The famous King Ranch, down near the Gulf coast south of Corpus Christi, has been waging a battle against wind power farms planned for its area
As a proponent of wind power and other sources of energy that reduce global warming emissions, that should make me an opponent of theirs. Then again, they are also waging a battle against Texas' tradition of unregulated development--the kind of tradition that has led to dynamite blasting in residential areas and to the Helotes mulch fire. As a witness to the damaging consequences of this tradition, perhaps I should be a supporter of the King Ranch in this case.
Indeed, wind power should not have an exemption from sensible regulation, so I am sympathetic to the King Ranch's proposed legislation--at least based on my understanding of it from this article in today's Austin American-Statesman:
King Ranch Inc., the agricultural holding company that owns the South Texas ranch and other properties, is backing legislation that could choke off the boom in Texas wind energy by requiring new state regulations of wind turbines.
The state does not require permits in most cases for wind farms, which consist of hundreds of enormous turbines that generate electricity.
That would change under House Bill 2794, sponsored by Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio. The bill would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to establish a permit process to take into account the environmental consequences of wind turbines and whether the noise they create — or just the fact they're part of a once-unspoiled view — interferes with the property rights of nearby landowners.
King Ranch has been fighting a proposed coastal wind project in Kenedy County, just east of its ranch, that would place 267 turbines along the Gulf's Laguna Madre.
"People need to take a deep breath and think a little," Jack Hunt, CEO of King Ranch Inc., said about the Texas wind rush. "It's a frenzy."
I suspect that, in the end, such a permit process would still permit most of the wind farms to be built. But it would allow ill-conceived plans to be prevented.
Like most land use regulation attempts in Texas, however, it looks like this bill stands little chance in our developer-friendly legislature.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said opponents of wind energy won't succeed in the Legislature, either.
"The bill is dead because no one wants to pass it," said Patterson, who has leased state land for big offshore wind projects to generate more revenue for public education. "This is the King Ranch versus the rest of Texas."
Patterson said the idea of siting requirements for wind turbines "is not completely outside the realm of good public policy" and is worth studying.
"But this bill isn't about being reasonable," he said.
Patterson may be correct that this isn't reasonable legislation, though I suspect his reasons for thinking so are not the same as mine.
The problem is not that wind turbines are exempt from sensible land use regulations, but that virtually no one is subject to sensible land use regulation. While in principle this legislation sounds like an excellent idea, wind farms strike me as far down the priority list on this matter.