Ohio Revises Administrative Regulations Associated With Commercial-Scale Wind Farms

On March 15, 2018, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) finalized proposed additions and revisions to administrative regulations associated with commercial scale wind farms. The finalized rule package is the result of a two-year review process, complete with three separate stakeholder comment periods, an opportunity for rehearing, and numerous different iterations of proposed rules.

A diverse group of stakeholders participated in the rulemaking discussion, including Icebreaker Windpower, Inc., the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, Greenwich Windpark, LLC, Union Neighbors United, Greenwich Neighbors United, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the American Bird Conservancy, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. After considering all testimony and hundreds of pages of stakeholder comments, the OPSB finalized a robust regulatory framework covering every conceivable health, safety, ecological, and environmental impact of commercial scale wind.

One can view a complete summary of all new and revised rules here. Ohio’s wind regulations now address all aspects of wind project development, including, but not limited to: operational sound restrictions; regulations governing wind turbine ice throw, blade shear, or shadow flicker; wind turbine setbacks and setback waiver rules; the process required for purposes of project reconstruction, enlargement, alteration, or amendment; and rules pertaining to the decommissioning of wind farms. Although the wind industry voiced concern over certain additions/revisions, it is believed the package as a whole appropriately balanced the interests of all stakeholders and ultimately delivered the stable regulatory environment needed for responsible development to occur.

The new rules come in the midst of an ongoing debate in the Ohio General Assembly regarding the minimum state-mandated distance between wind turbines and adjacent property lines and structures. In 2014 lawmakers almost tripled the state’s wind turbine “setback” law, rendering it the most restrictive in the country. That law made new Ohio wind projects virtually impossible to build—since the change, zero new wind farms have been permitted by the OPSB. It has been referred to as a “functional moratorium.” At the same time, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have seen tremendous growth as demand for wind energy is at an all-time high.

Wind developers are hopeful that Ohio’s legislature will revise the state’s setback requirements yet this year. In advocating for a change, proponents continue to highlight the tremendous economic benefits of wind project development, including $4.2 billion in local economic investment and the creation of over 13,000 new, Ohio-based jobs.

The new wind rules took effect April 26, 2018. Should you have any questions, please contact the Dickinson Wright attorneys below. Thank you.

About the Authors:

Terrence O’Donnell is a Member and Chair of the firm’s Government Affairs, School Law, Franchise Law Practice Group. His focus is public policy advocacy at the Ohio statehouse and regulatory compliance. He can be reached at 614-744-2583 or TODonnell@dickinsonwright.com.

Christine Pirik is Of Counsel in the firm’s Columbus office. As an attorney with over 31 years in public service, Ms. Pirik previously served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Legal Director for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). She can be reached at 614-591-5461 or cpirik@dickinsonwright.com.

William Vorys is an Associate in the firm’s Columbus office. He focuses his practice primarily on government relations and administrative law, advocating public policy at the Ohio statehouse and assisting clients with regulatory compliance. He can be reached at 614-744-2936 or WVorys@dickinsonwright.com.