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Testimony of Andrew Wells on the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act  

Credit:  Andrew Wells, Wind Wise - Massachusetts, windwisema.org ~~

Andrew Wells testifies at the hearing on 9/7/11, first, tongue-in-cheek, as a wind developer and then as himself:

On behalf of all wind developers I want to thank the Legislature for passing the WESRA bill. When my compatriot Paul Gaynor, the CEO of First Wind was made the governor’s wind energy advisor in 2009 we knew we were in like Flynn. I mean, wow! Here is the guy whose company told all those gullible abutters now suffering in Mars Hill Maine that they would hear no noise from the turbines the company planned to erect there. Governor Patrick courageously brought Mr Gaynor into the fold and asked him to help the state realize its goal of 2000 MW by 2020. It was was clear that the state needed a take no prisoner’s approach in dealing with the likely outcry from all of the nimby abutters once they realized what was in store for them. I must confess that I had no idea though that we would actually get to write the legislation itself. Thanks Ken Kimmell! Needless to say, we are thankful for the governor’s past experience in the corporate world so that he understood us perfectly when we told him that it is possible to have too much democracy, especially local democracy. It certainly helped that the places we planned for the turbines had no political power on Beacon Hill. After all, one thing every good politician knows, its easy to encourage another’s sacrifice when you’ve got no skin in the game. The governor knew that by the time the rubes and nincompoops out west caught on, it would be too late and we’d have our megawatts. God Bless turbines, god bless the production tax credit, and god bless America!

I want to give a special thanks to the Beacon Hill environmental groups. CLF, Audubon, and Sierra Club. You guys were great. By being big picture people and focusing exclusively on the science of global warming but not at all on the specifics of siting, we knew you’d support any legislation that promised to put more turbines on the ground. You made willingness to carve up mountaintops seem like an act of great virtue. We must destroy it to save it! Brilliant, and effective. You made GE a paragon of corporate virtue. Who cares about PCBs, they make turbines! I want to give a shout out to the Trustees of Reservations, who had the brilliant idea of becoming a wind developer themselves. When you proposed that utility scale turbine in Hingham less than a thousand feet from a senior assisted living facility, I thought maybe that was pushing the envelope a little too far. But I see that I was wrong. You helped others see that no sacrifice in the cause of promoting your virtue was too great. Besides, aren’t those people old? They’ve had their share of good years. Time to take one for the team!

None of this would have been possible without the visionary work of people like former Secretary Ian Bowles. Ian was our Dick Cheney, a man of no apologies for whom all roadblocks to renewable goals had one cause, the dreaded nimby. Ian helped stiffen up the executive administration spines when they were threatening to go wobbly once the noise problems in Falmouth started getting press. Hell, Ian was from Falmouth. If he didn’t care about the problems in his own hometown you shouldn’t either.

Thank you to MTC and CEC for throwing ratepayer dollars at all of those fatally flawed projects and for hiring consultants like the UMass Wind Energy Center and Tech Environmental to perform feasibility studies that said otherwise. Want to put turbines close to homes in quiet residential areas! Call these guys. For the right price, they’ll reliably overinflate your background sound, underestimate turbine noise and convince you that project impacts will be minimal. Besides, Jim Manwell says that he likes the sound of turbines so you should too!

As I look out from shining turbine to shining turbine, I see that our job here is done. But the work is incomplete. Onward to the state and National forests!

——————————

I have been studying wind siting standards since 2006, first as a member of a wind turbine bylaw committee in the Cape town of Eastham, and more recently, as the chair of a bylaw committee in the hilltown of Ashfield. It is clear from the evidence that there is a growing problem worldwide with individuals living near to turbines suffering from a range of adverse health effects, primarily due to noise impacts. Noone who would support this bill should do so without first taking the time to visit with Falmouth abutters, as I have, to see the depth and scope of this suffering. The wind industry’s callous response has been to deal with the problem by denying that it exists. Incredibly, instead of developing protective siting standards, the Patrick administration has chosen to ally itself with industry, continuing to push poorly sited projects, all the while scapegoating its own citizens, slurring them as nimbys as though they were the cause of the problem. Make no mistake: The bill before the legislature represents the triumph of corporate cronyism, a bill written by and for the wind industry. With its passage, I assure you that the problems experienced by the good folks suffering in Falmouth will be replicated in a dozen other communities across western MA

It is disingenuous for bill proponents to argue that passage will lead to responsible siting. How does it follow that the same forces who for years have ignored science for political opportunism will somehow magically be transformed into responsible decision makers? This state is completely out of step with best practices of other countries that have shown far more regard for the well-being of its citizens. Consider for example, the setback standard of 2km (1 ¼ miles) recently enacted in the Australian state of Victoria, a policy described by its Planning Minister as “restoring certainty and fairness “ to the process. Contrast that with the recent comments by the state’s director of wind energy development, EEA employee Steven Clarke, who defends setbacks in the range of a thousand feet as “robust siting standards” Once again, politics trumps science.

Do not adopt the lazy morality of Beacon Hill environmental groups who, in the name of climate change, have adopted an end justifies the means type of thinking in which adverse impacts to abutters are embraced as the necessary cost of climate mitigation. A caring community should reject the idea that erecting turbines close enough to homes to cause sleep disturbance to abutters, no matter how small their numbers might be, is in any measure a ‘sustainable ‘solution.

As for the ludicrous assertion that this bill does not take away local control, I realize that many of these environmental lobbyists don’t get out of Beacon Hill much, but they should know that here in western MA many of our communities are still governed, as they have been for well over two hundred years, by the New England town meeting, in which zoning decisions require a 2/3 vote. Summarily dispensing with town meeting and empowering small boards to waive all previous zoning decisions of the town is not local control as we have practiced it for generations Also, it is entirely predictable that any municipal decision rejecting a wind project that meets the statewide siting standards will be overridden and approved. Given their track record, I have little faith that these standards will be protective of local communities and their citizens.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the Patrick Administration has chosen to sacrifice its own citizen’s well-being in order to advance its political objectives of 2000 megawatts by 2020, and it’s hoping to do this by consolidating its power and circumscribing local control. The Democratic majority in the legislature has a clear choice. Does the little guy still matter or is kowtowing to the lobbyists and corporate captains to be this party’s identity?

And now the administration proposes to deal with the problem that its own inadequate, yea non-existent standards have helped create by seeking legislative fiat to consolidate its power to approve poorly sited projects and minimizing local input.

These groups need to be reminded that the imperative to think global act local does not mean think global screw the local. One has only to witness the outrageous proposal by the Trustees of Reservations to become a wind developer itself and site an industrial turbine less than a thousand feet from an assisted living facility in Hingham to see what happens when undereducated environmental groups rely on wind industry lobbying organizations like the AWEA for their information.

For years now the business of advancing wind energy in this state has been corrupted by a spoils system in which vast infusions of ratepayers funds have been carelessly dispensed to fund wind projects in countless MA towns. Handpicked consultants like Black & Veatch, Tech Environmental, and the UMass Wind Energy Center have massaged and manipulated data to advance poorly sited projects, at the expense of the abutters to these projects. Knowing that the state has relied upon these same groups for guidance, it’s no wonder that

This is nonsense and Mr Clarke knows this; there are no statewide setback siting standards, just recommendations, and Mr Clarke’s comments in light of the genuine suffering of Falmouth residents are heartless. Do not reward EEA’s lack of regard for the state’s citizens by giving them more power.

Source:  Andrew Wells, Wind Wise - Massachusetts, windwisema.org

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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