House Passes Bill Promoting Wind Energy Expansion

- March 4, 2015 - State Representative Curt Sonney (R-Harborcreek, 4th District) authored House Bill 188. It passed Wednesday in the Pennsylvania House with flying colors: 194 to 1.

The bill was first introduced 4 years ago, and did pass the House, but never made it onto the governor's desk.

In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Sonney said:

"I am hoping this is the first step toward eventually advancing the bill to Governor Tom Wolf's desk for his signature. Under existing law, owners of preserved farm land may grant a right-of-way for the installation, transportation or use of water, sewage, electric, telephone, coal or non-coal minerals by underground mining methods. It's simply common sense to allow them this additional use of their property."

"It's good for all of us here in the state of Pennsylvania being a renewable energy source that will never deplete, being [that it's] green energy," said Timothy Burch, a wind energy supporter in North East Township, the site of proposed wind turbine installation by Pioneer Green Energy Company. "I am definitely a supporter of wind energy; if the turbines were here on our farm I still could farm the land."

Burch was approached several years ago by Pioneer Green, who wanted to lease his land, along with others, in hopes of one day installing wind turbines. They held the lease until January 2015, when the energy company canceled the lease, terminating any wind power project - at least for now.

"Congress failed to pass the wind energy act that expired December 31 of 2014," said Burch, who added that North East is an ideal location for wind energy. "Basically all wind energy came to a standstill."

Burch said North East is right by the lake and has plenty of wind, and is not highly residential; all reasons he thinks the township is the perfect candidate for turbine installation.

After his dreams of having his land leased by an energy company, an obvious source of income, ended in January, Burch said he's excited Sonney has been able to push the bill through the House once again.

But critics of wind energy in North East - aren't so excited.

"[Sonney] told us [in October] he was going to let this bill die on the vine so I'm surprised that he went back on his word and went ahead with the bill," said Matt Putman, member of
Neighbors for a Responsible North East. "We are disappointed that Rep. Sonney went forward with the bill and went back on his word. Industry specs say that turbines are only about 23% efficient so they actually drive up the cost of electricity to the average consumer. There is no wind energy without federal government subsidies and that has put the project at a stop right now. It's depending on our tax dollars to supplement these, most of them, international companies to put up wind turbines."

Putman argues that free wind does not equal free electricity, citing millions of dollars of installation materials, set up and construction costs.

House Bill 188 will now go to the State Senate for a vote.


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