Back Wind Siting Act

Back Wind Siting Act, Berkshire Eagle Editorial
Friday, June 26

Unless we plan on moving back into caves we will continue to need energy, and unless we are content to continue polluting the atmosphere and fueling the scourge of global warming, we will need alternative sources of energy. One of those sources is wind power, which the Berkshires have the potential to supply in considerable quantity. Wind energy developers, however, are hindered by the absence of statewide siting standards. Local communities should have input into these wind turbine siting decisions, and anti-wind zealots should not be allowed to gum up every project regardless of its merits. To address all of these concerns, the Legislature has produced the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act of 2009.

The state produces 7 milliwatts (MW) of energy through wind power, and Governor Patrick wants the state to produce 2,000 MW by 2020. Among the goals of the Green Communities Act passed last year is to clarify rules and regulations pertaining to renewable energy projects and to assure that there is local input and that needless red tape doesn't hinder good proposals. Hence, the reform act.

Wind turbine opponents bristle at being called NIMBYs, but their opposition to the 30 MW Hoosac Wind project in Florida and Monroe leaves them wide open to this charge. The success they have enjoyed in hamstringing the project since 2001 through a variety of appeals is a major reason why the Reform Act must be passed. This project will not violate any gorgeous vistas. Although opponents pay lip service to local input into these projects, town officials in Florida and Monroe support the project that the self-appointed defenders of the mountaintops oppose. The Department of Environmental Protection and Berkshire Superior Court have determined that the project meets wetland standards, yet foes continue to make cynical use of a well-meaning appeals process to stop a project they are against simply because it involves wind power.

The Reform Act requires that statewide wind siting standards be drawn up that will "protect residential neighborhoods, significant scenic and recreational resources, and environmentally sensitive areas." Local conditions can be imposed, but not if they are imposed without merit simply to restrict or stop the project. As such, the Act is not designed to restrict local control of wind projects, as foes claim, but to restrict the ability of opponents to tie these projects in knots for years. It was the unreasonably rabid opposition of foes of Hoosac Wind, and more infamously, the Cape Cod wind project, that led to the Reform Act.

No true environmentalist should be content with America's addiction to fossil fuels as an energy source, which not only pollutes the atmosphere but leaves the United States at the mercy of Middle Eastern potentates and greedy domestic oil producers. We must develop more alternative energy sources, and happily we have a governor and a president who support this effort. That means wind energy. That means solar energy. That means nuclear power and biomass. Every bit of energy produced by these alternatives, no matter how small, reduces our reliance on foreign oil. Every energy source has drawbacks, but none more severe than those of gas, oil and coal.

There are several wind turbine projects proposed for the Berkshires, and not every one of them should pass muster. With approval of the Reform Act, criteria will be established for developers to meet and local residents and officials will have a role in the development process. The Act threatens only the anti-wind ideologues who don't want to be deprived of monkey wrenches to toss into the works. We urge the Berkshire legislative delegation to advocate passage of the Wind Siting Reform Act.

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