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Clinton Co. refuses to budge on wind farms, moratorium sticks despite E.ON's push

Clinton County commissioners stood firm Monday on a moratorium against wind turbines, continuing the county’s ban on wind farms despite a Chicago company's push to change their minds. The decision came during a meeting at the Frankfort Community Public Library, with a large crowd of those in favor and against the potential placement of wind turbines in the northeast part of the county by E.ON, a Chicago-based renewable energy company.

FRANKFORT, Ind. – Clinton County commissioners stood firm Monday on a moratorium against wind turbines, continuing the county’s ban on wind farms despite a Chicago company's push to change their minds.

The decision came during a meeting at the Frankfort Community Public Library, with a large crowd of those in favor and against the potential placement of wind turbines in the northeast part of the county by E.ON, a Chicago-based renewable energy company.

E.ON had been working for months to persuade Clinton County to place wind turbines, capped by a catered dinner Thursday, complete with hourly raffle prizes, to attempt to convince attendees of the benefits of placing wind turbines in the county. The company also created a website specific to the Clinton County project, countering backlash it had been receiving in the county and outlining answers to common questions, such as potential decrease in property value, sound and health concerns.

E.ON proposed a project that would have placed between 35 and 52 turbines on 39,000 acres in the northeast part of the county. E.ON has been pushing placing wind turbines since the company first... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

FRANKFORT, Ind. – Clinton County commissioners stood firm Monday on a moratorium against wind turbines, continuing the county’s ban on wind farms despite a Chicago company's push to change their minds. 

The decision came during a meeting at the Frankfort Community Public Library, with a large crowd of those in favor and against the potential placement of wind turbines in the northeast part of the county by E.ON, a Chicago-based renewable energy company.

E.ON had been working for months to persuade Clinton County to place wind turbines, capped by a catered dinner Thursday, complete with hourly raffle prizes, to attempt to convince attendees of the benefits of placing wind turbines in the county. The company also created a website specific to the Clinton County project, countering backlash it had been receiving in the county and outlining answers to common questions, such as potential decrease in property value, sound and health concerns.

E.ON proposed a project that would have placed between 35 and 52 turbines on 39,000 acres in the northeast part of the county. E.ON has been pushing placing wind turbines since the company first arrived to gauge support in 2013. Clinton County has had a moratorium on wind farms since 2017.

Concerning the duration of the moratorium, Commissioner Josh Uitts said the most likely scenario is that the Wind Energy Conversion System ordinance setback requirement in Clinton County will be increased. The original intent for the moratorium’s duration was to be until the Indiana General Assembly has taken action regarding wind farms, or until Clinton County commissioners were satisfied with their own ordinance.

Throughout the meeting, there were a few areas in which all three commissioners agreed. They agreed that the county was in a strong financial situation and that the issue of bringing wind farms has been the most divisive they have seen the county in recent memory.  

“I think we’ve talked this thing to death,” Commissioner Scott Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker also dismissed the findings of a report done by consulting firm Baker Tilly, saying the report had “too much doom and gloom” and a focus that the county was in dire straits. Shoemaker said he didn't believe that was the case.

The Baker Tilly report, which was requested by the Clinton County Council, found that by 2023 the county could face a $1.1 million deficit.The report also viewed the impact a wind farm could bring to the county, estimating that it could bring a $2.5 million surplus by 2023.

Of Indiana's 92 counties, 20 have some sort of zoning restrictions meant to limit wind farm development, according to a list kept by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

In May, Tippecanoe County, which neighbors Clinton County to the west, added height restrictions on turbines, which essentially banned commercial wind farms from rural areas around Lafayette and West Lafayette. 

Tippecanoe County's zoning ordinance prohibits wind turbines taller 140 feet. That leaves the possibility for smaller turbines, similar to ones that power CityBus offices along Canal Road north of downtown Lafayette. But it shuts out commercial turbines, which can range from 300 feet to as much as 600 feet, for newer models.

Commissioner Steve Woods said Clinton’s denser population was a reason he gave pause to ending the moratorium. Clinton County is more densely populated than Benton County, which has 87 wind turbines managed by Orion Energy Group and borders Clinton’s neighbor Tippecanoe County.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Clinton County had a population 33,224 — or 82 residents per square mile. Benton County's population was 8,854, or 22 residents per square mile, in a county that is essentially the same size as Clinton County.

Had E.ON’s project gone forward, Uitts said Clinton would have been the second most densely populated county in Indiana with wind turbines, with only Madison County ahead of them.

“I’m not against wind, I’m not against solar,” Woods said. “I drive a Prius plug-in, and I’m a Republican to boot, so that’s a conundrum to think about. I believe in (wind), but I believe that this has divided the county the most I’ve seen, and I’ve been around 40-some years.”

After the commissioners made the decision to continue the moratorium, Lael Eason, E.ON’s director of development in the Midwest/Northeast region, said he was disappointed with the outcome.

Eason said he believed the divisiveness in the community was not over the project itself but rather what he called misinformation spread about what placing wind farms would do in the county.

“We’re not one to give up, but they did make their statements clear, so we just have to figure out what our next move is internally,” Eason said.

One of the most vocal critics of E.ON’s proposed project was Responsible Harvest, a Clinton County-based nonprofit group that formed to protest the placement of wind turbines in the county.

Andy Robertson, a Clinton County resident and a member of Responsible Harvest, told commissioners that residents “have a right to decide that industrial wind development is detrimental to the future of our county.”

One of Responsible Harvest’s major concerns was how the placement of wind turbines would tie to economic development. E.ON previously promised wind turbines would pump money into the local economy. But Robertson disagreed, telling commissioners the turbines would not be built to harvest the wind, but rather built to harvest federal tax dollars.

By fighting against E.ON, Robertson said Responsible Harvest was looking after all residents of the county, even those who were in support of wind farms. He also saw the future of Responsible Harvest as one continuing to invest in the best interests of the county.  

“I hope we’ll start looking for real opportunities for economic development and continue to grow,” Robertson said. “We have three commissioners who are innovative, they have a vision for future, and I think we’re going to build on that. … Our future will be a bright and prosperous one.”


Source: https://www.jconline.com/st...

SEP 17 2019
http://www.windaction.org/posts/50320-clinton-co-refuses-to-budge-on-wind-farms-moratorium-sticks-despite-e-on-s-push
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