State Lawmakers Look at Wind Energy Moratorium
by Brett Crandall
Local News 8, March 18, 2011
State Affairs Committee Hears From Public
BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho -- Construction of wind turbines may be coming to a halt in Idaho. State lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent the construction of any new wind farm for the next two years.
Over the last year, dozens of new wind turbines have gone up on east bench just outside Idaho Falls, but many of the neighbors and their legislators want to put a temporary end to new construction.
When the legislature adopted the 2007 energy plan, it did not envision so many energy companies wanting to build wind farms in Idaho.
Bill sponsor Erik Simpson said he and both his Republican and Democratic colleagues agree they need to take a look at the long-term consequences.
"Local governments need some direction as to what should be included in some of their ordinances, recognizing some of the impacts that are out there on wind, and we need to find out what those impacts might be," said State Affairs Committee member Tom Loertcher.
To conduct the study, the bill proposes a two-year moratorium on wind farm construction.
"It may be a problem mostly in eastern Idaho now, but it's likely to be a problem in (other legislators') communities as well unless we take this two year pause and study this a little more in depth," Simpson said.
Wind power is not the cheapest way to produce energy, and lawmakers want to make sure their constituents don't have to pay top rate.
"Utility rate payers are paying more for this unreliable intermittent energy source," Simpson said.
Many are also concerned about the environment.
"A lot of these projects are going up in pristine wildlife areas," Simpson said.
But not everyone agrees. Some local people like Bonneville County farmer Tory Talbot want to continue to see more turbines.
"The moratorium will basically limit businesses wanting to come into Idaho. Southeastern Idaho and southern Idaho has a huge wind energy potential," Talbot said.
The State Affairs Committee plans to continue the debate on Monday when they hear from utility companies and energy companies.
They will then vote on whether they should move the bill to the House floor.
If the bill passes, any project already approved would be allowed to move forward.
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