Common Sense Ordinance Model a Key to Fostering Wind Energy Development

Nov. 19, 2009

Audio with Jim Marker, Somerset County, Pennsylvania Commissioner (MP3 2.7 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:55.

At least in his part of the country, Somerset County, Pennsylvania Commissioner Jim Marker says, most people recognize the importance of alternative forms of energy — like wind — to the future. He says they've seen the benefits of wind energy development first-hand and as a result acceptance has increased. But, if the state is going to reach its full wind potential, Marker says it's going to require more than public acceptance. He says it will take investment and common sense siting ordinances.

Marker says he and his fellow commissioners starting looking at an ordinance because the County had no reporting mechanism for the construction of wind farms. So they put a mechanism in place that met subdivision regulations but also eliminated costly compliance measures to create a level playing field for landowners and wind companies.

"It just didn't seem fair to us that we would target one industry and slap extensive regulations on them and possibly or potentially kill that industry in our county. I mean, my thought as a government official is that the government should be there to help foster business and help facilitate business development, and these are large business developments. And while we wanted to foster those, we also needed to make sure that the scenic beauty of our county and the land rights of neighboring landowners were protected."

Marker says the result was a fair compromise.

"That ordinance has been used for a model throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The Township Supervisors Association used it as a model. Many townships in our county merely defer to the county's ordinance and say 'we're happy with that, if you abide by it, we're fine with it.' So, I think we struck a good compromise because we managed to anger all sides. I think that tells me that we got a pretty fair ordinance in place."

And Marker says it's important to have that kind of model to go by. He says in 2002 — speaking to the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection — he explained that other states with wind energy developments had statewide siting regulations.

"So I think that's something that our state can do to help make sure that the development happens in a common sense, logistical way. I think also our state, Pennsylvania, has committed resources to the wind industry and there again, I believe that that's an investment in our future. And I think that it's something that you should have government dollars assisting in trying to develop a new industry. I think that there's an education process in any community that has to happen. I think the state can assist with that as well."

Marker says we owe it to our children and grandchildren to explore the wind industry and foster wind energy development.