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Storm over windmills; Foes say Deval's bill may hurt scenic vistas

Gov. Deval Patrick's ambitious wind power plan for Massachusetts is pitting green vs. green. Patrick is pushing legislation that could bring some 1,200 forty-story wind turbines to mountaintops, scenic roadways and coastal vistas, but outraged critics say the pro-business initiative strips communities of a valued voice in where and how the onshore industrial turbines are built.

Gov. Deval Patrick's ambitious wind power plan for Massachusetts is pitting green vs. green.

Patrick is pushing legislation that could bring some 1,200 forty-story wind turbines to mountaintops, scenic roadways and coastal vistas, but outraged critics say the pro-business initiative strips communities of a valued voice in where and how the onshore industrial turbines are built.

Berkshires environmentalist Eleanor Tillinghast has even accused Patrick of reneging on campaign promises.

"The governor campaigned on, ‘Together, we can.' But it's really, ‘Together, we're irrelevant,' " she said.

Supporters of the proposed Wind Energy Siting Reform Act disagree. They say the law's streamlined process would make it easier to bring wind power to Massachusetts and, ultimately, reduce electric bills and limit fossil fuel use.

"We need to make economic choices (to) lead us into the future," said Rep. Barry Feingold, an Andover Democrat and sponsor of legislation.

The bill, now before the Legislature, was crafted this spring, months after Patrick announced plans to develop 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020.

Its authors include Kenneth Kimmell, general counsel for the state Executive... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Gov. Deval Patrick's ambitious wind power plan for Massachusetts is pitting green vs. green.

Patrick is pushing legislation that could bring some 1,200 forty-story wind turbines to mountaintops, scenic roadways and coastal vistas, but outraged critics say the pro-business initiative strips communities of a valued voice in where and how the onshore industrial turbines are built.

Berkshires environmentalist Eleanor Tillinghast has even accused Patrick of reneging on campaign promises.

"The governor campaigned on, ‘Together, we can.' But it's really, ‘Together, we're irrelevant,' " she said.

Supporters of the proposed Wind Energy Siting Reform Act disagree. They say the law's streamlined process would make it easier to bring wind power to Massachusetts and, ultimately, reduce electric bills and limit fossil fuel use.

"We need to make economic choices (to) lead us into the future," said Rep. Barry Feingold, an Andover Democrat and sponsor of legislation.

The bill, now before the Legislature, was crafted this spring, months after Patrick announced plans to develop 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020.

Its authors include Kenneth Kimmell, general counsel for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, along with power company representatives, members of environmental groups and state officials.

No one from Cape Cod or the Berkshires, where most of the turbines would be built, served on the commission that crafted the bill.

After one public hearing, the Legislature is expected to vote on the measure later this month, Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, another sponsor, said yesterday.

If passed, critics say, the law will severely restrict municipalities' say on the turbines' location, operations, impact or financing.

The law would also allow developers whose projects have been rejected by the communities to appeal to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board. The panel is part of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and its members are all Patrick appointees. Several of them are his high-ranking aides.

The situation, said critic Geoff Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, raises "a serious process question."

"They moved the appeals process from the court system, which is a neutral place, to the Energy Facilities Siting Board, which is an advocate," he said.

But Kimmell, whose boss runs the siting board, said the process was designed to "provide uniform, statewide siting standards to foster the growth of wind power."

He noted that siting board decisions may be appealed to the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The law would prohibit the siting board from asking developers about project costs or financing, a policy that troubles critics, who say the industry is awash with deep federal subsidies.

But Feingold said financing matters aren't relevant in a siting review. "If you are going through it, and don't have means to do it, you won't be able to get this off the ground," he said.

To Tillinghast, who heads Green Berkshires Inc., a nonprofit land preservation group, all this talk of wind power is just big business and even bigger politics.

"Remember, this is a governor who lives in a 10,000-square-foot house who is selling us on green living," she said.


Source: http://www.bostonherald.com...

JUN 12 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20638-storm-over-windmills-foes-say-deval-s-bill-may-hurt-scenic-vistas
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