Virginia State Senator Frank Wagner’s Latest Maneuver in Pursuit of Wind Industry Interests

Senator Frank Wagner’s bill before the 2011 General Assembly, SB 862, would require localities to pass ordinances for wind projects consistent with the Virginia Energy Plan (VEP).  The VEP, which Wagner crafted, makes it state policy to promote the development of any and all energy sources.

SB 862 is just one more in Wagner’s serial attempts to thwart effective regulation of industrial-scale wind projects.

Wagner is also responsible for the so-called one-stop permitting process for wind projects, or permit-by-rule (PBR), that the Department of Environmental Quality is charged with implementing.

The PBR disallows permit denial, does not provide meaningful environmental protection, and includes no provisions for protection of the public welfare. (see Comments on the PBR)

Wagner’s first attempt to override local authority on wind project siting decisions was in the first draft of his VEP bill, which he introduced in 2006. That bill included language stating that wind facilities approved through the one-stop permitting process (aka the PBR) shall be deemed to satisfy local zoning ordinances. That particular provision was dropped from the bill that eventually passed. Now it’s back in the guise of SB 862. Update: As reported in a Bluefield Daily Telegraph 012511 article, amendments or modifications have been or will be proposed to “deal with” Wagner’s SB862. It’s not clear if these proposals will succeed or if they will actually preserve local authority to protect ridgelines from industrial wind development.