November 22, 2012

Scituate Wind: Group to look at turbine issues

By Ruth Thompson | Wicked Local Scituate | Nov 22, 2012 |

As a means to address the issue of the wind turbine, the Scituate Board of Health voted unanimously at their Nov. 14 meeting to form a steering committee.

The committee will be comprised of a member of the board of health, the health director, representatives of Scituate Wind, LLC and members of the community.

This decision was made during the board’s Nov. 14 meeting, which had a standing room only crowd.

The majority of those in attendance were residents who live near to the turbine, located along the Driftway, who have been experiencing adverse health effects since the turbine went online earlier this year.

Residents had petitioned the board of health to shut down the turbine and were disappointed that the board did not support a motion made by board member Francis Lynch to shut down the turbine from approximately 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Gilson Street resident Tom Thompson said he is not surprised that the board of health decided to create a committee in lieu of making the decision to dismantle and relocate the industrial wind turbine.

Thompson said he feels that, in defense of the health and safety of the residents of the Town of Scituate, the wind turbine must be dismantled and relocated to a location at least 1.5 miles from any residential home.

“This industrial wind turbine, a power plant, was inappropriately sited and should have never been constructed so close to residential neighborhoods,” he said.

Mark McKeever and his family live closest to the wind turbine – it is approximately 640 feet from their property line to the base of the turbine.

“At least the board of health did decide to form a steering committee to address the turbine issues,” McKeever said. “It is important that this committee is formed with the appropriate people.”

McKeever said his family has suffered from sleep deprivation, headaches, anxiety and dizziness due to the noise and shadow/flicker from the turbine.

A video the McKeevers filmed at their home at 1:18 p.m. on November 10 was played in a continual loop during the board of health meeting. The video shows the extent of the flicker the McKeever home is subjected to.

“The flicker has become overwhelming,” McKeever said. “It is in every room in our home, as well as the front and back yards. We often get headaches from it.”

He said the flicker can last up to three hours per day and that his family has left their home on numerous occasions just to get away from it.

“We shouldn’t have to do that,” he said. “This is our home. It is supposed to be a safe and enjoyable place to be. Scituate Wind and the town board members have taken that away from us. It makes me wonder would it be different if one of their family members were being affected in this way? Would they allow this to happen to tem? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I tend to think not.”

He said that no one from Scituate Wind, the board of health, the board of selectmen, or the town administrator’s office has visited his home to learn more about what he and his family have been experiencing.

Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation and Palmer Management Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC said his firm believes any study should be a collaborative effort, and concurs that a steering committee is the correct approach.

During the meeting Deane said he would like to be a member of the committee.

“It’s logical that I would help to represent Scituate Wind in this process, which could have significant ramifications,” he said.

Deane gave a presentation before the board focusing on a complaints review, nighttime power production, and town agreements, loan agreements and costs regarding shutting the turbine down.

Several residents voiced concerns that information in Deane’s presentation was false and misleading, specifically the number of complaints that have been filed in regard to the turbine.

McKeever said he felt Deane’s showed more concern for the loss of revenue that the health concerns for the affected Scituate residents.

“He also reminded the town they would be subject to additional costs if the turbine were shut down at night,” McKeever said. “It is unbelievable to me that my family and neighbors’ health has to suffer over a poorly placed industrial wind turbine.”

Thompson echoed McKeever in believing that Deane’s presentation was focused on the financial and contractual implications to Palmer Capital and Scituate Wind, with the underlying message being the potential of litigation being brought against the Town of Scituate should they be ordered to execute an intermittent operation or complete shutdown.

“Mr. Deane seems more concerned about the health and safety of his balance sheet than the health and safety of the families so severely impacted by the inappropriate siting of this industrial wind turbine,” he said. “Who puts a power plant 640 feet from where a family lives?”

Thompson also said it was his understanding that Deane, on behalf of Palmer Capital and Scituate Wind, was asked by the board of health to discuss the feasibility of intermittent operation of the industrial wind turbine.

“His presentation did not address this issue in the context of how best to execute intermittent operation of the industrial wind turbine in defense of the health and safety of the residents of Scituate,” he said.

Thompson said he feels that Deane “continues to underestimate the community’s grasp of the facts around this issue, and the level of research conducted by certain of its members specific to the permitting process.”

“There was no better example of this than when Mr. Deane presented his cherry picked report that misrepresented amongst other things, wind direction and intensity, as well as the number and nature of the complaints registered with the board of health,” Thompson said. “When challenged, Mr. Deane surprisingly did not seem to know where the information he presented came from.”

However, Deane said it is too early to discuss contract or loan defaults, and any legal ramifications.

“We certainly hope it does not come down to legal action by any party,” he said.

He also said that, “everyone needs to remember that the turbine that is installed in Scituate is the result of a multi-year study process and approval at special Town Meeting.”

“The town then requested that a private party build the turbine exactly where it is built so that the town could buy all of the power generated,” he said. “The turbine that is installed is written into the lease and power purchase agreement. It would be disingenuous of the town to say now that the turbine is in the wrong location or that it cannot operate at this location or that the town will not buy the power. Scituate Wind expended significant funds to provide a service to the town at the town’s request.”

As for the shadow/flicker video, which played for most of the board of health meeting, Deane said the 33-second video that was allowed to loop for two hours, “Which is significantly longer than any projections of flicker at that location.”

“When the town granted the special permit for the turbine, the town knew the projected level of flicker,” he said. “Flicker is specifically discussed in the special permit.”

Additionally, Deane said that just as the Greenbush Line included mitigation measures negotiated by the town, the special permit includes a specific mitigation measure negotiated during the permitting process, requiring that Scituate Wind plant evergreen trees to help screen the view of the turbine from the property of the nearest residential neighbor.

“Those trees are now planted exactly where requested by that neighbor,” he said.

Steering committee

Is forming a steering committee the answer?

Thompson said the neighbors have a number of concerns regarding the proposed constitution of the committee and its mandate.

“We are concerned that most members of the committee will not support a complete acoustical and shadow flicker analysis that accurately reflects the noise and shadow flicker intensity experienced by members of this community,” he said. “We are also extremely concerned that the committee’s decision-making authority is weighted significantly in favor of Scituate Wind, LLC and the board of health; the same board of health that didn’t have the moral compass to support Mr. Lynch’s motion to discontinue operation of the industrial wind turbine during evening and early morning hours.”

Furthermore, Thompson said there are concerns regarding the selection process that may be utilized to select what should be a qualified, non-biased, arms-length engineering firm to deliver this study; an engineering firm that understands the accurate nuances of sound and light.

“Finally, we are cognizant of the fact that the policy of Beacon Hill and the White House is to support renewable energy installations regardless of their impacts on health and safety, property rights or the public treasury. We are not naïve enough to think that these public policy challenges will not impact the decisions of certain members of this steering committee and the board of health.”

Deane said he felt it is “too early to tell” if the issues could be resolved through the committee.

“There are strong opinions, which may not be reconciled to the facts,” he said. “The committee cannot impose an unreasonable scope of work outside the specific requirements set forth in the special permit for testing. Nor can the committee select an unqualified firm for the testing or fail to consider recognized expert firms simply because certain members may not like the results those firms have provided in the past to the town or other parties.”

“A lot of information, and to some extent misinformation, much of which has no relevance to the issue at hand, has been presented to the board of health,” Deane continued. “Fortunately, it appears that the board of health is doing an excellent job of staying focused on the question of whether the turbine is operating in compliance with all of its permit requirements.”

Deane said that if the turbine were not operating in compliance with permit requirements, then Scituate Wind would plan to take steps to bring the project into compliance.

“If the project is in compliance, the project should be able to operate and provide the very service that the town requested and contracted for.”

McKeever said it has been a difficult time for his family.

“The lack of sleep affects everything in our lives,” he said. “We often go to work and school tired. It doesn’t matter which way the wind blows. It is on top of us. We hear it all the time. It isn’t a car that drives by. It is parked in our neighborhood 24/7.”

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