Let citizens weigh in on wind farm issue

By Observer editorial August 06, 2010 01:36 pm
The Union County commissioners are in the process of deciding whether to put an advisory vote on the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm on the November ballot. The commissioners held a public hearing Wednesday, and another is scheduled for Aug. 18. Holding the hearings and putting the issue to a vote both make sense.
A non-binding advisory vote will give the county an idea of where the public stands on the proposed wind farm. The Horizon Wind project has generated considerable debate and resulted in the formation of a group dedicated to opposing the project. Although a pro-wind farm group was recently organized, the opponents have been the most vociferous to date. But no one knows for sure how the broader public feels about the issue. A vote would provide some guidance.

The decision on siting a new wind farm actually isn’t even up to the local jurisdiction. The state Energy Facility Siting Council will make that decision. But a local vote, although non-binding, would provide a forum for discussion and allow the public a chance to weigh the pros and cons.

Proponents of the wind farm cite the economic advantages of job growth and economic development, as well as additional tax revenue for local government. Opponents question the job and tax figures and voice concerns about the project’s impact on wildlife, scenery and tourism. A campaign leading up to a vote would allow both sides to present their cases. And hopefully somewhere in the mix, the public would be able to learn the result of negotiations between Horizon Wind and the county concerning the tax impact such a project would have.

The Antelope Ridge Wind Farm has been the subject of intense discussion for a couple of years. It makes sense to let citizens weigh in on the issue.