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Shelburne Planning Board & the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center: An Ashfield visitor’s comments  

Credit:  Walter Cudnohufsky, Landscape architect, Land and Community Planner, Ashfield ~~

On January 11th Tyler Studds, a project manager for the MA Clean Energy Center of Boston (MCEC), was invited to attend a meeting of the Shelburne Planning Board and introduced by Norman Davenport as a portion of the Board’s agenda. Mr. Studds outlined the services the MCEC performs for either developer teams or for communities. A stipend is required for their services which is larger for developers and smaller for communities. The fact they work for both developers and communities is already suspicious. It was unclear whether the Massaemet wind proponents including Mr. Davenport intend to retain MCEC’s services. However, the tone of questions and statements by the Planning Board did suggest the Town may be considering it.

According to Mr. Studds, industrial wind project feasibility studies are supported in two ways through MCEC:
1) MCEC provides the majority if not all of the funds for consulting fees. These funds are derived from a levy on our electric bills. MCEC selects consultants from their pre-approved lists; they also determine & oversee the design and scope of the studies.
2) MCEC also contributes to implementation funding, including both design and construction.

Those who control the purse strings often work to control the outcome. The Shelburne Planning Board and residents must remain wary.

Mr. Studds outlined that the MCEC’s goal is to generate community consensus related to project feasibility. His carefully selected language was intended to be reassuring. He employed terms such as, “neutral facilitator”, “on-going dialogue,” “moderate,” “negotiate”, “mitigate,” “meet or exceed State standards” and “in the hands of the community.” However a look at MCEC’s recent factual record is not as reassuring.

What Mr. Studds did not say is equally important. He did not make clear that by contracting with MCEC, the Planning Board will not (as is customary) determine or directly supervise which consultants will be hired, the parameters and protocol of the studies to be carried out, or which important studies are funded.

Most importantly, Mr. Studds did not reveal what a review of their website indicates: that in order to work with MCEC, one must accept turbine and related technologies without prejudice. They obviously are not neutral in relation to industrial wind.

Mr. Studds was courageous for attending and speaking. His position is to be expected. His employer (State of Massachusetts) has issued the “company line”: Governor Patrick’s 2000 MW of renewable power by 2020, a target that will require one thousand or more industrial turbines on western Massachusetts ridges. Tyler’s employment depends upon supporting their goals and policy. Unfortunately tainted results are all too common where politically- and financially-motivated bias trumps scientific evidence and on-the-ground human health impact studies. Just think: tobacco.

This is a few of an initial list of questions I have asked Mr. Studds to respond to. The answers could disqualify MCEC for a role in any Massachusetts community.

1) Does the acoustic consultant MCEC retained for the Falmouth turbine pre-installation sound study still have a place on your preferred acousticians’ consultants list based on the health impacts currently transpiring? If so, why?

2) How can your selected consultant, Applied Science Associates Inc. (ASA) say with straight face and their corporate reputations on the line, that there will be no negative sound impacts on abutters in the Trustees Turkey Hill Project with abutters 1000 feet or less distant? Is ASA still on your approved list?

3) Why do you say there are no known negative impacts on property values when recent links from your own web site lead to the opposite conclusion?

4) Of the 29 “larger” industrial wind projects you cited in your talk, identify just six of comparable size and scope, similar proximity to homes, schools and businesses, where the determination of non feasible resulted. Please include: community, list of consultants, lists of studies undertaken, recommendations & outcome with the appropriate contact people noted.

5) How can you retain and supply an “impartial facilitator” if you are a not only a proponent of industrial wind but a leader in its implementation?

6) What specifically allows you believe in and trust the current State regulations regarding industrial wind siting? These regulations that you have played a part in creating are daily being shown to be grossly inadequate!

Clearly, contracting with MCEC is contracting with the industrial-wind-promoting- Commonwealth. Engaging MCEC requires trusting that the Commonwealth has and will continue to keep our best interests in mind. The experiences of people in Falmouth, Hingham and communities around the world provide mounting evidence of the true costs of Industrial Wind Turbines and indicate that community interests are not adequately considered.

Although I am not a resident of Shelburne I frequent your businesses and of course count many of you as personal friends. I would be remiss if I remained silent. At the juncture of two regionally-designated scenic corridors and among the first towns in our area to face a significant industrial wind proposal, we are assisting you where and how we can.

In many people’s eyes MCEC has lost its credibility. Its new MCEC Acoustic Study Methodology for Wind Turbine Projects, issued December 9, 2011, is nothing short of a sham. It relates sound emissions to wind speed and then offers substantial loopholes in how and where the sound is measured, leading I suggest to predictably false, underestimated noise impacts once again.

The Planning Board would be well advised to research MCEC’s record in communities such as Falmouth. Should any decision to engage MCEC be based on Mr. Studds’ presentation they would be making a huge error in judgment. Many of our State politicians, its energy agencies such as the MA Technology Collaborative and MCEC, the electric power corporations and wind energy developers, are joined at the hip. They ride around in each other’s pickup trucks and finish each other’s sentences. They operate as a revolving door in sharing personnel. They are not neutral and you can take that to the bank. They should have embarrassed themselves long ago and could easily be labeled a fraud and sham.

Our local communities are on our own against a large, well-funded and connected and organized collaborative!

Source:  Walter Cudnohufsky, Landscape architect, Land and Community Planner, Ashfield

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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