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Senate Bill Allows Local Referendums On Ohio Solar And Wind Energy Projects

Wind turbine at the Van Wert wind farm
Iberdrola Renewables
Wind turbine at the Van Wert wind farm

Republican lawmakers are making changes to a bill that seeks to give local voters the power to reject a renewable energy project in their neighborhood. Ohio Senators say they're trying to strike a balance between local control and economic development.

The Senate bill, SB52, gives county officials and voters more authority to oppose or even hold a referendum on a proposed solar or wind energy project.

Jeremy Kitson, from Van Wert County, home to Ohio's largest wind farm, said this bill gives local residents a voice.

"To say that we have been ignored would be an understatement. This bill allows a compromise which we feel we can live with. We just want more transparency with developers up front and a more vital and meaningful say about development in our community," Kitson told the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

But environmental groups, renewable energy developers and business groups said the bill goes too far, hampering clean energy and economic development.

"No developer will spend millions of dollars to go through the extensive power siting process if a small township vote could put an end to their project even after it has been approved by the state," said Cathy Cowan Becker, executive director of "Simply Living" as part of the Ohio Sustainable Business Council.

Republican sponsors say they've been working with the business groups to address concerns.

On Tuesday, Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) introduced a revised version of the bill that made changes to the previous language on the process to oppose a project.

"In my view it strikes a significant balance early on enough, as far as whether a project would proceed or not, but it also gives the locals a meaningful seat at the table in the OPSB (Ohio Power Siting Board) process to be able to address some of their concerns," McColley said.

The committee has scheduled a possible vote on the bill but decided to give legislators and interested parties more time to look over the new language.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.