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Kingston selectmen offer recommendation on surety funds for O’Donnell turbines

KINGSTON – Selectmen don’t think that wind turbine developer Mary O’Donnell should have to pay a surety now for the future decommissioning of her three turbines.

That’s what they’re telling the Planning Board as it debates “a date certain,” or the time by which O’Donnell should have funds in place to cover the cost of removing the turbines in the event she abandons the Marion Drive machines.

Rather than change the zoning bylaw that states that the town may set a date certain for a surety for decommissioning, as O’Donnell originally proposed, selectmen say the best option would be to leave the bylaw alone and make a decision solely on the O’Donnell project.

They decided Tuesday night to send a letter to the Planning Board recommending Jan. 1, 2025, as the date by which a future Board of Selectmen would have another discussion about whether a date certain should even be set.

O’Donnell said some cities and towns don’t bother with setting a date for decommissioning. She suggested and was granted the 10-year time frame.

Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore asked O’Donnell if she was agreeing in 10 year’s time to put an amount of money in an escrow account but in the interim would agree to the town withholding money as a precaution against abandoning the turbine.

“Absolutely,” O’Donnell said. “First thing: Why would I abandon them? I have three. It’s not like I have one, so it makes no sense … I’ll do whatever is fair and makes common sense, I love common sense.”

The Board of Selectmen and O’Donnell’s company, No Fossil Fuel Inc., have a 20-year agreement (with two additional five-year options, for a total of 30 years) for the operation of her turbines on private land.

According to Town Administrator Robert Fennessy, the Board of Selectmen has contractual authority, but the Planning Board has the authority to determine that “date certain.”

Fiore said the selectmen’s intention is not to slight the Planning Board but to respond to its request for feedback.

Selectman Dick Arruda said the concept of a decommissioning surety is foreign to him, especially for a project on private land. But he agreed to the 10 years.

“I think 10 years would be appropriate,” he said. “On private property it’s Mary’s problem not the town’s.”

Selectmen agreed to treat the Kingston Wind Independence turbine on town property separately when that subject was raised.

Due to holiday plans, O’Donnell may or may not attend the Planning Board meeting set for Monday. Dec. 22, when the subject is scheduled to be revisited.