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Watch Out for WESRA Lite — Goodby Local Control of Wind Siting

July 9, 2012

The newest version of the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, a WESRA lite, is now H.4112 – An Act relative to the development of wind siting standardsH.4112 is currently in the House Ways and Means committee.

This bill gives a state agency mostly appointed by the governor the authority to establish rules and regulations for the siting of onshore wind turbines.

Governor Patrick insists the bill allows local control, a point he made to the editors and reporters of the Berkshire Eagle, recently. “The bill is all about local decision-making,” he added, “and it is about a clarity of path. It’s not about the state saying where these things go, it’s about a community deciding, with all the input it can bring to bear, whether a single turbine or a project in their community or neighboring communities makes sense so there’s some clarity about the end.”

The clarity of path, however, is the purpose behind the bill–written for wind development.

According to Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto, Lenox’s State Representative “Smitty” Pignatelli finds the bill  “poorly written.” He said, “Personally, I hope it never gets out of committee.”

WESRA Lite gives a state agency, the Energy Facilities Siting Board,  the power to make rules and regulations on turbine siting. Initially, the EFSB establishes an advisory panel to recommend standards under its direction.  But if the advisory panel is not able to agree on standards recommendations, the EFSB can proceed to adopt whatever rules and regulations it wishes.

The EFSB acts with the approval of the governor’s political appointee, the Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs.

This bill gives the governor ultimate authority over the regulation of land-based wind facilities and associated transmission lines. The clearest fact about this bill is that it overrides local control.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Kapsambelis permalink
    July 10, 2012 8:21 am

    A cursory examination of wind energy’s progress throughout the world shows that it cannot expand without the elimination of local control. This is true in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Closer to home, Ontario’s Governor succeeded in bypassing local control and thousands are marching in the streets. In Wisconsin where the state controls wind turbine siting, a bill has been introduced to regain local control.

    The lesson to be learned is that wind energy on land cannot advance without the elimination of local control. Local boards now are aware of the problems and are blocking one project after another. The governor’s plan is to first establish a siting standard under state control. Step two will be to appoint a state board with the authority to apply the standard. Local boards will be limited to rejecting only the projects that fail to comply with the state standard.

    Up to now state standards have been advisory, and allow for local boards to adopt more stringent requirements as they see fit. Like the defeated WESRA, look for the governor to make his standard mandatory, giving the state full control of wind turbine siting.

  2. July 9, 2012 3:19 pm

    A recent Boston Globe article quipped “driving this growth (industrial wind turbines) are technological advances reducing the cost of wind turbines and increasing their efficiency…” Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Wind Turbine Health Impact Report’s (Jan. 2012), sponsored by the Mass DEP & DPH, urged further and more definitive health effect studies, but the recommendations have been ignored and go without budgeting.

    Another fortuitous observation from the article “with the 10 year Cape Wind controversy undecided …meaning that more land-based projects will be needed to achieve renewable energy goals…”. This is merely the new “GASLAND” being played out in Mass! In the documentary, the 20 year veteran of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Weston Wilson, offers an insight of the governmental malfeasance into the “blind-eye” given developers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Mr. Wilson said, while explaining why the EPA was not ‘on duty’ – “when the President (i.e. Governor Patrick) says to his bureaucracy, don’t investigate. Expedite things for industry. We do those jobs well too”. Wilson empathized with the interviewer by stating, “what we should be picking up from these citizens (i.e. water contaminant or wind turbine victims- in Falmouth, Fairhaven & Kingston), we’re (EPA) not. We haven’t been directed too.”

    A grievous pattern repeating itself? First Wind Holdings LLC of Boston seems the new Halliburton. First Wind chief executive Paul Gaynor seems the new Dick Cheney. Welcome to “WINDLAND”…. Massachusetts!

    What Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the state’s secretary of of energy and environmental affairs, really meant to say for the piece, “It certainly brings environmental benefits? But make no mistake, it’s going to be ‘our’ economic development strategy come hell or high winds.”

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