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Mass. wind turbine siting creates second-class citizens

The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. Yet, in the mad rush to implement green energy policies, the state of Massachusetts is creating a second class group of citizens through the poor siting of commercial wind turbines.

This is what happened in Mattapoisett as a result of the attempt to site a commercial wind turbine 650 feet from residential homes.

In 2004, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), the quasi-public agency tasked with encouraging renewable energy technologies in the state of Massachusetts, gambled $5.28 million in public funds to purchase two new (at the time) Vestas V82 – 1.65 megawatt wind turbines. The Collaborative’s plan was to sell the towers to municipalities in an effort to jump-start local public renewable projects.

Orleans was first approached but decided not to proceed with a project. With the turbines warehoused in Texas at a cost of $3500 a month, MTC’s next stop was Mattapoisett. By this time, 2007, the warranty on the towers had expired and project was becoming politically embarrassing. MTC officials set out to persuade Mattapoisett to buy and erect the unused turbines on 35 acres of town-owned land. They hired UMass engineering students to prepare a report entitled “Wind Power in Mattapoisett, Marion & Rochester: Siting Considerations for a Met Tower and Fatal Flaws Analysis for a Wind Turbine.”

The 23-page document was filled with significant, fatal errors regarding project siting. For example: the report claimed there were no locations in the project area that were designated by Audubon Society as Important Bird Areas (IBA). The fact is that Ram Island in Mattapoisett, located less than 3/4 of a mile from the proposed turbine site, is the chief nesting area of all the Roseate Terns in North America. The report failed to identify the substantial wetland areas in the area where the turbines would be erected It also assumed a town-owned right-of-way to the property where none existed. Our group in Mattapoisett, Concerned Citizens for Responsible Wind Power, was forced to hire experts at our own expense to counter the misinformation in the report.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation was complicit in the process. Working with the MTC-Renewable Energy Trust Fund, the DCR issued permit number 22811A on Jan. 16, 2007 for a meteorological tower at Naskatucket Bay State Reservation. The DCR skirted Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution (land use) by telling local residents the state owned land and park was being used for “educational purposes.” The Naskatucket Bay State Reservation is immediately adjacent to the 35-acres commercial wind site in Mattapoisett.

The turbines proved a costly, divisive fight in Mattapoisett. Today, Mattapoisett is turbine free but the town of Falmouth did not fare as well. Those same two turbines are now sited in Falmouth, less than 800 feet from residences. For over a year more than fifty Falmouth residents have complained about regulatory noise and human annoyance noise. Our fellow Massachusetts’ citizens now suffer from the noise and shadow flicker of the turbines.

The MTC, which now operates as part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) takes renewable energy taxes from our electric bills and develop sloppy, poorly defined turbine project proposals. And we are forced to pay again to protect our homes from their incompetence.The wind turbine fray is sparking class warfare. Time after time one section of town, usually the blue collar section, has been selected to lose their property rights for a perceived “good” of all the others in town.

Even today, years later, negative and bitter feelings still exist between residents in Mattapoisett over the wind turbine. We feel bewildered and betrayed by our own government, which is maliciously trying to steal our land through the poor siting of commercial wind turbines. We have lost our democratic rights and have become second class citizens, facing the theft of our land through regulation.

The siting of turbines to close to residential homes is making people sick and the turbines have been sited too close to schools . A hearing should be held in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Frank Haggerty
Concerned Citizens for Responsible Wind Power