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 Massachusetts Environmental Monitor, 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 may also 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, a draft guidelines proposal 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.
There are plenty of examples for such guidelines in other states and countries that will also be reviewed, said Catherine Finneran, senior director for renewable energy generation at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is assisting the DPU.
“It’s very much in the beginning of the process and the information-collecting phase,” Finneran said.
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.
Green said opponents of this kind of siting measures will ask that the DPU extend the deadline for comments.
“They’re asking for comments almost immediately on a topic that’s very broad and very deep,” she said.
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