The wind energy industry is pushing back against a bill, HB401, that would allow local townships to put proposed wind farms up to a vote. Experts argue that it would repress wind energy development in the state.
Companies spend millions of dollar developing wind farm plans. Advocates for the industry argue that companies will not even entertain the idea of a development plan if it could just be rejected by a local vote when all is said and done.
Several Republican representatives voiced their support for legislation that would give community members the ability to have a voice on wind farms, arguing that the projects can turn towns into industrial zones. Some legislators, including Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), suggested that maybe the bill could be amended to hold a vote at the start of the development process.
"If you want to have development that's the right way to do it so I'm not investing millions of dollars and then finding out the rug gets pulled out from me the other end," says Stein.
Roy Klopfenstein, Paulding County commissioner, says his region has enjoyed a great deal of economic development because of the wind energy industry.
"My question back to you is, why not agriculture? Why not the convenience store? Why not the factory? Where do we start the process of referendum on new development and who decides that?" Klopfenstein countered.
Watch: Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on HB401
More than 60 people either testified in-person or offered opponent testimony to the bill.
There have been local groups advocating for this kind of change, such as the Seneca Anti-Wind Union, which argue that some landowners personally benefit from leasing to wind companies while the rest of the residents do not have a say on if they want wind turbines in their town.
The wind energy industry argues that no other energy generation source has to face a potential referendum for projects.