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Falmouth board angered by state response in wind turbine removal

FALMOUTH, MA – After a decade of issues regarding two wind turbines at the Falmouth wastewater treatment plant, town officials said they are no closer to seeing them dismantled.

The wind turbines were built in 2010 and 2013, and since then, neighboring residents have filed several lawsuits alleging the turbines ruined their quality of life, kept them from sleeping, caused physical distress and loss of property value. The lengthy legal battle proceeded until the Falmouth Select Board voted in July 2017 to not operate the wind turbines and explore other options.

Town officials have been working to find ways to remove the turbines and either sell or give them to another community or dispose of them completely. And at Monday’s select board meeting, officials said the rejected the town’s request under a specific law that would have lessened the cost of dismantling the turbines by millions of dollars.

“We have a unique situation,” Town Counsel Frank Duffy said. “All of the Massachusetts general laws provide for putting these things up. There’s no provision in the law that really accommodates us for moving them or taking them down, other than multiple layers of procurement processes, each of which costs a significant amount of money.”

Last year, town meeting approved the town paying $2.5 million to dismantle and store the turbines. Town officials submitted a request to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to have them dismantled as an “energy efficient project.” That designation would allow towns to send the project out to bid an additional time.

But state officials didn’t approve the project, and the denial sent the town back to the drawing board on how to remove the turbines without spending even more money. Finance Director Jennifer Mullen said the town is working with the engineering firm, Weston and Sampson, to figure out a plan.

Select Board member Doug Jones said it was infuriating that the state denied their request.

“I remain extremely frustrated that the state on one hand is going to say we have to pay the $3.5 million, but on the other is hand, saying ‘We’re not going to help you,'” Jones said.

Select Board Chair Megan English Braga said the town needs to speak with state officials and find solutions. She added that every dollar the town continues pouring into this “lost cause” is money Falmouth can’t spend on future renewable energy.