State, counties clash over solar and wind regulations

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – County planning commissioners across the state, including here in northeast Indiana, have grown concerned in recent weeks over a state bill centered on solar and wind energy regulations.

The bill in question is H.B. 1381, which passed the Indiana House by a vote of 58-to-38 in mid-February. H.B. 1381 establishes statewide standards for commercial wind and solar energy projects. Local permit authorities, such as a planning commission, would not be able to impose more stringent restrictions that are listed in the bill.

Last Friday, the Allen County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution opposing the House bill, saying, “decisions regarding wind and solar development are best made by the citizens living in the community, rather than by the wind and solar industry or State officials who live outside the community.”

County commissioners in Kosciusko and Wells Counties have voiced similar concerns. In a Facebook post, the Wells County Area Plan Commission wrote that the county’s current ordinances on commercial wind development and solar energy could be removed less restrictive measures outlined in H.B. 1381. New Haven Mayor Steve McMichael also shared his opposition to the bill on Facebook.

“County and municipal government should be allowed to make local land planning decisions, not the statehouse,” McMichael wrote.

Eric Hesher from Avilla-based Renewable Energy Systems is one of multiple companies that work in the renewable energy industry that would be impacted by this bill. Hesher believes there needs to be some balance between what is determined at the state and county levels.

“Statewide standards for commercial wind and solar projects can be beneficial for the long-term growth of renewables in Indiana,” Hesher said.

However, Hesher added that needs to be balanced by the unique circumstances that each county encounters.

“There’s some counties that haven’t spent time with developing a lot of policies,” Hesher said. “In the end I think counties need to be able to determine what’s the final say in their own communities.”

H.B. 1381 is currently being reviewed by the Indiana Senate. If passed, the bill will head to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk to be signed into law.

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