OH Lawmakers on How Wind Energy Bill Will Boost Economic Development

On a recent briefing call, Ohio legislators told local chamber of commerce leaders from across the state that new wind energy legislation would strengthen local efforts to attract and retain new businesses, improve local property tax bases, and save chamber members money.

Rep. Tim Brown (R-Bowling Green) and Rep. Tony Burkley (R-Payne), cosponsors of a new bill (Ohio House Bill 190) that would put wind farm setback decisions in the hands of county commissioners, said the bill “promotes local control and increases flexibility for establishing renewable energy projects.”

“This is about jobs and economic development,” said Rep. Brown. “We do not want to limit Ohio to certain types of business or industry.”

The legislators spoke to local chamber leaders on a May 28, 2015 briefing call hosted by the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce and Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. Eric Burkland, President and CEO of the Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA), also joined the call to discuss how companies are saving money through energy efficiency. The OMA represents 1,292 manufacturing businesses across Ohio.

In 2014, the Ohio Legislature passed legislation freezing the state’s renewable energy standards and increasing the distance new wind turbines must be constructed from a neighboring property line. Since then, chamber leaders have been trying to protect wind investments in their communities, calling wind energy a boon for the economy.

For example, Blue Creek Wind Farms in Van Wert County pays $2 million annually in local taxes and nearly as much in landowner lease payments, with schools being the primary beneficiary of the local tax revenue, Susan Munroe, President and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, wrote recently in The Toledo Blade.

A growing number of businesses have also insisted that renewable energy be available to power their facilities. Amazon, Google and Facebook, which are building massive data centers around the country, recently released the following public statement: “As global companies providing services to consumers around the world from our operations in the state, a reliable, sustainable electricity supply is critical, and requires sourcing power from renewable energy. In fact, the right and ability to access power from renewable resources is not merely a goal, but an expectation.”

Reps. Brown and Burkley said their new bill would allow local county commissioners to establish tax and setback policies for proposed wind farms.

“We’re not going to force data centers on anyone and we’re not trying to force wind farms on anybody,” said Rep. Burkley.  “But we want our local communities to be able to put together successful packages that can land these projects for the state of Ohio.”

Read recent coverage about business demand for clean energy in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.