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Senate fails to get new wind rules (UPDATE)

Todd Richmond
Associated Press

Madison — Republicans in the state Senate failed Wednesday to force state regulators to develop new siting rules for wind farms after one of their own broke ranks for the second straight day.

Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from Richland Center, refused to support a bill that would have forced the Public Service Commission to craft new rules for the industry. Republicans hold a razor-thin 17-16 majority in the chamber and need Schultz to pass anything. His stance on the wind farm bill came after he sided with Democrats Tuesday to block a GOP bill that would have jumpstarted a giant iron mine in northwestern Wisconsin.

The state Public Service Commission worked through most of 2010 to craft uniform construction and setback standards for turbines. Republicans who took control of the Legislature in 2011 balked at the rules, saying the regulations allow developers to build turbines too close to a neighbor’s property.

The Legislature’s rules committee suspended the rules in March 2011. The full Legislature had to support that move by passing a bill before the session ends March 15 or the old rules would come back into play.

Senate Republicans scheduled a bill for a vote Wednesday that would have upheld the suspension and called for new rules. But Republican Sen. Frank Lasee pulled it back. He said there weren’t enough votes to support the measure and blamed Schultz.

“It is frustrating when you aren’t able to protect citizens,” Lasee said later.

Schultz said the commission has had a year to come up with new rules, and the bill would have created even more uncertainty for wind developers, who already have suspended or canceled at least five major wind farms. He said wind farms offer an excellent opportunity to create jobs in his district.

“I just want to get this industry up and doing well,” Schultz said.

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