KINGSTON – Legislation proposing the formation of a commission to study the health impacts of wind turbines on residents has the support of the Board of Health.
Board members voted Monday night to send letters to Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, and state Department of Environmental Protection in support of legislation proposed by Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown.
The proposed legislation was the subject of a July 9 hearing in front of the Joint Public Health Committee at the State House. Kingston residents Doreen Reilly and Dan Alves testified during the Tuesday session, along with residents from Scituate, Falmouth, Fairhaven and other towns.
Reilly said she thinks the hearing was informative for the legislators at the hearing. She said the experiences of others who testified sounded so familiar.
“I think they really listened and heard what we had to say,” she said. “Other people there were telling my story.”
As reported by the State House News Service, during a recent appearance on WGBH Patrick told a caller he would not object to an independent scientific study into the health effects of wind turbines.
“My guess is an independent scientific study is going to say that there’s one set of harms, if there are harms, if you stand under it for long periods of time, and they diminish the further away you get,” he said, in answer to the question by a West Falmouth resident advocating for the legislation.
Kingston Wind Independence co-owner and co-manager Kially Ruiz said company officials applaud the board’s decision.
“We would welcome a constructive approach and science-based conversation on wind turbines,” he said. “There are over 300,000 wind turbines in operation worldwide, and wind power has become one of the leading new sources of energy not only in countries such as Denmark, Spain, Germany, China, Japan, Brazil and others, but also right here in the United States.
“The attached link
shows the importance of encouraging and protecting clean sources of energy. The study conducted by scientists in Europe and Japan indicates that even small amounts of air pollution from fossil fuel sources increases the risk of lung cancer, worsens heart failure, and has other significant side effects on public health. In some cases air pollution has the same side effect as living with a smoker and constantly breathing second hand smoke.
“We believe that as the board studies these issues in depth it will find that while wind energy is not perfect and has some minor annoying effects (such as mild levels of noise, and brief periods of shadow flicker), it is by far one of the safest, cleanest, and most pro-health sources of energy we can rely upon. For one, I would rather have my kids live next to a wind turbine than next to a coal, nuclear, or even natural gas power plant.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Health continues to focus its efforts on the health impacts of the wind turbines in town, both due to sound and flicker effect. A second review of flicker study results is expected. The board collected input on what the revised study should entail.
The board is also seeking an independent consultant to review the results of the DEP’s sound study of the Independence turbine when it starts. Board Chairman Joe Casna said Doug Fine, with DEP’s Bureau of Resource Protection, has notified the board that the state regularly uses Harris Miller Miller and Hanson as consultants on noise studies. No decisions on a consultant were made.
Board members are also concerned that the Planning Board is proposing zoning regulations on the siting and operation of future wind turbines, which could be at odds with the flicker regulations the Board of Health wants to develop. They want to be on the same page as the Planning Board and want a joint meeting.
As Board of Health member Toni Cushman said, “The Planning Board should be working with us.”
In the minority, Casna argued that the Planning Board proposed regulation applies to any new projects and doesn’t have to be just like the Board of Health’s regulations. Instead he prefers to take action that would include the Board of Health in the turbine permitting process.