TOWN HOUSE- It was back in February when KingstonJournal.com first reported that no surety bond existed for any of Kingston’s four industrial-sized wind turbines, but now–it looks like Paul Armstrong would like to change that.
Armstrong, who is Kingston’s Zoning Enforcement Officer, told the Journal last week that he now intends to bring the matter of a surety bond before the Planning Board. “We’re requesting they take a look at it,” Armstrong told the Journal in his office on Thursday afternoon.
Kingston’s Wind Overlay District Bylaw requires turbine developers “to provide a form of surety at a date certain….to cover the cost of decommissioning in the event the town must remove the facility.”
That certain date, and the size of the surety bond, will be decided by the Kingston Planning Board.
Armstrong estimated that the surety bonds, which are not allowed to exceed 125% the cost of turbine removal, could amount to between $300,000 and $400,000 per turbine.
According to Armstrong’s figure, Mary O’Donnell, who owns three turbines on Marion Drive, might be required to cough up anywhere between $900,000 and $1.2M.
Armstrong says that the exemption for municipally-owned turbines in the surety bond clause of Kingston’s Wind Overlay District Bylaw will not apply to the Kingston Wind Independence (KWI) Turbine.
The KWI Turbine, co-managed by Kially Ruiz, is privately owned by Kingston Wind LLC.
Armstrong’s call to action on the surety bond comes after a zoning complaint, filed by Doreen Reilly last month, cited the lack of a decommissioning bond as one of four specific complaints against the KWI Turbine.
“I find it in the spirit of the bylaw to require the posting of a decommissioning bond in a timely manner,” Armstrong wrote to Reilly earlier this month.
Armstrong’s official response to Reilly’s complaint concludes by saying he will ”continue to monitor [the surety bond] issue should the need for enforcement be required.”
KingstonJournal.com asked Armstrong what measures he would take for “enforcement” if the surety bonds were not posted by Ruiz and O’Donnell.
“That’s phase two,” Armstrong said. “We’re still in phase one right now.”
Decommissioning bonds are a standard component of turbine-regulating bylaws.
Cape Wind, an offshore turbine project slated to begin construction in Nantucket Sound this year, posted a $2.5b surety bond to insure decommissioning costs for 130 planned wind turbines.
The $2.5b surety bond comes out to over $19.2M per turbine.
Only 20 miles south of Kingston, a nearby community is facing the grim reality of removing operating wind turbines that stand without a posted decommissioning bond.
Falmouth, a community which is considering removing its two municipally owned wind turbines after years of citizen complaints, is facing a cost of anywhere between $12M and $15M for removal.
No surety bond was required or posted for the Falmouth turbines and, according to the Cape Cod Times, Falmouth residents will decide whether or not to remove the wind turbines at an upcoming April 9 town meeting.
That same Cape Cod Times report cited Falmouth’s town manager predicting a $48 increase in yearly taxes for the average Falmouth homeowner if the town is forced to remove the turbines without state aid.
Surety bond clauses, like the one in Kingston’s Wind Overlay District Bylaw, are intended to prevent privately-owned turbines from burdening taxpayers in the event they become abandoned or lose financing.
There is large disagreement as to the exact number of abandoned turbines in the United States, with estimates ranging from 14,000 to 2,400.
Armstrong told the Journal he plans to address the lack of a decommissioning bond as soon as he can be squeezed into the Planning Board’s agenda.
The Planning Board has a public hearing set for March 25 but, according to the town’s Web site, the Planning Board has not yet scheduled their next regularly held session.
Armstrong declined to act on the three other complaints logged by Reilly against the KWI Turbine, which alleged the lack of a flicker study, the lack of peer review and the lack of a noise study.
“There is no statutory appellate process for the permitting of wind turbines such as the O’Donnell turbines,” Armstrong wrote in his decision. “An appeal of the Site Plan approval is a fundamentally different process from general zoning enforcement.”
Armstrong wrote that while general zoning enforcement on a building permit may be undertaken anytime within a structure’s first six years, structures erected ”as of right,” such as Kingston’s wind turbines, may only be appealed within the first 30 days of construction.