Kansas Senate committee unable to advance anti-wind bills, chairman says

Sen. Mike Thompson: ‘So this problem is not going away; it’s only going to get worse’

By: - February 16, 2022 4:23 pm

Sen. Mike Thompson has introduced several pieces of legislation criticized as efforts to end renewable energy in Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

One of a half-dozen bills opponents say are meant to end renewable energy in Kansas won’t make it out of committee, the senator leading the charge said Wednesday. 

As he prepared to adjourn the Senate Utilities Committee, Sen. Mike Thompson, a Johnson County Republican, seemed to say there weren’t enough senators on the 11-member committee to advance the bill for consideration by the Senate. 

Thompson said he had confirmed with some of the committee members that “we’re not able to advance Senate Bill 353 today.”

“However, rest assured that the shortcomings of the state statutes, the shortcomings of county commissions and the shortcomings of local governments have been duly noted,” he said, adding that if an opportunity arrives, he will convene a meeting to work on the legislation.

The bill, one of several he has proposed, would require that wind turbines be sited at least a mile or 10 times the height of the turbine from an adjacent property line. It would limit the decibel noise of the projects to levels the industry says are impossible and prohibit any shadow flicker on nonparticipating landowners’ property. Wind proponents say the way the bill is written would allow existing wind farms to be shut down over shadow flicker, something a renewable development attorney called “reckless” and said would threaten reliability of the power grid.

Thompson, in his third session in the Legislature, is a frequent critic of wind energy and held two days of informational testimony last week exclusively from critics of wind power. He sought to have a pro-wind expert’s testimony stricken, but backed off the idea earlier this week.

He said if any committee members were under the illusion that resentment of wind farms in rural Kansas was new, it has actually been festering for a while.

“So this problem is not going away; it’s only going to get worse,” Thompson said, “and as more of our constituents are directly impacted in the communities, they’re going to be coming to us for help.”

Thompson called wind energy a larger threat than other types of electrical generation.

“Now, unlike nuclear plants, which is very clean electricity, and other electrical generating sources that are enclosed and the threats are contained, those 38-ton blade assemblies … are out in the open and exposes anybody living or working nearby to the dangers that they present,” Thompson said.

Numerous studies have found little evidence linking wind turbines to adverse health effects. The turbines’ presence can cause annoyance, which could result in poorer sleep. But some have found that correlates significantly with participants’ underlying feelings about wind turbines.

Thompson did not update the committee on whether members would take action on other bills meant to shift power in siting or vetoing wind farms to property owners who aren’t participating in the project and have voiced complaints about turbines moving in. 

“He’s been very clear he is very, very opposed and would like to end renewable energy, and so he brings these wolves-in-sheep-clothing bills to say, ‘Oh, these are just meant to do reasonable things,’ when quite clearly they’re not,” said Alan Claus Anderson, vice president of the energy group at Polsinelli law firm.

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.