A controversial bill that would would halt development of industrial wind farms in Idaho for two years narrowly made its was out of the House Local Government Committee by a vote of 6-5 and now goes to the full House. The bill would kill any future wind development in Idaho (at least for two years), and may put the breaks on many projects currently under development.
Although Rep. Simpson, the sponsor of House Bill 561, testified that the bill would not impact already "approved" wind projects, the bill does not define at what stage a project is deemed approved. This ambiguity in the bill's language raises significant concerns about the impact on projects currently under development and is making investors and lenders, who have already invested millions of dollars in Idaho based projects, very nervous. The bill states that "Projects that have been approved and against which no legal proceedings have been filed as of February 1, 2012, shall be allowed to be constructed." However, this language provides little comfort since after the effective date the bill also flatly prohibits "municipalities, counties and state agencies" from "granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed one hundred (100) feet in height." Even for projects that have received their Conditional Use Permit prior to February 1 and are currently under construction, this language would prohibit issuance of individual building permits,which are required for each turbine, or prohibit the state from issuing the final electrical permits for the substation and collection systems. The bill is even more problematic for projects that have undergone lengthy and expensive pre-development studies and federal environmental reviews but have not yet received a Conditional Use Permit.