Local control: 235 years ago our forefathers fought the Revolution to obtain it, and our towns have proudly exercised it ever since. Through our town meetings, our own bylaws and our elected boards, we the people decide what’s right for our communities.
When wind developers have come to our towns proposing to locate their industrial wind turbines, each as tall as Boston’s Prudential Tower, near our neighborhoods, we have been able to make a choice.
In Wellfleet, in Eastham, in Orleans, in Brewster, in Harwich and in Dennis, after careful review, the people said “no.”
In Falmouth, the town leaders bypassed the local boards and said “yes.” They now wish they’d said “no,” after seeing the effect of the installed wind turbines on the health and well-being of their neighbors.
In Bourne, 600 people showed up at a town meeting where they voted “no” to industrial wind development in their town.
But if the state has its way, local control over industrial wind turbines will be taken away. Saying “no” will not be an option for our towns.
That is the sole purpose behind the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, a bill that almost passed last year and is on a fast track for passage this year.
This concerns the entire state, but it particularly concerns Cape Cod. The state has lowered the standards and determined we have more wind than almost anywhere else in Massachusetts, even though the Department of Energy says we have only marginal and fair land wind resources. That’s because the state needs the little bit of wind that we have to satisfy their quota.
The administration’s goal is for 20 percent of the state’s energy to be generated from “green” sources by 2020 – just nine years from now. There are other ways to go “green.” Vermont, for example, has contracted to buy cheap green hydroelectric power from HydroQuebec, but the administration doesn’t want to do that.
It could buy cheaper wind energy from states that have already built hundreds of wind turbines far away from residences, but the administration doesn’t want to do that.
It could rely more on natural gas, which has half the carbon footprint of coal or oil and is dropping in price almost daily, but the administration doesn’t want to do that.
It could wait a few years for wind developments currently being planned far offshore in federal waters, but the administration doesn’t want to do that.
Instead, the administration wants to permit giant industrial wind turbines, by the hundreds, in our state’s coastal waters, near our drinking water wellheads, and near our homes in every Cape Cod town.
And the siting reform act will make sure it can.
The issue is not faith in wind power as a viable alternative source of energy. The issue is whether the citizens of our towns should be entitled to decide their own future, or if the decision should be made by a politically appointed state siting board in Boston.
Last year, when this bill came up in the state House of Representatives, most of our Cape delegation stood up for local control. Sarah Peake, Cleon Turner, Demetrius Atsalis, Tim Madden, and Jeff Perry voted against the bill. Matt Patrick voted for the bill and against local control. He lost the next election, largely over this issue.
The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy held a public hearing on the bill in the Berkshires in early September. Scores of citizens showed up to testify against it.
This Thursday, at 10 a.m. in the Knight Auditorium at Barnstable High School, the committee will hold a Cape Cod hearing on the bill.
We can expect the wind industry’s paid spokesmen, advocates and contractors to turn out in force.
We can only hope that everyone who cares about the health of their neighbors and the integrity of their communities will be there, too.
Sheila K. Bowen of Harwich is president of Windwise-Cape Cod.
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