INDIANAPOLIS — With debates raging throughout Fayette, Rush and Henry counties regarding slated wind farm projects in the area, a state representative is pushing for legislation which would give residents more of a voice concerning such issues.
Indiana State Rep. Tom Saunders, a Republican from Lewisville, announced Monday that he has crafted proposed legislation – House Bill 1597 – which, if passed, would allow residents to vote on the construction of wind farms in their communities before such facilities are built within their counties.
The bill would also mandate any elected officials, in those communities slated for wind farm projects, to disclose any financial ties to the wind farm developers as part of avoiding issues of conflict of interest.
Such proposed legislation from Saunders comes at a time when debate is ongoing regarding wind farms in several local communities throughout Fayette, Rush and Henry counties, which have been targeted for potential wind farm projects from energy companies such as Apex Clean Energy, NextEra Energy Resources and Calpine.
“The construction of new wind farms is a contentious issue in our area, and my legislation would ensure residents have a direct say on whether or not wind farms could be built in their local community,” Saunders said in a statement Monday. “My bill would also bring greater transparency to the matter, by creating requirements for local elected officials to disclose any financial ties to wind farm developers.”
Another caveat of Saunders’ proposed legislation would be to mandate setback requirements, statewide, for industrial wind turbines. The proposed legislation would require that such wind turbines would have to be at least 1.5 miles away from schools, universities, daycares, airports and hospitals, while also requiring wind turbine setbacks of at least 2,200 feet from “the nearest corner of any residence it may affect.”
The proposed setbacks in Saunders’ legislation almost mirror wind turbine setbacks put into place already, on the county level in zoning ordnances, by several Indiana counties including Tipton and Howard. The proposed distances in Saunders’ bill also are similar to recent setbacks instituted on two wind farm projects in Rush County, Apex Clean Energy’s Flat Rock Wind project and NextEra Energy Resources West Fork Wind Energy Center, by its Board of Zoning Appeals.
With those two projects, Rush County’s BZA instituted 2,300-foot and 2,640-foot setbacks, respectively.
Saunders’ proposed legislation has been assigned to the Indiana House Committee on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications for further discussion.