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Enviro groups hope wind farm bill dies in Ala. House Commerce Committee

Brazos Wind Farm in the plains of West Texas
Brazos Wind Farm in the plains of West Texas

Several so-called green energy companies and their associated environmental activist groups and lobbyists are hoping that a bill to provide basic oversight over wind energy companies will die in the Ala. House Commerce Committee.

Wind energy providers have proposed wind farms in 8 different Alabama counties, but there are currently no laws on the books to protect citizens and communities when it comes to wind energy production. For instance, while regulations on coal mining require an almost unimaginable amount of research, proposals, permits, reclamation plans, insurance and numerous other safeguards overseen by independent government entities, wind farms are largely free to do as they please without any real oversight to speak of.

That has caused citizens in areas of the state where wind farms are being proposed to seek help from their legislators.

RELATED: Wind energy companies hire lobbyists to fight bill that would regulate them in Alabama

One of the proposed wind farms was conceived by a company called Pioneer Green, which recently announced plans to build wind turbines in Cherokee County, Ala. in the district of State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City.

Two groups of citizens in Williams’ district have filed lawsuits against Pioneer Green asking for a judge to block the proposed project, at least until the state creates a regulatory framework to protect the local community.

After getting feedback from a wide variety of groups, including the League of Municipalities, Aviation Council, major utility providers, ALFA, the County Commission Association, the Business Council, and even three separate wind energy companies, Williams drew up SB12, a bill that would provide a comprehensive regulatory structure for wind energy companies seeking to locate in Alabama.

The bill overwhelmingly passed out of the senate by a vote of 24-6 two weeks ago and was assigned to the House Commerce Committee. However, it has not budged since then.

The environmental groups have hired a lobbyist with close ties to the Commerce Committee to help kill the bill.

“Running out the clock” on a bill is a familiar tactic toward the end of legislative sessions. If opponents of a bill can drag out the legislative process, they can sometimes manage to get to the end of a session without the bill they oppose ever even making it to the floor for a vote. The lack of movement on the wind farm bill has caused some State House veterans to speculate that that tactic is being employed here.

RELATED: Are your tax dollars going to help fund a wind farm in Alabama?

The bill did not appear on the Commerce Committee’s agenda this week, but it could get a public hearing next Wednesday. The bill could then possibly get a vote in committee the following week, then make it to the floor of the House after that. Considering there are only a handful of days left in the 2014 session, it’s easy to see how the bill could die without ever making it to the floor for a vote.

The environmentalists who are opposing this legislation are hoping that that schedule stays on track and leads to the bill’s demise. Conservatives are hoping the bill starts moving immediately.

This one will be worth watching closely.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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