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Cape Cod lawmaker pushes for study of wind turbine health effects

A Cape Cod lawmaker and environmentalists are pushing for a study of the health effects of wind turbines on residents who live near the energy-producing machines.

Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) told lawmakers on the Public Health Committee Tuesday that passage of her bill (H 2048) would not cost the state anything because there are health experts and citizens who are “ready and willing and able to study this issue.”

Roxanne Zak, energy committee chair of the Sierra Club, said a study would provide information about the proper amount of distance between wind turbines and residents to prevent health effects on residents. Zak said it is critical for the public to acknowledge “wind turbine syndrome” is real, and that sound and pressure differences can create health problems for some people.

“We can’t dismiss the evidence that people are having problems,” she said.

The majority of Massachusetts residents support wind energy, Zak said, but they need reassurance that projects will be sited properly. “If we want the public to accept wind power, we have to look at both the positive and negative effects of wind turbines,” Zak said.

Legislation intended to address land-based wind turbine siting issues nearly passed during the 2009-2010 session but came up short and failed to gain traction last session.

Supporters of that bill, including the Patrick administration, said it would have helped expedite wind-based turbine projects while preserving the ability of municipalities to reject unwanted projects. In January 2012, an independent report commissioned by the Patrick administration concluded that wind turbines present little more than an “annoyance” to residents and that limited evidence exists to support claims of devastating health impacts.

Falmouth and western Massachusetts residents argued at the time that the report was biased and based on “cherry-picked” information that ignored the real-world impact of turbines.