March 7, 2018
Rhode Island

Wind turbines coming to a backyard near you? State office pushes bill that would take away local authority over wind energy siting

Turbines could be coming to backyard near you | By Kendra Lolio | Pawtucket Times / Woonsocket Call | March 7, 2018 |

COVENTRY – The state’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) is proposing a bill that would direct local municipalities to meet certain renewable energy siting standards by implementing ordinances dictating where such facilities can be built in each city or town.

Coventry has had a particularly interesting relationship with renewable energy over the last several years. Many residents have expressed concerns about several wind turbines installed in Greene by Green Energy Development, which they claim are causing issues with noise and shadow flicker, among other things. There are also concerns about solar installations in town.

The bill being proposed, 2018H7793, would require that by July 1, 2019 all cities and towns throughout the state establish renewable energy siting ordinances that meet certain standards that will be set by a group in the OER. The legislation is slated to be heard by the House Environment Committee this Thursday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 203 of the Statehouse.

The legislation is being introduced by Representatives Arthur Handy, Lauren Carson, Kathleen Fogarty, Daniel McKiernan and Jean Phillipe Barros, who formally submitted the bill on Feb. 28. The goal, according to the bill’s text, is to implement energy siting ordinances “as a means of achieving the renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals of the state, while promoting equity and protecting natural resources.”

Cities and towns will have to file their renewable energy siting ordinances with the OER for review, “to verify that such ordinances are consistent with state renewable energy law and programs.” The OER will consult with the statewide planning division to review the ordinances prior to the town holding a public hearing to adopt them.

The OER has said it will establish a “working group” to develop the standards and model ordinances municipalities will be able to use. The group will consist of several individuals, including someone representing municipal interests, three individuals representative of rural areas, three representatives of coastal areas, three representatives of urban areas, two with expertise in state and federal renewable energy laws and programs and several others representing renewable energy development, conservation and environmental interests.

The OER says it will host a minimum of four public meetings on the development of the siting guide and model ordinances. They expect to finalize model ordinances by Jan. 1, 2019.

Coventry Town Councilor Karen Carlson said this week she believes the bill will “create mandates which could potentially tie local hands on where energy facilities can be located.”

Carlson said she encourages residents to attend the hearing at the Statehouse this Thursday and provide testimony to make their voices heard.

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