Model Ordinance for Wind Energy Facilities in PA
They are intended for use as general templates for municipalities to review and adapt to their own particular needs. Please keep in mind that these sample model ordinances are merely models, and should be used only as a guide in developing or amending your own ordinances as they pertain to wind energy facilities. No assurances are made regarding the enforceability of any ordinance. Each municipality should confer with its own solicitor regarding such matters.
On the page where the document is available, it also states:
Note: This model ordinance was designed to provide guidance to local governments that wish to develop their own siting rules for wind turbines. While it was developed as part of a cooperative effort involving several state agencies, the model itself has no legal or regulatory authority.
Who wrote this model?
Since North East seems ready to adopt this model as their own, we might want to see who these agencies and groups were that wrote it in the first place. Who do they represent? What is their position regarding wind energy?
The work group consisted of:
the Governor’s Office, DEP, DCNR, PA State Association of Township Supervisors, County Commissioners Association, Wind Energy Associations and Penn Future with the assistance of DCED
Taken one at a time:
- Governor’s office – (Ed Rendell in 2006) the umbrella under which the group was organized
- DEP – Department of Environmental Protection – advocates for wind energy
- DCNR – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – advocates for wind energy
- PA State Association of Township Supervisors – one of the groups for which the model was written
- County Commissioners Association – one of the groups for which the model was written
- Wind Energy Associations – any wind energy groups, including industry groups, advocating for wind energy
- Penn Future – a very politically active environmental group advocating for wind energy as one of its primary missions
A few examples of errors and omissions
- Height restrictions – there isn’t a single word mentioning height. What if today’s giant 500 foot tall turbines are superseded by some future, super giant 1000 foot model? It might sound crazy, but there’s nothing in the ordinance to stop them from building one.
- Hours of construction – heavy equipment running 24 hours a day? Nothing in the ordinance about it.
- Hours of road use – tie up roads with material and equipment delivery when people are driving to or returning from work? Block highway entrance and exit ramps? Block roads while raising power lines? Oversize and super loads move very slowly. No mention.
- Noise – Audible noise no more than 55 dBA at the exterior of any occupied building on a non participating property. Louder anywhere else? Louder inside the house? Louder inside an outbuilding? Louder on some days due to weather conditions? Vibrations you can feel but not hear? Well, it was quiet when we were there. You must be exaggerating and vibrations aren’t mentioned.
- Removal during decommissioning – everything must be removed to a depth of 36 inches. So, that 50 foot diameter, 400 ton, steel reinforced concrete base will be just 36 inches below the surface. It doesn’t look like that portion of the farm will be returned to farming.
- Signal disruption – Interfere with radio, TV, telephone and Doppler radar signals? Well, they must make “reasonable efforts” to avoid doing that and mitigate any harm if they do. Problems with your Dish or Direct TV or cell phone? Hey, they tried to make it better. Sorry.
- Inquiries and complaints – they must supply a number to call and they must “make reasonable efforts” to respond to complaints. Really, seriously, they tried, you were just unreasonable.
It protects the wind developers – not you
There’s more, but you get the idea. This isn’t written to protect you, the North East township resident, it was written to protect the wind developers. Why are we using it?
Instead of starting with a document written in the interest of wind energy developers and proponents, making it easy to build turbines in a location unsuitable for these massive structures, why not engage the services of legal counsel experienced in protecting communities from the effects of wind turbines and write an ordinance any developer has to meet if he wants to install any turbines, whatsoever? If they can’t meet the North East community’s requirements, then no turbines.