The Controversial Wind Turbine Initiatives: Legal Implications and Challenges Explained

2024-02-12 16:09:43

Published12. February 2024, 5:09 p.m

Invalid?: Fuss about wind turbine initiatives: They contain sensitive passages

The two initiatives against wind power are attracting criticism. A prominent constitutional lawyer believes that they could be at least partially invalid because of an expropriation clause.

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  • Collections are currently being made for two anti-wind power initiatives.

  • But there is a passage in the initiative text that calls for the dismantling of wind turbines “at the expense of the creator”.

  • This is tricky, says a constitutional lawyer. Some of the initiatives may be invalid.

  • The initiators defend themselves and point out that the passage has already been included in other initiatives.

A few days ago, wind power opponents and landscape conservationists launched two popular initiatives against the construction of wind turbines. One calls for a ban on building in the forest, the other that the local population be allowed to vote on planned projects.

But there is a delicate point lurking in the initiatives. Because both require that, if accepted, all wind turbines built from May 1, 2024 must be demolished again – at the expense of the builders.

Wind power opponents led by Elias Vogt launched the popular initiative “to protect the forests” and “to protect the quality of life” in Bern.

20min/Stefan Lanz

At the media conference of wind power opponents, this passage caused critical questions from the journalists present. But the committee countered the concerns by saying that the Federal Chancellery had examined the initiative texts and found them to be legal.

Constitutional lawyer: Initiatives perhaps “partially invalid”

Alain Griffel, professor of constitutional law at the University of Zurich, is not convinced. He has doubts as to whether the dismantling will “make a difference” at the expense of the creators. He says: “According to general legal principles, retroactivity is only permissible under very restrictive conditions, and in terms of compensation, in such cases there would probably be an expropriation requiring compensation.”

To put it simply: It is probably not possible for the creators of wind turbines to ultimately have to bear the costs of dismantling them.

However, Parliament will have to judge this as soon as the signatures have been collected and submitted. Griffel believes it is possible that Parliament could declare this part of the initiatives invalid.

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Initiators respond with legal opinions

Initiator Elias Vogt sees it differently. They discussed the question of dismantling intensively before it was launched and consciously included it in the text of the initiative; they are also based on an assessment by the State Political Commission of the Council of States from 2015.

They also see themselves as being in the right because of historical role models, such as the Rothenthurm Initiative, which also contains a corresponding passage.

As a reminder: The Rothenthurm Initiative demanded that the community’s moor in the canton of Schwyz be protected – and not be sunk under a reservoir. In fact, the initiative text that was voted on contains the same wording, namely that any dismantling of the possible reservoir would be “at the expense of the creator”. But with Rothenthurm, this point never had to be finally clarified because the federal government had simply not built the reservoir until the vote.

In order to protect themselves, the initiators have ordered a legal opinion from the Aargau FDP politician and lawyer Lukas Pfisterer, which will soon be made public.

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