Bourne Health Agent Cynthia Coffin and Associate Town Counsel Brian Wall are rewriting, amending and revising segments of the town’s health regulation governing the review of turbine projects.
The revisions come in the wake of a late 2011 critique of the health department’s wind energy conversion systems regulation by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which has been unable to evaluate whether the ‘regs’ are “reasonable because various provisions are ambiguous, confusing and potentially unenforceable.”
The health board wrote the regulations with Wall’s legal assistance during the summer of 2011, finally approving the package that August. The thrust was to have a regulation on the books, pivoting on public health issues that could be applied to the review of the New Generation Wind farm proposal for Buzzards Bay.
That plan was rejected earlier this month by the Cape Cod Commission. And the health board is intent on clarifying its turbine regulations even though there have been no other wind proposals presented to the town.
The DEP has taken issue with various segments of the regs; notably applicability, adverse health effects, definitions related to noise pollution, performance standards for noise and the capping of it during the day and night, enforcement and non-air pollution requirements not subject to DEP’s approval.
The DEP, meanwhile, has convened an “expert panel” to provide a report on potential human health impacts that may be associated with exposure to wind turbines. The DEP suggests the Bourne health board refer to the panel’s report when it revises its turbine regulation.
The heads of the DEP and Department of Public Health in recent months have advanced the view that there is no scientific evidence on which to pivot when arguing that turbines adversely affect human health.
The board of health, however, says “nuisance” is indeed a public health factor and that turbines that might go up in Bourne not throw noise or shadow flicker of the parcel where the structure is located.
Wall advised the board it can draft a regulation that is stricter that the Massachusetts legal standard. If that state standard becomes stricter, however, it could render moot the Bourne regulation.
The health board will review the revised regulation again on March 14. Wall said he would write to the DEP, explaining the revisions now underway. The DEP retains regulatory oversight of locally-produced regulations.
The board of health is also considering ways to establish a fund of sorts through which application fees for turbine review would flow into a fund to support the regulation and application scrutiny that would fall to Coffin. If that account is a revolving fund, Annual Town Meeting voters would have to approve that request.
But the health board prefers the revenue at this point not flowing through town coffers.
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