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Wind-siting proposal slipping by unnoticed

State energy regulators want public comment on the best way to site wind turbines.

But anyone interested in having a say has only until Dec. 6 to submit initial comments.

In an order issued at the end of October, the state Department of Public Utilities proposed to develop the “wind-siting guidance” in an effort to balance the state’s goals for wind energy with obstacles to installing turbines.

Although there have been a number of legislative efforts to develop wind-siting regulations, including some by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, none of these initiatives has succeeded. Patrick has set a goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind energy in the state by 2020, with the majority of it coming from offshore projects.

And, while the DPU order was advertised in Boston newspapers and in The Environmental Monitor, a state newsletter, there has been little indication that the general public is aware of the opportunity to comment.

The guidelines for best practices that are expected from the DPU process are not regulations but would be offered to towns to use in existing reviews of wind-energy projects, DPU spokeswoman Mary-Leah Assad wrote in an email.

The guidelines also may be used by state permitting agencies or for programs that “involve grants, technical assistance, community engagement and other such activities,” Assad wrote.

In addition to advertising the order in newspapers, emails were sent to hundreds of individuals and organizations, and the order opening the investigation into the guidelines is featured prominently on the DPU homepage, Assad wrote.

Public hearings will be scheduled starting in January, draft guidelines issued by the spring and, depending on the issues raised during the public comment process, final guidance could be issued by the end of 2014.

The process has raised concerns among wind energy opponents. “I believe it’s a way to circumnavigate the law frankly,” said Lilli-Ann Green, a Wellfleet resident and board member on Windwise-Massachusetts and Windwise-Cape Cod, groups that have vociferously opposed wind energy development. “They’re asking for comments almost immediately on a topic that’s very broad and very deep.”

In addition, the order references a panel convened by the state departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection, which issued a report in 2012 reviewing existing literature about health impacts from wind turbines but ignoring hundreds of documents that Green and others gathered, she said. The panel found no evidence that noise and flicker from wind turbines directly causes adverse health effects on people who live near the machines.

“This is a bogus health study,” Green said. “It was a literature review of cherry-picked documents by people who were clearly biased in favor of wind.”

Green said that if the DPU officials move forward with the siting guidelines, a lawsuit would be filed to stop them.