Proposed legislation that would compensate Massachusetts residents who have been adversely affected by wind turbines reached the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy last week during a virtual public hearing.
The bill, filed by state Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), would establish the Wind Energy Relief Fund using money already available from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund. There would be two funds available under the broader Wind Energy Relief Fund: $15 million allocated to compensating residents, businesses and municipalities directly affected by the adverse impacts of wind turbines; and a second fund of $7.5 million known as the Wind Turbine Decommissioning or Relocation Fund, which is dedicated to funding the relocation and decommission of problematic turbines.
Giving testimony at the hearing were Louise Grabowski, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts, and Lilli-Anne Green, Wellfleet’s delegate in the county assembly of delegates and secretary of the Wellfleet Energy and Climate Committee. Both gave three-minute-long testimonies in support of the bill.
“I’ll speak to the health impacts standpoint, since that’s my field of expertise,” said Ms. Green, who represents Wellfleet in the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates. “Since 2010 I’ve researched the health impacts of wind turbines. I’ve conducted videotaped interviews with over 200 people in 15 countries around the world. The reality is that wind turbines cause health problems for people living and working nearby, and the symptoms can be dire.”
The symptoms that Ms. Green referenced are usually some combination of difficulty sleeping, fatigue, depression, irritability, aggressiveness, cognitive dysfunction, chest pain/pressure, headaches, joint pain, skin irritations, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus and stress.
Studies have suggested that these symptoms can often be attributed to the pressure of sound waves generated by wind turbines in the form of noise and infrasound. That, along with electromagnetic waves, can adversely affect those who are hypersensitive, but sensitivity levels tend to differ from person to person. Differences in sensitivity to sound or electromagnetic waves might explain why not everyone in the same vicinity or even in the same home experiences the same effects, according to a 2011 study published by the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society.
“In Massachusetts, people have been told by their doctors to move and some have abandoned their homes,” Ms. Green said. “This is a dose response; the symptoms become worse over time. Not one person who stayed near a wind turbine reported to us that they got used to it or it got better.”
Ms. Grabowski said, “I’m speaking in support of H3373, which requires no increase in state funding—that’s the good part—and would help municipalities and citizens recover financially by providing two compensation funds.”
Ms. Grabowski spoke on behalf of Wind Wise Massachusetts, which she explained is a “nonprofit statewide volunteer group that is in alliance with grassroots organizations and individuals and what we do is raise awareness of wind energy impacts.”
Both Ms. Grabowski and Ms. Green said the need for a Wind Energy Relief Fund has increased, citing Falmouth’s two failed turbine projects, which have been decommissioned, as evidence of a need for compensation.
“The courts in Falmouth have determined that wind turbines there must stop to protect the health of citizens,” Ms. Green said. “Furthermore, the judge determined that the wind turbines there created irreparable harm to the citizens living nearby. There are 23 verified locations across Massachusetts where people have reported health impacts from wind turbines.”
In her testimony, Ms. Grabowski explained that through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center the funds are readily available, but there is currently no process to help get that money to people who have been impacted.
“This bill says, ‘Oh, let’s get the executive office of administration of finance to handle the administration and take some funds from the renewable energy trust and put it in there,’” Ms. Grabowski said. “Then there’s no conflict of interest with Mass Clean Energy Center controlling renewable energy trust funds for wind projects and it dispels any conflicts of interest.”
Ms. Grabowski said hundreds of complaints have been filed in Massachusetts regarding adverse impacts from wind turbines. She told the committee that more than 850 complaints have been filed in Bourne and Plymouth, where similar wind turbines were commissioned in 2006 and 2012.
“I just want to end by saying the various communities promoted and welcomed clean energy wind projects, they received funding, and now they’ve experienced various adverse impacts as a result of the projects,” Ms. Grabowski said. “We feel they once again deserve funding to compensate for losses incurred. And this will provide other municipalities who might be thinking about installing wind turbines with a level of comfort, knowing they won’t be put in a predicament that some towns like Falmouth have and are facing. This is especially important and we need your help, and we hope that you will report on this bill favorably.”
In addition to speaking in support of the bill, both Ms. Grabowski and Ms. Green expressed trepidation about moving forward with additional wind turbine projects and urged the committee to do more research before siting more turbines in the commonwealth.
“To me, the precautionary principle makes sense: first prove it does no harm; then approve moving forward with industrial wind power plants if indeed it causes no harm,” Ms. Green said. “Please see the logic to wait until we know that these powerful wind turbines will not harm human health or the health of the endangered whales or fish or birds prior to approving legislation, opening the doors to do more wind turbines.
“I believe in responsible solutions to our adverse impacts on the environment, and there are many. And I ask you to wait and make sure the proliferation of wind turbines is actually responsible and a solution before moving forward with even more. There are other solutions that we can take. I support them. I’ve been working in the environmental field for decades and I just think it’s prudent to move forward cautiously and really look at health and safety issues first.”
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