Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she understands as a public official she has a responsibility to consider ways of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but they also have a responsibility to the wishes of their township officials. Lemon Twp. is the only township that did not ask for the ban.
“We respect that they are the elected officials closest to the citizens, that they speak to us as the voice of the citizens,” Carpenter said. “So I have decided to support their request.”
The residents who spoke out against the ban urged the commissioners not to ban the solar facilities because they are necessary for a sustainable future and they should leave the decisions to the people who own the land. Margaret Branstrater of Oxford Twp. was one of them and she told the Journal-News she is disappointed the commissioners decided to enforce the ban.
“I think it’s a mistake, I think it will do more harm than help and I think it’s going to hurt the farmers the most,” Branstrater said. “Because climate is happening, farmers are being hurt already by it and we have to get off of fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If that includes using some farmland for solar I think that’s what we’ve got to do. I’m sorry they’re not looking further down the road than what they are.”
Commissioner Don Dixon also said he doesn’t believe there is enough available land within the county for one of these facilities, but the ban isn’t necessarily written in stone.
“We can always go back and revisit this if the trustees or an applicant comes to us with a viable project that we would consider acceptable to the environment and to the area around it,” Dixon said. “Being a former township trustee I know that they hear from the residents directly, so I’m sure their recommendation came with a lot of input from their constituents.”
Prior to this new legislation, power facility locating was the purview of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), and that entity will still be involved. According to a map on its website there are two solar facilities in pre-construction phase in Preble County and one under construction on the Clermont and Brown County border, but nowhere else near Butler County.
Jon Honeck, senior policy analyst with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, told the Journal-News he only knows of a handful of counties that have enacted bans or some version thereof. The legislation was introduced to limit the OPSB’s power.
Reily Twp. Trustee Nick Schwab thanked the commissioners for helping him keep his promise to his constituents.
“I think Reily was the first township to come to the commissioners with this problem,” Schwab said “It wasn’t that we were looking for something to do, but when you go to a trustee meeting and you’ve got about 25 residents sitting there it tends to get your attention.”