Why Trust the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act?
by Mark J. Cool
The Wind Energy Siting Reform Bills need the public’s trust before they will gain any public support. Do these Bills have ALL citizen’s best interests protected when siting commercial wind energy generators near residents, schools and businesses?
Just to be clear, summarizing section 1 of bills S.1666 and H.1775, amongst other things, will ensure that wind energy generation facilities are sited in appropriate locations based on clear, predictable and protective environmental standards. These measures reflect some of the fundamental decrees of the Commonwealth’s Constitution Article 97, where as “the people will have the right to clear air and
water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise”.
A few things need verification before I can trust. My concern centers on Regulatory and Process transparency. For instance, five different legislators have filed bills concerning health impact of wind turbines. The public hearing on these investigative health bills are now scheduled two (2) days before the WESRA hearing.
Common sense would dictate that WESRA bills ‘implementing’ the streamlining of wind turbine permitting be suspended and appropriate progression of priority be given to the ‘establishment’ of clear, predictable and protective environmental standards before the arrival of more ill sited Falmouth turbines across the state.
Why the WESRA ‘hard sell’ when the program fails to clearly and predictably protect environmental standards, especially when those very standards, in their application to human health protection, have yet to be established?
Common sense would lead to a conclusion that this strategy simply fails to deliver the most vital of the promised outcomes - clear, predictable and protective environmental standards - Article 97 of the Commonwealth’s Constitution. Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health announced the formation of a panel of experts to formally investigate the issue of Wind Turbine - Health effect and setbacks. Joint department officials, on May 3, 2011, stated that the panel’s review process would be open to members of the public. A subsequent statement followed, formally noting that all meetings of the panel would be closed to the public. To date, the panel works in secret.
Why is it that a clear and predictable process, initially available to public vetting, becomes cloaked in the trappings secrecy? What is the public to conclude about their quality of protective environmental standards without proper vetting?
Process transparency is, after all, designed to open the closed doors officials use when drafting laws. The ‘panel’s composition of experts’ is indicative of the lack of regulatory transparency. Given the amount of flexibility the executive branch has in crafting the details of laws and ordinances, regulations demand even more open public scrutiny.
I fear elected officials have abdicated their role as representatives for their constituents by wanting to pass these WESRA bills and that these elected officials have granted excessive flexibility to government non-elected staff. For example, the Energy Facilities Siting Board, per the WESRA bills, is appointed entirely by the governor.
Other governor appointees - State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr. has pitched that the Patrick administration does not believe there are major health affects from turbines.
Has no one told Mr. Sullivan of what has happened to the health of residents in Falmouth after the commissioning of two 400’ Industrial Wind Turbines 18 months ago?
Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of
Environmental Protection, in the article Mass DEP: on duty and on-guard for the environment, stated MA DEP continues to; reduce air pollutants (noise is an air pollutant) from industrial source. “The Commonwealth’s investment in MA DEP reaps environmental, public health and economic development benefits that help to sustain our quality of life.”
Falmouth residents are still waiting, fully aware a 400’ wind energy generator is an industrial source. Is Mr. Kimmell really on duty and on guard? Why should residents wait 18 months and counting for the investment in our health to regain our lost quality of life?
Steven Clarke, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Assistant Secretary and the state’s director of wind energy development, said setbacks in the range of a thousand feet are “robust siting standards”.
Why not take the time and make the investment and prove it Mr. Clarke? The Falmouth Board of Health has sought health specific guidance from DEP and DPH. The board has made official requests for an independent epidemiological study to be conducted. To date, there has been no response.
Former Environmental Secretary Ian Bowles, a Falmouth-born son, ignored any and all noise problems and health complaints from Falmouth residents when the machines were turned on.
John Auerbach, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health helped create the expert panel to review potential health impacts associated with exposure to wind turbines. It’s important to note that the composition of the expert panel suffers from a limited number of health care professionals.
Why assemble an expert panel with members not having a MD after their name, if the review is suppose to focus on health effects? Will the panel do an assessment of Falmouth? Or, will their heads remain in the sand?
For brevity, I won’t mention the Mass Technology Collaborative or the Clean Energy Center and their flawed projects.
Common sense would deem state agencies and their subunits developing WESRA mission and vision statements be tied to measurable outcomes of science, not political input.
If regulation provisions do not met clear, predictable and protective
environmental standard objectives, they should be abandon until they
can. Wouldn’t common sense be served best to investigate before wanting to legislate?
There are three Pillars to Government Trust: Financial Transparency, Process Transparency and Regulatory Transparency. If my statement for the record leaves the reader with only one undeniable truth, it is - regulatory and process transparency within these proposed WESRA bills are absent.
If legislators and political appointees don’t trust voters when it comes to wind energy development. Why then, should voters trust them... or their bills?