matters.

The only issues under the commission's domain, Beitzel said, are the size of the project and to ensure the "electricity transported for sale from the facility must be sold only on the wholesale market, pursuant to an interconnection operations and maintenance agreement with the local electric company."

Beitzel said though SB 566 passed both chambers in 2007 with overwhelming support, "I get a sense that more people, more of my colleagues and other people throughout the state, are starting to realize wind mills may very well happen (and) are at least thinking about it."

If fellow lawmakers aren't keen on a full repeal, several other bills introduced by Edwards and Beitzel would assist in leveling the playing field between land-based and offshore industrial wind turbines, the latter of which are not eligible under SB 566 for an exemption.

SB 585 would make those offshore wind projects eligible for the exemption. SB 771, cross-filed with HB 750, would require the Public Service Commission and the state Department of the Environment to establish performance standards for the machines.

Another set of bills, SB 773 and HB 749, would create a decommissioning process much like the one that exists between the coal mining industry and the state Bureau of Mines.

SB 584 has been introduced at the request of the Garrett County commissioners. The bill would authorize the commissioners to set standards for wind turbines in their jurisdiction.

For Frostburg resident and former state senator John Bambacus, the flurry of bills was welcome news, but he noted the "long road" the chance any of the bills have at passage.

"I think there is greater awareness today than there was two years ago by my former colleagues in the state Senate," Bambacus said, for example, "that there were unintended consequences of that bill."

"This is by no means going to be an easy process," he said, "but at least my hope is that the members of the Senate finance committee ... will get an understanding of what this is all about."

Bambacus said he only sought a "sense of fair play" on the issue.

"I think the argument many of us have been making for the last couple of years (is), our mountain ridge tops are every bit as important to us as the Chesapeake Bay (and) the Atlantic Ocean is to folks on the Eastern Shore," he said.


Source: http://www.times-news.com/l...

FEB 11 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19030-local-lawmakers-want-full-review-of-wind-turbine-projects
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