December 3rd will likely be deja-vu day on Beacon Hill when state lawmakers hear testimony regarding the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (WESRA). The controversial legislation before the state’s Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities, and Energy are H.2980 by Rep. Smizik (D-Brookline) and S.1591 by Sen. Finegold (D-Andover).
It was just over 2 years ago (Oct 20, 2011) when 8 hours of testimony on the same bill proposals (by the same two) were entertained by the same committee at the Barnstable High School. During the daylong hearing then, committee members, joined by almost every member of the Cape Cod state delegation, heard from nearly one hundred speakers who either praised the bills for a clean energy future or the horrors of living near large wind turbines.
Neil Andersen of Falmouth told of his injurious health experiences. Then and current committee co-chairman Sen. Benjamin Downing, (D-Pittsfield), said the committee would ask the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Public Health to meet with Falmouth residents as part of a review of health impacts from the operation of wind turbines. Did that happen? NO.
DEP spokesman Edmund Coletta said to the committee back then, “We have just learned of this request today, and we are looking forward to discussing this idea with the committee.” When in reality, the DEP had been notified of the Falmouth wind turbine problem as early as March 2011. The Falmouth Board of Health had dispatched a letter to the DEP requesting urgent guidance regarding the existence of a potential wind turbine nuisance condition. A side-stepping mischaracterization of the actual truth perhaps?
Francis Pullaro, then and current Executive Director of Renewable Energy New England (RENEW), testified 2 years ago, citing the state expert panel convened to examine the existing health impact literature associated with exposure to wind turbines. He stated that the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Environmental Protection (DEP) joint report would prove the inaccuracy of previous testimony of speakers like Falmouth’s Mr. Anderson (the report, BTW, was 2 1/2 months away from being released). Suspicious that he knew something about the study’s conclusions that had yet to be concluded. Blowing ‘hot air’? YES!
The March 2011 Falmouth Board of Health request to the state, despite Mr. Pullaro’s argument, was (and is) clearly an issue undeniably recognized as a public health issue that needed answers. With the report’s release (Jan 2012), Mr. Pullaro’s argument has since been debunked (more recently, see Judge orders turbine limits).
Sue Reid, the then and current Vice President and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Law Foundation, and now co- chair of the MA Bar Association’s Energy & Environment Task Force, said “Good projects are being held at bay too long. All energy sources have trade-offs, including severe health problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels,” she added. How dare she endorse a principle of making citizens disposable simply because that’s how “the energy business” is done!
Numerous Massachusetts officials raised concerns 2 years ago, primarily concerned about the shifting of decision making authority from local boards, such as planning, zoning or conservation commissions, to a single board having no local over-sight. Then and current Bourne Town Administrator Thomas Guerino told the committee that a similar concept was included in the Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Act in 1981. And that idea didn’t work either! “Simply dusting off a piece of legislation from earlier times and inserting new intent is not reassuring to cities and towns of the commonwealth,” he said.
Barnstable Town Councilor Ann Canedy speaking only for herself, told the committee then, “I don’t believe the town of Barnstable needs these standards, needs your goals or needs your authority.” One has to wonder, being witness to the ongoing Falmouth Experience, as well as the state’s Attorney General approval of Falmouth’s new wind turbine bylaw, whether any Falmouth Selectmen will show the same grit?
State officials, 2 years ago, did their best to counter the contention that the bill would usurp local control. Barbara Kates-Garnick, the then and current energy undersecretary at the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs told the committee “There is nothing in this bill, and I mean nothing, that will take away local control.” After re-reading these same bills, that only differ in their filing numbers from 2 years ago, it’s appears Ms. Kates-Garnick had shared too much company with DEP spokesman Mr. Edmund Coletta. I wonder whether she’ll deploy the same vitriol this go around? A Saint Jude intervention may be in order!
Then and current committee co-chairman Rep. John Keenan, (D-Salem), 2 years ago cited that much of the obstinate testimony focused on the loss of local control, but proposed another reason for the opposition: a mistrust of government.
If the combined “comedy of errors” demonstrated by Falmouth and state agencies define only one barrier preventing WESRA passage, as certain 2 years ago as today, Mr. Keenan’s assessment remains the proverbial understatement!
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities, and Energy must realize that these pieces of legislation were a bad deal for towns and citizens 2 years ago, and that towns and citizens throughout Massachusetts won’t tolerate recycled political trash.
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