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Kingston Green Energy Committee recommends 30 hour flicker limit

KINGSTON – The Green Energy Committee wants to hire a different consultant to conduct a new flicker study of the Independence wind turbine.

In his presentation to the Planning Board Monday night, Mark Beaton said the study conducted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for the town is flawed and should not be replied upon for factual information.

Instead, he said, Tech Environmental Inc. is offering to conduct a scientific study for $2,150 using more realistic information than that used Mass CEC for its flicker study.

“They’re going to give you the math and the science,” he said.

Beaton shared with the Planning Board a letter from Independence co-owner Kially Ruiz dated Oct. 21. In the letter, Ruiz calls into question the conclusions of the Mass CEC study because he says they are based on incorrect assumptions. Ruiz details the assumptions.

“We have a study that does us no good,” Beaton said. “They might as well not have done it.”

Attorney Jack Yunits, representing Mary O’Donnell, owner of three turbines on Marion Drive, similarly called the Mass CEC study a bad study at Monday’s meeting and said the town shouldn’t rely on its flawed data.

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Health already support hiring K2 Management to help the Board of Health draft a flicker regulation affecting existing and future turbines. Part of the job will involve reviewing the results of the CEC study.

Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore said Town Administrator Robert Fennessy is working on the details of an agreement with K2 Management at a cost of up to $10,000. Selectmen will make a recommendation to the Finance Committee.

“We have a study,” she said. “We just need to know how to use it.”

Beaton said the town doesn’t have the $10,000 to spend on a consultant, particularly one that would be charged with reviewing a flawed study as the basis for a health regulation.

Town Planner Tom Bott said he is working with CEC to further refine the study. It has been acknowledged by CEC upon being questioned previously that a variety of obstacles, including trees, weren’t factored into the first study.

Leland Road resident Sean Reilly disputed that the study is flawed. He said the data that was collected relative to the amount of flicker that affects his family in their house accurately reflects the real impact of it.

The Planning Board has been holding public hearings to gather information for the development of a flicker regulation for siting future turbines.

The Green Energy Committee proposes a 30-hours-a-year limit, while residents upset about the effect they say flicker has on their lives are calling for a limit of zero hours a year. Beaton said the 30-hours-a-year limit has been adopted in other countries overseas and would be reasonable for Kingston.

Beaton referred several times to a January 2012 report from a panel of experts on the health impacts of wind turbines for the departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health to help make his case.

Beaton called flicker an annoyance and questioned just how serious a problem it is in Kingston. In his letter, Ruiz describes flicker as a minor inconvenience. Yunits acknowledged there is a problem with flicker but said O’Donnell wants to work with town counsel on a solution.

Beaton drew an immediate angry response from residents listening to the discussion when he suggested that Munchausen’s Syndrome, defined generally as faking illness for attention, is the basis for complaints from residents.

Prospect Street resident Tina Ferris said she was insulted by Beaton’s use of the term, because he was dismissing the troubles she says her young family has had with flicker. She also worries about the reduced value of her home.

“I know what I’m feeling, and I know how I live on a daily basis,” she said.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Bouchard chided Beaton for being rude, saying he had warned about any bad behavior during the meeting.

As to the argument about reduced property values due to turbines, Beaton has presented the Planning Board with the results of a study that concludes there is no statistical evidence of reduced property value impacts near turbines in the United States. Critics inside and outside of Kingston point to other studies that dispute these findings.

He also presented the Planning Board with an email from a senior staff attorney from the Massachusetts Association of Health Board saying she thinks it would be a stretch for flicker to be considered a nuisance under a DEP regulation on nuisances.

The Planning Board opened its public hearing following this discussion but closed it a short time later after determining that further discussion of the turbines was not necessary.

The hearing has been continued to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25.