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Statewide coalition urges moratorium on wind turbines

A statewide group is calling for a moratorium on the construction of industrial wind turbines until more research is done on health effects from the machines.

“It only makes sense that we would call for a moratorium until this serious matter is reviewed by credible people who are totally independent,” said Lilli-Ann Green, a board member of Windwise~Massachusetts and Windwise~Cape Cod, two groups that oppose placing wind turbines close to houses.

In June, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Public Health initiated a review of scientific data available on health effects from wind turbines. The panel of experts accepted public comment on the issue until July 22, and Windwise~Massachusetts submitted hundreds of documents.

The seven-member panel includes health professionals and academics from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration takes concerns and questions raised about the potential health effects from wind turbines seriously, which is the reason for the joint review, Lisa Capone, a spokeswoman for the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, wrote in an email to the Times.

State officials are looking forward to the findings of the joint review but so far have seen no “evidence of peer-reviewed science that indicates health impacts that would warrant a moratorium on wind energy siting,” Capone wrote.

Patrick’s goal of having 2,000 megawatts of energy from wind by 2020 remains in place and his administration continues to support legislation to streamline siting for wind energy projects in the state, she wrote.

The Wind Energy Siting Reform Act – a bill that would consolidate permitting for large wind energy projects in the state – is expected to be taken up by the Legislature this fall.

Most state lawmakers from Cape Cod and the Islands voted against the bill last year, when separate versions passed in the Senate and the House. A compromise bill failed to clear the Senate before the end of the legislative session.

Since that time more legislators have heard from constituents who have concerns with the legislation, said state Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth.

“I think there’s a lot more awareness of the impact,” Vieira said Friday.

The state should follow the lead of Falmouth, where town meeting in April voted to enact a yearlong moratorium on the construction of new wind turbines, Vieira said.

Falmouth residents who live near turbines at the town’s wastewater treatment facility are the primary example of the potential effects of noise and other phenomena from the operation of wind turbines on the health of neighbors, according to opponents of building turbines close to homes and businesses.

The proposed statewide moratorium is necessary so that state officials can study the health effects of turbines on residents, Vieira said.

“I’m not against the wind turbines,” he said. “I just think we need an appropriate regulatory environment.”

Vieira said he would watch the work of the state panel closely, adding that its work should include public hearings where residents can explain their experiences with nearby wind turbines.

State Sen. Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, continues to support the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, his chief of staff, Seth Rolbein said.

“Certainly public health concerns always have to be taken really seriously,” Rolbein said. There is not, however, enough scientific evidence to support a moratorium, he added.

The review of the scientific literature that the state is undertaking is a good first step in collecting information needed to make good decisions on siting wind energy projects, he said.

The state must ensure that the panel of experts it relies on to study health issues associated with wind turbines is unbiased, said Green of Windwise~Massachusetts.

Residents around wind turbines have experienced sleep deprivation and symptoms ranging from dizziness to heightened blood pressure, Green said. Windwise~Massachusetts disputes the idea that no peer-reviewed work has been done to show the adverse health effects of wind turbines, Green said, pointing to documents her group submitted for the expert panel’s review.

“As people become more educated around the state about the realities of wind turbines they’ll be outraged,” she said, adding that until she studied the issue she thought turbines were harmless to human health.