Solar, wind bill challenges local rule

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Statewide standards for companies developing and installing wind or solar power infrastructure are calling into debate the power of home rule.

House Bill 1381 would establish default standards for commercial development of solar and wind power devices in communities. Now, the communities set those standards with the companies that want to develop there.

The bill passed the Indiana House of Representatives Wednesday night by a vote of 58 to 38. State Reps. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, and Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, both voted no.

“What this bill was doing was taking a lot of that local control away,” Bartels said. “If a local community has adopted an ordinance that says they don't want it, or there are special regulations to have it, I don't want the state allowing a private company to override that.

“I don't want us as a state to override on this particular issue of local control.”

The bill has been sent to the Indiana Senate. State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, is one of the bill’s sponsors.

The Indiana Association of County Commissioners provided counties with a resolution they could pass to voice their opposition to the bill. The Dubois County Commissioners discussed the idea at their Thursday meeting, but opted to not enact the resolution.

“As a general principle, I appreciate home rule. With that being said, sometimes there is some value in having a statewide uniform rule,” Commissioner Chad Blessinger said. “That makes it easier for companies that are doing this work to know what they're getting into, instead of learning a new set of rules with each [area] that they enter.”

Commissioner Nick Hostetter was also not keen on the resolution, stating that he would need to learn more about the bill and its effects.

Commissioner Elmer Brames, who is the association’s secretary, brought the idea to the commissioners and said he did not like the idea of state stipulations overriding local decisions.

“I do feel pretty strongly about the home rule part of it,” he said. “If this bill passes and and wind and solar now operate on a state standard, what other industries — mining industries or manufacturing industries — will follow that?”

Since the bill is already in the Senate, Brames said it may move fast. “It went through the House pretty quick,” he said.

More details on the bill can be found on the Indiana General Assembly’s website, www.iga.in.gov, under the tab marked “Legislation.”

Overall, Bartels feels that having solar and wind power available throughout the state is good. “I want more solar. I want more wind [energy],” he said. “But I don't want it to be forced down locals’ throats.”




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