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Public hearing on wind turbine bill

HANCOCK, Mass. – The Wind Siting Reform Act would make the permitting process to build a wind turbine easier. That’s the problem, testifies Elizabeth Smola.

“I think wind turbines need to be at least 2.5 kilometers or 1.5 miles away from any permanent residence,” Smola, a Brimfield resident, said.

Speeding up the process, she says, does not begin to address health concerns, including effects, if any, living close to a wind farm could have.

Hers, one of roughly thirty testimonies before the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecom, Utilities and Energy Wednesday at Jiminy Peak.

The panel also heard from supporters who say projects, including Berkshire Wind in Hancock, took longer than necessary thanks to much opposition and legal challenges.

Supporters say the bill would change that by creating scientific standards and streamlining the permitting process.

Local leaders, though, say those standards fall short.

“We at the regional planning commission have been requesting the state work on standards for seven years. They haven’t made any apparent progress, at least they haven’t made any apparent to anybody out here,” said Nathaniel Karns, executive director, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

“There’s no real fixed bar that they have to get over,” said Tad Ames, president, Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

“They” being developers. Challengers say their other critique is a contradiction in the bill that opens up a legal loophole, which allows a developer to go forward with a project, even if a town votes against it.

“We would like to see them set standards, at least draft standards before the bill is passed so people can know what the standards will be, if the bill does get passed,” Ames said.

This legislation also has interest out east. A second public hearing will be held on September 26th on Cape Cod.