December 7, 2011

Administration official: wind energy bill preserves local control

By State House News Service / State Capitol Briefs, 7 December 2011

A day after Senate President Therese Murray indicated job-creating wind energy siting reform legislation will need “clear language about local control and siting standards” to advance, a Patrick administration official said pending proposals include such provisions. “This bill in my opinion really does not undermine local control,” Steven Clarke, the state’s assistant secretary for energy, told the News Service. Bill supporters say it consolidates and streamlines approval processes land-based wind energy developers must clear, while retaining the ability of local officials to reject proposals. Clarke also noted the pending reform bill also allows cities and towns to charge developers a mitigation fee. The bill gives communities an initial 60-day window to consider whether project applications are complete and then a four-month period to make a decision on an application, with local permitting review handled in community’s with significant wind resources by a proposed Wind Permitting Board that would feature representatives from local conservation commission, planning board and zoning boards. Projects approved at the local level could be appealed under the bill to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board and to the Supreme Judicial Court. Clarke said Patrick administration officials hoped to advance a bill based on one produced by a six-member conference committee and approved by the House and Senate before falling one procedural Senate vote shy of reaching Patrick’s desk last year. Murray on Tuesday called for stronger assurances that cities and towns would have the ability under the legislation to protect residential areas where wind turbines may not be wanted. “After continuing to learn more about local control and the siting decisions of individual towns, the Senate President expects that for any legislation to go forward, it must have clear language about local control and siting standards that protect residential areas,” a Murray spokesman said in a statement to the News Service. Heading into the second year of the two-year legislative session, wind siting reform bills remain pending before the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee.

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