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Just what is the Shelburne Planning Board trying to do?  

Credit:  By Raymond S. Hartman | Shelburne Falls & West County Independent | 3 August 2012 ~~

While most of us may think that the sentiment of the town regarding industrial wind turbines (IWTs) was plainly and clearly stated at Shelburne’s annual town meeting (by vote margins of 75-80 percent banning them), apparently the Shelburne Planning Board did not get that message. As a result, I urge you to pay close attention to what the Planning Board is saying and doing.

A group has been attending and recording the meetings of the Planning Board. I have only had a chance to review a summary of the discussions that took place during the meeting of the Planning Board on Wednesday, June 27. Based upon my review of that summary, I am confused and disturbed. I identify two sources of concern.

1) A number of times the Planning Board suggested that the bylaws they are developing should address both premises use and industrial use. This suggestion seems to contradict our overwhelming rejection of IWT installations. Why is the Planning Board devoting time and energy to develop a bylaw extending to a technology that the town has unequivocally banned?

To facilitate their efforts, Planning Board members have put forward several model bylaw templates; for example, those of the Massachusetts Division of Energy Systems and the State Department of Energy Resources (DOER). These templates all reflect a strong bias on the part of those in Massachusetts state government in favor of siting wind turbines of any size nearly anywhere. These templates do not adequately incorporate the growing international, national and state understanding of the adverse health and property value impacts of industrial wind turbines that are sited too close to residences.

The Planning Board has also put forward for-consideration the model bylaw of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC). Interestingly, this template makes it clear that it is inappropriate for use by Shelburne. The BRPC wind turbine bylaw template titled “Model Large Scale Wind Energy Facility Zoning Bylaw” states (page 1)

• “The decision to allow or prohibit large-scale wind energy facilities is a decision to be made by each community after an open and inclusive public process.”

• “This model bylaw is intended to assist communities that have made a community decision to allow large-scale wind energy facilities within its boundaries.”

• “This bylaw is not intended to regulate small wind energy facilities or meteorological towers.”

It seems to me that:

• Shelburne has “made a decision, after an open and inclusive public process.” We do not want “to allow large- scale wind energy facilities within [our town] boundaries.”

• This template, intended for communities who have decided “to allow large scale wind energy facilities,” is therefore entirely inappropriate for the Planning Board to be considering.

• Shelburne has endorsed premises-wind installations, if properly sited. But the BRPC template explicitly states it “is not intended [for] small wind energy facilities.”

Why is the Planning Board doing this? Why is it using bylaw templates designed for wind projects publicly banned in Shelburne, bylaws that are not intended for those wind projects publicly approved in Shelburne? Just who is the Planning Board planning for?

1) In its discussion of wind turbines, I believe the Planning Board continues to reveal confusion regarding what “science is” and how it is relevant to any ongoing discussion of wind turbines. I have heard of such statements from members of the Planning Board as “The research has been done over and over and the science is clear. Either you agree or you don’t” and “There is no need to wait for more research to be performed.”

Demonstrated scientific conclusions are not something about which you have an opinion or can agree or disagree. You cannot have differing opinions about the speed of light: it is what it is. You cannot have differing opinions about the risk of diseases caused by smoking: they are what they are.

However, it does take time for science to fully and accurately identify and demonstrate the effects of different behavioral practices (cigarette smoking), different physical phenomenon (the speed of light) and different industrial technologies that can adversely affect human beings (the use of DDT and asbestos).

A more immediate example of the evolving science involving adverse health effects of IWTs is Falmouth, MA and its wind turbines. The turbines sited there were sited subject to state siting guidelines; they reflect DOER model bylaws; the state Dept. of Environmental Protection and the Dept. of Public Health commissioned a study that said that the “best existing science” demonstrated that there was no evidence that such IWTs had adverse health effects. Yet people at Falmouth, the guinea pigs, said otherwise. They were suffering. People (who did not live there) said they must be whiners, sissies and/or NIMBYs. Yet the state finally conducted an additional scientific study and declared on May 16, 2012 (see Boston Globe article) that there were noise problems at the Falmouth site, problems that have been linked to adverse health effects by scientific analysis.

Indeed, this evolving nature of scientific study is explicitly noted by the BRPC model wind zoning bylaw (endorsed by the Planning Board) at § 1.8.d: (emphasis added):

“Wind turbine noise is one of the most controversial aspects of wind turbine siting and operation … Wind turbines still produce both audible and low-frequency noise whose propagation varies depending on a myriad of factors, such as topography, atmospheric conditions, tree cover and wind direction. Credible experts disagree over the health impacts caused by noise emitted by wind turbines. At this time, bona fide health concerns exist over wind turbine noise. Until the health impacts of wind turbine noise are more fully understood, this bylaw takes a precautionary approach by requiring large setbacks to the nearest off-site inhabited building.”

In summation, I ask why is the Shelburne Planning Board:

• Crafting zoning bylaws for wind-turbines the size of which has been banned in Shelburne;

• In doing so, using some model bylaws that have an undeniable bias in favor of the banned technology – IWTs.

• Using another more-reasoned model bylaw that explicitly states it is designed for communities that have embraced (rather than banned) industrial-scale wind turbines and that it is not appropriate for the wind turbine usage that has been embraced by Shelburne (i.e., small-scale, premises-use turbines);

• All the while making incorrect statements about the state of science regarding the adverse health effects of the banned technology – IWTs?

A Shelburne resident, Ray Hartman says he “favors alternative energy but is very concerned about the adverse health effects of IWTs placed too close to residences.” He is a MIT PhD mathematical economist who specializes in studies of industrial organization and has been on the faculties of MIT, BU and UCAL/Berkeley. He has studied, published and testified as an expert witness in cases involving energy markets, pharmaceutical markets and a variety of other markets. He has testified as an expert witness for the Commonwealth during tobacco litigation in the 1990, in Medicaid fraud cases against pharmaceutical companies, in the deregulation of the electric power industry in New England and in cases involving requests for rate increases by specific Massachusetts electric and gas companies.

Source:  By Raymond S. Hartman | Shelburne Falls & West County Independent | 3 August 2012

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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