Motivated by what she called a “dangerous” move by the state to overreach into county affairs, County Council President Susan Huhn ventured to Indianapolis Wednesday morning to testify against the House Bill 1381.
HB 1381, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Porter County), would establish default statewide standards on renewable energy development, such as industrial wind and solar farms.
Huhn spoke during a public hearing of the Indiana State House of Representatives Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications (UTE) Committee, which Rep. Soliday chairs.
“Bill 1381 is a very dangerous bill,” she said. “It strips away the power of local government to regulate land use. Every Indiana county has a different population density – a different comprehensive plan – and a different vision for how we want to grow and develop our county. Home rule grants those rights to local government.
“This bill suggests that the state would dictate what companies counties are forced to do business with, what companies counties are forced to be community partners with, and how and where counties pursue economic growth,” Huhn continued. “That is an absolutely outrageous overreach of state power.”
The first draft of HB 1381 introduced Wednesday morning at the statehouse included standards on wind power devices, such as setback requirements, height restrictions, shadow flicker limitations, sound level limitations and project decommissioning.
The bill also states that permit authority – i.e., local governing authorities like the Henry County Commissioners or Council – may not impose standards that are more restrictive than the state standards, according to the bill.
“There is demand and there are businesses deciding not to come to Indiana because we don’t have renewable energy,” Chairman Soliday said. “In at least two instances, large companies have come to Indiana, been given millions of dollars, been given some suggestion to be built in a county, and then … the county voted and said ‘Not here.’”
Soliday said 32 Indiana counties have basically said, “Not in our backyard.”
“Those counties are the most wind dominant in our state. So those renewable companies are not coming to our state,” he said. “So we said, we know there’s a market, we know it affects jobs and people coming to our states.”
Soliday said HB 1381 is a fair response from state lawmakers to keep those energy companies in Indiana.
Huhn was not having it. As the first of 26 individuals signed up to testify and one of two who actually did, she showed the state government how Henry County constituents banded together to vote people into local governing offices who were against industrial wind power. Huhn herself was one of those elected.
“Over the last five years, the message from the statehouse has been that regulation of wind energy is a local issue,” she started. “That mantra has been repeated so many times, that the introduction of this bill is shocking. Rural counties begged for help from state representatives because the setback requirements for wind turbines were too short, the noise levels were too loud, ordinances did not include appropriate remedies for resolving complaints, and decommissioning processes were not thorough.
“We were told emphatically that the state did not regulate local land use issues,” she continued. “We were told to elect local officials who would represent us as we wished to be represented. And this is what we have all done. We have sacrificed endless amounts of time and energy to educate and campaign. It has actually been a beautiful testimony to the democratic process of this country. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Informed voters have risen up and elected individuals they truly want to represent them. Those informed voters are individuals that have proven to be a force to be reckoned with.
“In Henry County, not only have citizens voted in elected officials that have drafted a very protective wind ordinance, but nearly every town in our county has banned wind turbines within a 4-mile radius of their town due to safety constraints,” she said. “Could the message of your constituents be any louder in the area of wind energy?
“We have shut the door and chosen not to invite them to be community partners,” Huhn concluded.
The House UTE Committee did not take any action on the bill Wednesday.
The 24 other individuals signed up to testify may not get to speak, as the Chairman of the committee was very unclear as to how he was going to hear what they had to say.