BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick and allied lawmakers are renewing a push to reduce the legal hurdles that have stalled some wind-power projects in Massachusetts. Their efforts were thwarted last session by lawmakers from wind-rich areas in the Western part of the state, who say the bill would erode local control of turbine siting and operation.
The bill would speed up the process for getting land-based wind farms approved. Wind advocates say that under current law, the permitting process can take years, with court and construction delays.
The new plan would reduce the number of permits the project developer needs, as well as the number of appeals opponents could make.
But critics like Senator Michael Knapick, a Westfield Republican, say that what developers see as a problem with the process may actually be its strength.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for local folks to involve themselves in the process and ultimately kill a project that they don’t think is in their best interest. So the part of the concern is that this eliminates some of those barriers to permitting, and we think that’s wrong,” Knapick said.
Knapick, who also complains about the cost of wind energy, says his constituents have been resistant to new wind projects. They say that the turbines are massive, loud, disruptive and bring down property values.
The wind-permitting measure nearly passed in the Legislature last session, but opponents managed to run out the clock before it could win final approval.
Brookline Democrat Frank Smizik, who chairs the House committee on global warming, refiled the bill for this session. He says he is optimistic that the bill will pass. But he adds that Western Massachusetts lawmakers continue to be uncooperative.
“They’ve been very difficult but we think we have the votes in the Senate and in the House,” Smizik said.
Patrick administration officials say that the bill remains a priority for the governor, who’s pushing for the state to dramatically expand wind power by year 2020.
The measure has yet to receive a formal committee hearing.
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