- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Judge blocks intervention in Falmouth turbine case

FALMOUTH – The Barnstable Superior Court judge who deemed the town’s two wind turbines a nuisance and ordered them permanently shut down in June is sticking with that ruling.

Judge Cornelius Moriarty has denied a motion to intervene in the case filed recently by the Green Center, a nonprofit educational institute in Hatchville that supports ecological projects, and a group of Falmouth residents. They were looking for the judge to alter his ruling and come up with a more moderate solution to the problem.

“It is unlikely that the proposed intervenors could establish standing,” Moriarty wrote in his denial. “Moreover, the motion is untimely.”

Green Center member George Woodwell had not yet received the decision from the court clerk and reacted to news of the denial with dismay Wednesday.

“That’s a strange step from my perspective,” Woodwell said. “The logic and consistency of the series of decisions by this judge is difficult to see.”

Moriarty’s June ruling came in response to a complaint filed by the town against the Zoning Board of Appeals and Barry and Diane Funfar, who live near the turbines.

The town was looking to overturn the zoning board’s ruling that the turbines at the Falmouth wastewater treatment facility represented a nuisance to nearby residents.

Moriarty determined they were a nuisance and ordered them shut down permanently.

The selectmen decided not to appeal that decision.

Late last month, the Green Center and a dozen Falmouth citizens filed the motion asking to be allowed to intervene, arguing taxpayer interests had not been adequately protected by town officials.

The group emphasized it was not trying to overturn the court’s decision but was seeking a hearing to present alternative remedies to a total shutdown of the machines.

In their submission, they wrote that the motion was not filed earlier because it was not apparent during the trial that led to Moriarty’s ruling that taxpayers were not being properly represented. It only became evident when the selectmen decided not to appeal that ruling, they said.

In addition to the Green Center, the proposed intervenors are Earle Barnhart, John Carlton-Foss, Rhona Carlton, James Churchill, Hilde Maingay, Pamela Pelletreau, Robert Pelletreau, Christina Rawley, Allison White, George Woodwell, Katharine Woodwell and Ron Zweig.

Barry Funfar recently expressed frustration that the turbine debate was continuing. “To me, the ones who filed the motion aren’t just regular citizens. It’s more like a political coalition advocating for green energy,” he said.

Paying the attorney’s costs for turbine suits has forced the 71-year-old to remortgage his house three times. “We’ve essentially lost our home,” Funfar said. “I have the feeling my best years were used fighting the turbines. I’m never going to be able to reclaim what I had.”

Attorney James Rosenblum, representing the Funfars, argued in his response to the motion that those looking to intervene had no stake in the issue other than as local taxpayers and town residents, which was not sufficient to give them legal standing.

“What they have is a sort of generalized interest in wind power that qualifies for resolution in the political sphere alone …” Rosenblum wrote.

In his rebuttal, the Green Center’s attorney, George Boerger, wrote that his clients did not need to establish standing to file a motion to intervene in an existing case.

Rosenblum argued the motion came too late, but Boerger noted it came five months after Moriarty’s ruling, well within the year’s time frame allowed in certain instances for a motion for relief from judgment.

Wind 1 went online in 2010 and Wind 2 began operating in February 2012. Their operation drew intense opposition almost immediately from neighbors, who said they were experiencing turbine-related health issues. Several neighbors filed lawsuits to get the turbines shut down.

Wind 1 has been shut down since 2015, when it was denied a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Wind 2 was ordered permanently shut down when Moriarty deemed the operation of both turbines a nuisance.

That ruling will cause the town considerable expense, possibly running over $10 million.

The amount includes $4.62 million left in debt on the construction of Wind 1, $2.9 million for the loan on Wind 2, $1.4 million to $1.8 million for electricity to operate the wastewater treatment plant in the next 12 years, and $1.65 million owed to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over the next 15 years in place of renewable energy credits.