Date: July 15, 2009
Contact: Noah Seligman, 608-310-3338

Circuit Court decision affirms problems with wind energy regulatory framework
A Court of Appeals decision today (Ecker Brothers V. Calumet County) ruled that local units of government do not have the power to adopt siting standards of general applicability for wind energy systems. This decision eliminates several restrictive ordinances that purported to regulate wind energy, but merely served to block wind energy development.

“The ruling casts substantial uncertainty about wind energy regulation in Wisconsin. In order for the state to move forward with a balanced approach to renewable energy growth, the legislature must pass uniform siting standards,” said Curt Pawlisch, an attorney for RENEW Wisconsin, one of the sponsoring organizations for the Wind for Wisconsin coalition. “We urge the legislature to act quickly and pass uniform sitting standards when it returns in September.”

SB 185/AB 256 directs the Public Service Commission (PSC) to initiate an administrative rule-making process to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy projects. The PSC is an independent regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest. The bill draft requires the PSC to establish an advisory committee of diverse interests to advise the Commission on the rules. AB 256 was vote out of the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities on a 10-2 vote last month, and has strong bipartisan support like its Senate companion.

“The Court did more than simply declare Calumet County’s wind ordinance to be unlawful,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.

“The Court’s decision also stripped away the legal foundation supporting all Wisconsin ordinances that contain blanket restrictions on wind projects. The decision erases unreasonable local ordinances that effectively prohibited any new wind development in this state for projects under 100 MW.

“A commitment to wind energy development will serve as an economic catalyst for Wisconsin, creating jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, and operation & maintenance of wind turbines,” Vickerman said. “SB 185/AB 256 makes our state more attractive to manufacturing and other supply chain businesses that create state jobs. By establishing statewide standards for siting small and medium sized wind farms, legislators can provide enduring economic opportunity for Wisconsin,” he said.