The Unicameral is considering a two-year moratorium on wind energy development in 13 counties in the Sand Hills area.
The head of the Nebraska Farmers Union testified against the measure brought by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon. Farmers Union president John Hansen says one of the major problems with the bill is that it would take away local control.
“We have in place a process for deciding what it is that we do at the local level and that’s called local planning and zoning,” Hansen says. “That’s where this issue should reside. It is extremely damaging to entertain the idea of the state of Nebraska undermining the local control.”
The bill, LB 504, is before the Natural Resources Committee. Hansen says Brewer’s bill is an assault on private property rights.
“We have landowners who have the legal right to develop their property,” Hansen says. “These are voluntary easements. Nobody’s got a gun to their head. These are folks that are looking for an opportunity to bring new farm and landowner income into rural communities.”
If a two-year moratorium is placed on wind energy projects, Hansen says developers will be hampered in using the wind production tax credit.
“The federal production tax credit, which is a big part of the incentive package, is now going down at the rate of 20% per year, starting with January 1st of 2017,” Hansen says. “In two years, it will be another 40%less.”
The committee heard testimony on the bill last week but took no action. Wind energy production supports between 500 and 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in Nebraska, with a capital investment of $1 billion. The industry made $1.3 million in land-lease payments last year as well.