The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners joined a growing chorus of local governments across the state speaking out against Indiana House Bill 1381.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week with support from both of Montgomery County’s legislators, would set state standards for the installation and siting of commercial wind and solar farms and prevent counties from adopting more stringent rules on issuing permits.
Supporters say the standards are necessary for boosting the state’s ability to produce renewable energy. But more than half of Indiana’s 92 counties have passed resolutions opposing the bill, saying it takes away local control over land use.
“This is all about home rule,” commission president John Frey said Monday after the board passed its own measure against the legislation.
“[Lawmakers] are making the case that we need to look out for potential to lose business and industry because we don’t have renewable energy sources here. Our community supports renewable energy — just not wind energy,” Frey said. “So their premise is flawed right off the bat that they know best for every individual county.”
The resolution states that decisions on developing wind and solar farms are best made by local residents “rather than by the wind and solar industry or state officials who live outside the community.”
In addition, the bill would “disenfranchise the citizens of their ability to determine the conditions under which wind energy and solar energy projects would be allowed in their county,” according to the resolution. And “communities would be compelled to allow wind and solar projects under conditions dictated by others living outside the community.”
If the proposed standards become law, developers would be required to negotiate in good faith with permit agencies and counties would still have the power to deny a project, said State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), who co-authored the bill.
Negele addressed local officials’ concerns Saturday during a virtual legislative roundtable sponsored by the Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
Some of the bill’s critics see the legislation as a step toward further mandates on local decisions.
“I think this is a bad bill. I don’t want to see it pass,” commissioner Dan Guard said. “It takes away our control and I just think it just opens the door where there’s an opportunity for future decision-making being taken away from us — not just for wind and solar, but some other things that I’m not in favor of.”
The standards could also hurt economic development efforts, commissioner Jim Fulwider said.
“If the regulation would allow them to put a [wind or solar farm] up next to an area that we’re looking at for residential development, that’s going to shoot that in the foot right there,” Fulwider said.
The bill is now being considered by the Indiana Senate. Fulwider said he’s spoken to State Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), who said he opposes the bill.
In a statement issued later Monday, Boots said, "I oppose House Bill 1381, as this issue should definitely be decided by local executive governments."
This story has been updated to include a statement from State Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) about the bill.