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Minutes for SB353 - Committee on Utilities

Short Title

Establishing certain setback and construction requirements for wind energy facilities and certain operating conditions for existing wind energy facilities.

Minutes Content for Wed, Feb 9, 2022

Nick Myers, Office of the Revisor of Statutes gave an overview of the bill, explaining SB353 concerns wind generation facilities; relating to construction
and setback requirements; requires local boards of county commissioners to approve applications for construction; establishes certain notification and health and safety requirements; and establishes certain operating conditions for existing facilities. Among the requirements are no facility shall be constructed within the state unless the setback distance from the each wind turbine of the facility is not less than 10 times the system height or 5,280 feet, whichever is greater, from certain properties, including, among others, non participating landowner's property, federal wildlife refuges, and public parks.  The bill provides for a number of health and safety requirements if a proposed wind energy facility would include any industrial wind turbine with a generation capacity of 1 MW or more.

The Chairman called for proponent oral testimony on the bill.

Proponent Oral Testimony

Debra Cramer, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  Ms. Cramer, a resident of Labette County, KS, detailed her experience with wind developers coming into the county and leasing 18,000 acres without any notification to non-participating land owners, in areas closes to schools, on two sides of the Altamont City Lake, and on three sides of the K-State Research Center in Mound Valley.  She provided a map showing leased properties surrounding Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks properties and the Army Corp of Engineers Big Hill Lake areas. She pointed out setback regulations are needed statewide to assist counties where "everybody knows everybody but very little about wind energy".  (Attachment 1)

Gayla Randel, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  She stated, according to State of Kansas Statute Chapter 72 Section 74, Article 74-7284, the legislature declared the purpose of state government is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Kansas citizens, and SB353 will begin this process to protect nonparticipating land owners from abuses of wind and solar developers.  She asked the Committee Members to "please ensure the 35 dB noise is absolute maximum and not an average reading", and "ensure there is a reporting system directly to the State of Kansas when such noise levels (or shadow flicker, ice throw, etc.) are violated as there is no direct state reporting in place presently."  (Attachment 2)

Terry Weidert, County Commissioner, 2nd District, Labette County, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  He detailed his experience with feeling inadequately equipped when dealing with the wind industry, despite having 35 years experience in upper level management positions with a major road and bridge company.  He stated he saw the lack of a plan to protect people from possible negative health impacts of wind turbines, and how they have divided his county in the "worst possible way".  After research, he concluded the answer was setbacks, and the only way to bring compromise and healing.  He stated, "I want you to know how important and beneficial passing SB353 would be for county officials.  It provides the  needed authority to pre-approve the intended development by a wind generation facility in their county.  It authorizes commissioners to control the minimum safe space for their schools, residential housing, and non-leased property.  It empowers residents to have control over possible negative health effects from wind turbines.  It helps protect the county from possible negative financial exposure, such as the expense of decommissioning wind turbines and attachments.  (Attachment 3)

Aaron M. Popelka, V.P. of Legal and Governmental Affairs, Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating the members of KLA have concerns in regard to how wind developments are sited and the tactics used to secure leases.  They adopted a policy that states: "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Kansas Livestock Association supports legislation to protect the private property rights of landowners adjoining, but not participating in wind farm developments."  KLA particularly supports setback regulations to protect surrounding landowners who may not want a wind turbine on their property from the noise, blinking lights, ice throw, and other externalities created by a wind turbine placed in close proximity to their property. He stated the livestock industry has had setbacks for nearly three decades, and they provide a predictable method for siting and constructing confined feeding facilities. (Attachment 4)

Dennis Hedke, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  He stated the legislation provides an opportunity to establish "long needed guidelines related to the construction of Industrial Wind Turbines in the State of Kansas.  Individuals within multiple state agencies are sharing consistent violations of statues by Developers - and are discouraged from disclosing the violations for fear of job security.  Similar accounts are being noted at county and local municipalities."  He stated although wind companies will say they would never enter into such enterprises without the approval of everybody within the footprint, "we have very strong evidence and voluminous testimony that literally thousand of families, landowners, etc., have no desire whatsoever to be in proximity of these massively expansive construction zones," due to the distressing side effects to human an animal health.  (Attachment 5)

Lucas Heinan, private citizen and farmer in Everest, Kansas, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  Mr. Heinan stated he is concerned about the lack of adequate considerations for non-participating landowners and protections for our Kansas landscape.  He can see individual turbines in the Soldier Creek project from 20 - 25 miles away, and on almost any given night, "the sea of pulsing red lights on each individual tower in this same project are unmistakable on the western horizon."  He stated the problem for non-participating land owners lies in the sheer size and scope of the projects, and dealing with agents and attorneys from a multi-billion dollar company with many years of experience and money to burn.  He said, "As someone who won't sign a wind lease, I don't like my odds."  (Attachment 6)

Jessica Gigstad, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill, describing how the formerly beautiful area she grew up in in northeast Nebraska has now been "completely overrun, and yet the the wind energy companies are not done yet, they are still soliciting."   She described a glossy folder promoting a wind project at her parents' home, with no mention of shadow flicker, nor how it could affect the cattle or the wildlife.  She stated SB353 would force the wind companies to be more transparent in their negotiations with counties and landowners.  (Attachment 7)

Bryan Coover, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating he and his wife have lived on their farm for 30 years, having chosen the site for the natural beauty of the area.  The construction and start of commercial operation of the Neosho Ridge Wind complex of 139 turbines had completely transformed their surroundings, and they have to deal with the effects of the constant nighttime flashing red lights.  Each turbine has two.  He stated the requirement of radar-activated turbine tower lighting would be the "single-most important remedy to the negative visual effects of wind turbines." (Attachment 8)

Diane Novak, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill. Ms. Novak was a county commissioner in Marion County from 2017 - 2020, during construction and proposed construction of two wind energy facilities.  She stated, "every guideline and regulation provided in this bill is crucial to allowing a more fair and equitable construction of any industrial wind energy facility in Kansas."  In particular, she mentioned proper written notice to all landowners in the setback area, legal and proper protest rights for all non-participating property owners, decibels to be set at no higher than 35, and decommissioning regulations are all necessary. (Attachment 9)

Proponents providing written testimony:

Harold Armstrong, private citizen (Attachment 10)

Robert Carlisle, private citizen (Attachment 11)

Cherokee County Board of County Commissioners, Cory Moates, Lorie Johnson, Myra Carlisle Frazier (Attachment 12)

Austin and Shenan Cline, private citizens (Attachment 13)

Ron and Dana Eggers, private citizens (Attachment 14)

Chet and Mary Ann Fincham, private citizens (Attachment 15)

Kathleen Fincham, private citizen (Attachment 16)

Linda Fincham, private citizen (Attachment 17)

David Fisher, private citizen (Attachment 18)

Trace Goodwin, private citizen (Attachment 19)

Virgil Hallauer, private citizen (Attachment 20)

Clif Heiniger, private citizen (Attachment 21)

Kathy Heiniger, private citizen (Attachment 22)

Dane Hicks, Publisher, The Anderson County Review (Attachment 23)

Annette Hoskins, private citizen (Attachment 24)

Carol Hull, private citizen (Attachment 25)

Micah and Sonya Kee, private citizens (Attachment 26)

Gary and Susan Koch, private citizens (Attachment 27)

Nancy Manche, private citizen (Attachment 28)

Don and Laura Musil, private citizens (Attachment 29)

Mona Musil, private citizen (Attachment 30)

Luke Pollock, private citizen (Attachment 31)

William Pollock, private citizen (Attachment 32)

Bonnie Rasmussen, private citizen (Attachment 33)

Dan Ring, private citizen (Attachment 34)

Lyndi Ring, private citizen (Attachment 35)

Dennis and Linda Roeder, private citizens (Attachment 36)

Kevin Rooney, private citizen (Attachment 37)

Jonathan Sill, private citizen (Attachment 38)

Margy Stewart, private citizen (Attachment 39)

Glenda Taylor, private citizen (Attachment 40)

William Vonderschmidt, private citizen (Attachment 41)

Following oral proponent testimony, the Chairman opened for questions and answers.

Seeing not more questions, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 2:30 pm.