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Environmentalists decry Black Pt. turbine plan

Save The Bay, the leading environmental organization in Rhode Island, is opposing a plan to erect a wind turbine at Black Point, a coastal property in Narragansett that was preserved two decades ago using state open-space bonds. The Providence-based organization joined Tuesday with five other environmental advocacy groups - all supporters of green energy - to send a letter to Governor Carcieri that raises questions about the project. The plans being developed by the state Department of Environmental Management and the Town of Narragansett include the installation of up to six large wind turbines at various sites in the town.

PROVIDENCE - Save The Bay, the leading environmental organization in Rhode Island, is opposing a plan to erect a wind turbine at Black Point, a coastal property in Narragansett that was preserved two decades ago using state open-space bonds.

The Providence-based organization joined Tuesday with five other environmental advocacy groups - all supporters of green energy - to send a letter to Governor Carcieri that raises questions about the project. The plans being developed by the state Department of Environmental Management and the Town of Narragansett include the installation of up to six large wind turbines at various sites in the town.

The main focus of the environmentalists' concerns are the 42 acres at Black Point, a rocky strip on Rhode Island Sound the state purchased from Richard P. Baccari's Downing Corporation in 1989 to protect it from residential development. Save The Bay was a leader in the preservation fight.

Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay, said his organization is against any plan to put up a wind turbine at Black Point because, he contends, it would be an industrial use that would mar an otherwise pristine landscape.

"We'd be... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

PROVIDENCE - Save The Bay, the leading environmental organization in Rhode Island, is opposing a plan to erect a wind turbine at Black Point, a coastal property in Narragansett that was preserved two decades ago using state open-space bonds.

The Providence-based organization joined Tuesday with five other environmental advocacy groups - all supporters of green energy - to send a letter to Governor Carcieri that raises questions about the project. The plans being developed by the state Department of Environmental Management and the Town of Narragansett include the installation of up to six large wind turbines at various sites in the town.

The main focus of the environmentalists' concerns are the 42 acres at Black Point, a rocky strip on Rhode Island Sound the state purchased from Richard P. Baccari's Downing Corporation in 1989 to protect it from residential development. Save The Bay was a leader in the preservation fight.

Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay, said his organization is against any plan to put up a wind turbine at Black Point because, he contends, it would be an industrial use that would mar an otherwise pristine landscape.

"We'd be hard-pressed to argue anything but that," Stone said.

The letter to the governor does not go as far in its opposition, but it does question the propriety of a state agency pursuing renewable-energy projects on publicly owned, undeveloped land, and says the state lacks any policy or process to govern the issue.

"The need to establish reliable and self-sustaining renewable energy projects ... should not be viewed as a ‘free pass' to wind-energy facility development on publicly owned lands. The state must consider whether it is appropriate to develop wind energy projects on publicly -owned lands in the first place," the letter says.

The letter was signed by Stone; Lawrence J.F. Taft, executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island; Tricia K. Jedele, vice president and director of the Rhode Island advocacy center of the Conservation Law Foundation; Paul Beaudette, president of the Environment Council of Rhode Island; Rupert Friday, director of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council; and Janet Coit, state director of The Nature Conservancy's Rhode Island chapter.

Amy Kempe, the governor's spokeswoman, said that no decisions have been made on the project.

"That will go through a very comprehensive process if and when DEM chooses to move ahead with those locations," she said.

In May, the DEM issued a request for proposals from developers to install between three and six turbines at one or more locations in Narragansett owned by the state or the town. Besides Black Point, the two other state-owned sites are on the west end of the Escape Road in Galilee and at Camp Cronin, on the west shore of Point Judith. The land owned by the town under consideration includes the Scarborough Treatment Plant on Ocean Road and the Department of Public Works facility on Westmoreland Street.

Energy produced by the proposed turbines would be used at DEM facilities at the Port of Galilee and at state camping grounds and beaches in Narragansett. Or it may be sold into the electrical grid to generate funds for the state agency.

DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan said that the DEM has received proposals from four developers. Each proposal includes the installation of a turbine at Black Point, he said.

Black Point was selected as a possible site because the winds there are relatively strong and constant, said Sullivan. He said that one or more turbines could be installed at Black Point that would be tied directly into the electrical grid. The turbines there likely would not power DEM facilities, but would be used solely to generate money for the agency. Specifically, the funds would go toward open-space preservation programs.

"It could provide revenue that could go to land preservation," Sullivan said. "If it preserves thousands of additional acres by generating money, I think that's an appropriate thing to explore."

But the environmental groups say voters gave their approval to using public money to purchase the land on the understanding that it wouldn't be developed in any way. "There is some question whether land purchased using open space bond money can be designated for what some would consider industrial uses," said Jedele, of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Sullivan disagreed, however, that building a turbine at Black Point would somehow go against the intent of taxpayers who paid for protecting the land. "I don't think at face value it would appear to have some conflict," he said. "It doesn't disrupt your ability to walk on the property or fish from the rocks."

He also argued the contention that there is no process to determine how to balance the two objectives of protecting public lands and supporting green energy. He said that assessment is being done by a committee he sits on that includes staff from the DEM, the state Economic Development Corporation, Statewide Planning, the governor's office and the dean of the University of Rhode Island's Department of Business Administration, along with others. They are reviewing the proposals and will interview the developers starting Friday.

Sullivan will make the final decision on the project.

"The whole process has been to evaluate the public land's potential and to provide a meaningful justification for building a renewable source of energy," he said.


Source: http://www.projo.com/news/c...

OCT 21 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22755-environmentalists-decry-black-pt-turbine-plan
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