Instead of enacting the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (WESRA) to fast-track the construction of hundreds of industrial turbines on the Berkshire ridgelines, the Legislature should declare a one-year moratorium on the approval of all wind projects to give people time to process what is about to happen to the Berkshires.
For several years, the wind lobby and large developers, some tied to oil companies like Chevron, have been assaulting landscapes throughout the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world. Whether their focus is on cleaner air, global warming, energy independence, or personal and municipal income, many people have initially reacted to wind as a worthy alternative. However, once wind farms, comprised of industrial turbines 400 feet tall are actually built nearby, many of these people question their initial reaction, and, as they become more informed, conclude that wind has too many negatives to be considered as a viable alternative.
This pattern is currently unfolding across the Berkshires and other parts of Massachusetts and New England. Pro-wind forces in the governor’s office and the Legislature are aware that, with each set of turbines built in Berkshire County, more and more people will reject the idea of spreading more turbines across the Berkshire ridges. The Patrick administration has set a goal of having 2,000 megawatts of the state’s annual energy produced by wind by 2020, a goal that will require the construction of at least 1,000 turbines on municipal, state, and privately-owned ridgeline in the Berkshires.
Determined to build these turbines, despite local and countywide opposition, pro-wind forces are seeking to fast-track the permitting process by having the Legislature pass the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, an act which is explicitly designed to gain fast approval for wind projects by nullifying the ability of local boards, local bylaws, and local voters to reject wind projects. The bill gives lip service to local control in the form of a local siting board, but it creates a state siting board which has total authority to override any local board and which is also the only agency for appeals, thus guaranteeing a yes vote for any wind project the state wants to go forward on state-owned or privately-owned land within any town or city in Massachusetts.
As part of their strategy, state officials have targeted over 35 sites on state-owned ridges in the Berkshires, sites which would be able to yield over 600 turbines and thus degrade mountains in the vast majority of Berkshire towns and cities. In addition, the state is counting on financial incentives from developers, power companies and state grants to encourage Berkshire towns and landowners to lease or sell land needed for hundreds more turbines. Finally, because wind resources in the Berkshires are marginal, the state is expending millions of taxpayer dollars for subsidies to attract wind developers.
Clearly, disaster looms, unless leaders like Ben Downing, leaders who are in a position to stop the passage of WESRA, have the wisdom and integrity to say no to industrial wind.
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