In the wake of a state report leading to the shutdown of Falmouth’s Wind 1 turbine, several residents are stepping up their efforts to support wind energy development in town—but from the safety of a collective pseudonym: Friends of Falmouth Wind.
The organization recently set up through Change.org an online petition directed to the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, asking the public to “support responsible wind energy” in Falmouth. The Friends of Falmouth Wind launched its petition drive last week, issuing an announcement by e-mail via a Gmail account (firstname.lastname@example.org), and its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Falmouth-Wind).
The entire petition reads, “Residents and taxpayers in Falmouth Massachusetts benefit from clean energy and Town revenue produced by the wind turbines, as well as less pollution and climate change.” As of press time, 26 people had signed the petition.
According to its official Facebook page, the group supports the continued operation of the town-owned turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road, East Falmouth, and the consensus-building process undertaken last year by the selectmen.
No one involved with the petition would allow the Enterprise to use their name, although all of them have spoken in public on the issue.
“Falmouth Wind Friends is an ad hoc group of Falmouth residents who have begun to speak out in the public interest in regard to the municipal wind turbines,” said a point person for the group. “We advocate running them, as they were designed to be run.
“While we recognize that some folks in the neighborhood clearly do not like the turbines,” he said, “we feel the need to support the town in factually representing the situation for what it is. Our future plans are to participate in the town’s consensus-building process to bring the political issue, posed by the disapproval by some residents, to a reasonable resolution.”
However, all of the seven founding group members are keeping their identities private “due to legitimate concerns of harassment” by anti-turbine residents.
“I know that it’s kind of unorthodox,” one member said in a telephone interview. “Anonymity never smells good, it doesn’t help a cause, and personally it’s not my preferred method for doing anything.”
Every member of the group has spoken publicly in favor of the town-owned turbines, at Town Meetings and at public hearings held by town boards; as a member of an organization that supports renewable energy; or as a present or former member of a town body that has dealt with the turbine issue.
Another member, who declined to identify himself or his affiliations, told the Enterprise via e-mail that he recently e-mailed the Falmouth Board of Health to air a concern that the board might have violated the state’s Open Meeting Law. At its May 7 meeting, the board of health scheduled an emergency public hearing on the turbines although the topic was not on the board’s May 7 agenda.
The member claimed that his e-mail address was forwarded by a member of the board of health to turbine opponents, who then began to send him “angry e-mails.”
Before that, the Friends member claimed that, while serving on a town committee with a connection to the turbines, he received regular lengthy e-mails from turbine critics. He described those communiqués as “libelous” and said they contained personal attacks on his integrity as a member of the committee. That continuous stream of e-mails led to his decision to resign.
He also claimed he once spoke supportively of the turbines at a public meeting, and was repeatedly berated by another attendee for speaking in favor of the turbines.
The petition drive was launched last week, more than a week after the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection determined that, based on noise sampling conducted on Wind 1 in February and March, the turbine exceeded state noise thresholds.
The DEP’s standard for acceptable wind turbine noise is 10 decibels (dB) above ambient background noise. The measurements were taken between 1 AM and 4 AM, when ambient noise levels are at their lowest.
The group member interviewed by phone pointed out that the same report noted that the highest sound levels recorded during the sampling period was 50.5 dB, which is equivalent to the sound generated by a refrigerator or an air conditioner. Normal human speech is about 60 dB.
That report was one of five studies and news articles included on a fact sheet that went out with the petition drive announcement, and the phone interviewee said the Friends plans to continue disseminating information from “credible, authoritative sources” to counter claims by turbine opponents.
“I hope the content of our message speaks louder than our anonymity,” he said.
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