The wind turbine industry, along with Gov. Deval Patrick, is pushing the state senate to adopt the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act in informal session. The Act is now known as H.4955 and the Senate version is S.2260.
The purpose of the Act is to achieve the governor’s goal of shoehorning massive industrial wind turbines into our once quiet and rural neighborhoods through a careless set of special wind industry benefits that include overriding local control, replacing environmental laws with “standards,” and eliminating traditional rights of participation and appeal by the public.
This legislation is a radical and unprecedented assault on the fundamental rights of communities to control industrial development within their borders, on the environmental laws that our legislative body has enacted to govern the impacts of such developments upon our state’s natural resources, and on the long-established rights of municipalities and our constituents to appeal decisions adverse to their interests through the court system.
The bill concentrates all power over wind development projects in a single agency, the Energy Facilities Siting Board, part of the Executive Office of Energy & Environment.
This Act explicitly authorizes this single state agency to approve wind projects regardless of local decisions and regardless of recommendations from other state agencies with expertise related to such projects. It also replaces environmental laws with weaker “standards” that can be waived solely at the discretion of that agency and eliminates rights of appeal by municipal officers, municipalities, and most by other parties.
This legislation could affect more than 200 municipalities within our Commonwealth and could be especially damaging to Wareham if it were to alter the authority of the Wareham Zoning Board of Appeals which is presently reviewing the worrisome and ill-guided Bog Wind industrial wind turbine project.
This Act does not solve the problems which it is intended to address, but instead creates a slew of new problems. It also underestimates, if not disrespects, the proven skill, judgment and fairness of the Wareham Zoning Board of Appeals.
Regional planning agencies have already expressed their concerns with the Act, along with a number of select boards and environmental and sportsmen’s groups.
Eliminating local review authority and the safeguards of existing state laws and judicial review is not appropriate and as such is an extreme piece of legislation which would deliver a package of special privileges to Bog Wind and the rest of the wind industry.
This legislation is also another worrisome sign of the wind industry trying to’ leap frog’ Wareham’s open space into an over-subsidized, ineffective and inefficient industrial wind turbine zone. It should not be signed into law.
Barry C. Cosgrove lives in Wareham. He is a member of Wareham Residents Opposed to Bog Wind.
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