I read a newspaper article this week about a county in Missouri that passed a zoning regulation banning industrial wind energy facilities in the county. They joined a growing number of counties all over the United States that are enacting similar zoning.

A while back, the citizens of Cherry County proposed a zoning regulation that would have limited the height of a wind turbine tower to 80 feet. This would have had the effect of banning industrial wind turbines in the county.

They were told by the county commissioners that the county could not enact such a zoning regulation because it would “ban an entire industry.” I told them they were wrong about this and so did the Nebraska Attorney General.

Buchanan County, Mo. is just the latest example to make this point about exercising local control. More will follow. The plain truth is people do not want to live next to these things and I can’t say I blame them.

Americans have private property rights. They should be able to do whatever they want on their land, provided they are not hurting anyone else.

Wind energy proponents have a bad habit of dismissing the many ill-effects the people forced to be neighbors to these industrial facilities have to endure. Some will even say they still have a right to put up an industrial wind turbine even if the neighbors have to suffer. I do not think that is right. Your private property rights end where mine begin, and vice-a-versa.

Balancing the property rights of those who want industrial wind energy with those who do not is not quick or easy, but it should be a local decision.

In Nebraska, the counties were created by the Legislature. They only have the power the Legislature has granted them. The Unicameral has equipped the counties with the authority they need under the law to adequately address the wind energy issue. However, if counties fail to take appropriate action to protect property owners, the Legislature must act.

This is why I have introduced bills every year I’ve been in the legislature to address this issue. I introduced LB 373 in the last session that would have required counties who wished to host industrial wind energy facilities to have zoning that addressed at least three things: noise, set-backs, and decommissioning.

Creating a zoning regulation is a very public process. There are numerous opportunities for the public to attend meetings, speak at the meetings, and to provide documents and information for the county board to consider.

Regardless of the outcome, the public at least has a chance to be heard. Whether or not the public is listened to is another matter, but the people have a remedy for this problem as well: the ballot box. At the end of the day, electing local officials who share your principles is how you end up with a county or city you want to live in.

One final word: this month marks 19 years since the horrifying acts of terror of Sept. 11, 2001. Let us never forget that day.


Tom Brewer represents Dist. 43 — most of the Sandhills — in the state legislature. Contact his office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call (402) 471-2628.