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Tazewell County board chair discusses renewable energy, carbon pipeline concerns

Tazewell County Board chairman David Zimmerman discusses renewable energy regulation options and updates plans for a new justice center during an interview with WCBU.
Joe Deacon
Tazewell County Board chairman David Zimmerman discusses renewable energy regulation options and updates plans for a new justice center during an interview with WCBU.

Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman says the county’s options may be limited when it comes to regulating renewable energy developments, or possibly blocking a proposed carbon capture pipeline.

The county's Community Development Department has scheduled a public meeting on Aug. 29 to gather input on recent changes to the county's wind energy and solar energy ordinances. Those changes are in accordance with a law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in January that sets siting and zoning standards and limits county regulation of new commercial wind and solar energy projects.

“Unfortunately, under a new state law, most of our zoning authority for wind farms and solar farms have been taken away from us. So it's very limited in what we can address,” Zimmerman said. “But if there are ideas that were within the statute, we want to hear what their ideas are and try to incorporate those.”

Zimmerman said the community response could also generate ideas or requests for potential follow-up legislation on renewable energy regulation.

“An example of that may be: Within a mile and a half (of an incorporated boundary), you can't put a wind farm tower or the municipalities have a lot of say in that. It's not the same with solar,” he said. “That might be an idea for some trailer legislation where, let's give municipalities or even counties more say when it's closer to a population center.”

Zimmerman said they value and respect what the citizens have to say and they’re eager to get feedback.

“The past couple of months since we've passed our ordinance, it's been fairly quiet. But up until that point, we had a group out of southern Tazewell County that offered a lot of good ideas,” Zimmerman said. “I don't know if this is a good idea, but the most recent suggestion was to somehow compensate not only if somebody has a wind tower, but the adjoining properties because they feel like their property values are somewhat diminished by having a wind tower there.”

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the James Carius Community Room at the county justice center in Pekin. Information gathered at the public meeting will then be discussed at the next meeting of the county’s land use committee on Sept. 12.

Carbon capture pipeline

Zimmerman said the county has not yet taken any formal stance on the proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions carbon capture pipeline.

The company's application filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) shows the pipeline's path between Iowa and Decatur proceeding southeast from near Pekin toward Armington.

“Personally, I'm agnostic; I want to hear (more). I did meet with Wolf Carbon Solutions about a month and a half ago. They showed me the path (and) they answered some of my questions,” said Zimmerman, adding there may not be much the county can do.

“We can petition the ICC to be an interested party in offer our input," he said. "But at the end of the day, I don't believe the county has any say up or down on whether it comes to our county or not.”

Zimmerman said the county board will hear from the group Citizens Against Predatory Pipelines at its Aug. 30 meeting, and they’ve invited Wolf Carbon to “give their side of the story” at the September board meeting.

Zimmerman said there hasn’t been any discussion yet about the county considering a possible moratorium on carbon pipelines, even if it’s merely a symbolic gesture.

“Again, I think I would have to hear from both sides to see where I would land on that. I know that there are some safety concerns expressed,” he said. “I've heard from several farmers, but I still want to see how dangerous that is. I mean, one spill is one spill too many. … But I've not had a lot of push from the board yet to look into (a moratorium); they just want more information.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.