BRIMFIELD – The organization that formed to block a wind farm from being installed atop West Mountain is focusing its attention these days on pending legislation that could significantly restrict a town’s say over whether such a project can proceed.
“The legislation could make it really difficult for a town to say, ‘No,” said Virginia Irvine, one of the organizers of No Brimfield Wind, which opposes plans by the Boston based First Wind company to install 10 wind turbines on West Mountain.
Irvine said her organization considered it a great victory when the Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 on Sept. 29 to reject a $30,000 payment from First Wind to study various aspects of the company’s plans.
And Irvine said that No Brimfield Wind members feel confident that proponents of the West Mountain wind farm would not be able to win a two-thirds vote at a Town Meeting for a zoning bylaw change to make the proposed site an industrial zone, which would be required for the project to proceed.
But she said the group will continue to monitor legislative action on the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, which, if enacted, would greatly diminish local power in this issue.
State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, who represents Brimfield, was one of the few Democratic state senators to vote against this legislation, which he said puts too much power in the hands of a central authority.
“I am a big fan of wind turbines, but the local communities have to have a strong voice in the siting of these,” Brewer said. “I have too many experiences where Boston or Washington tells the towns how to live their life.”
State Sen. Michael R. Knapik. R-Westfield, said he and other Republicans will continue to block action on the bill during informal sessions of the Senate.
The state House of Representatives passed the legislation earlier this year.
“This bill is an act to expedite permitting. It creates a pathway for a speedier permitting process for wind turbines. It pretty much reduces the opportunities for citizen input throughout the siting process,” Knapik said.
Irvine said No Brimfield Wind plans to have meetings in the next several weeks to discuss strategies for local action and to hear from people who have had experience with First Wind projects that have been installed and operating.
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