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Wind-siting act threatens home rule

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has pushed for wind-power siting criteria to ensure that all projects meet high standards for environmental review, production efficiency, and long-term economic sustainability. The proposed Act calls for the creation of standards, but only requires that they be met to the "maximum practicable extent." To grant ad-hoc exemption from standards compromises the objective of siting facilities in appropriate locations.

The Legislature's proposed Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Siting Reform and the governor's push to open land protected under Article 97 of the State Constitution deserve close scrutiny. The proposed wind siting reform develops a streamlined permitting process through the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) which sidesteps local decisions and state environmental laws. If passed as written, communities will have little power to stop or significantly alter unwanted wind power plants.

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has pushed for wind-power siting criteria to ensure that all projects meet high standards for environmental review, production efficiency, and long-term economic sustainability. The proposed Act calls for the creation of standards, but only requires that they be met to the "maximum practicable extent." To grant ad-hoc exemption from standards compromises the objective of siting facilities in appropriate locations. Furthermore, town decisions may be overruled if a developer has met the EFSB standards. The creation of standards should not mean that towns give up their right to reject a project that threatens their community.

Proponents of this legislation argue that... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Legislature's proposed Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Siting Reform and the governor's push to open land protected under Article 97 of the State Constitution deserve close scrutiny. The proposed wind siting reform develops a streamlined permitting process through the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) which sidesteps local decisions and state environmental laws. If passed as written, communities will have little power to stop or significantly alter unwanted wind power plants.

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has pushed for wind-power siting criteria to ensure that all projects meet high standards for environmental review, production efficiency, and long-term economic sustainability. The proposed Act calls for the creation of standards, but only requires that they be met to the "maximum practicable extent." To grant ad-hoc exemption from standards compromises the objective of siting facilities in appropriate locations. Furthermore, town decisions may be overruled if a developer has met the EFSB standards. The creation of standards should not mean that towns give up their right to reject a project that threatens their community.

Proponents of this legislation argue that it is currently easier to site coal plants than wind plants because of the 100 megawatt (MW) threshold for streamlined permitting through the EFSB. Their solution is to lower the bar for streamlined permitting from 100 MW to 2 MW and include all roadways, transmission lines, and other ancillary facilities.

This flawed thinking misses the point. One hundred MW coal generators power entire economies; 2 MW wind generators power a few homes -- and only if the wind is blowing. The public good is not served to the same degree. BNRC recognizes the global imperative to reduce carbon emissions, but we do not support granting the EFSB the power to override local decisions regarding wind power siting and we do not support lowering the bar to 2 MW.

Allowing streamlined permitting for as few as 2 megawatts jeopardizes other important natural resources, and intensifies our concern that wind power invites home development further up the mountains. It is not hard to imagine single turbines cropping up on high ground to take advantage of public subsidies and the streamlined permitting of roads, with the end goal of selling mountainside lots.

As written, the wind siting reform act may encourage unsustainable development, sprawl, and habitat fragmentation instead of its stated goal of encouraging facilities at appropriate locations with environmentally protective standards. Please call your elected officials and attend the "public listening session" tonight at 6 at Berkshire Community College's Boland Theatre. The Berkshires need you.

The writer is director of land conservation Berkshire Natural Resources Council.


Source: http://www.berkshireeagle.c...

JUN 24 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20796-wind-siting-act-threatens-home-rule
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