H.4687 Wind Energy Bill Information. (formerly S.2245 & S.2260)

7/15/2010 Update

House Passes Wind Siting Bill

For two days, July 13 & 14, the Massachusetts House of Representatives debated the Wind Energy Citing bill. Sadly on the second day the industry won and the environment and the citizens of the Commonwealth lost. In a vote of 101 to 52 the House sent a slightly different version back to the Senate. I cannot accurately tell our members what changes took place since no one in the House could explain the amended bill in any detail as it was being voted on.

Sportsmen/women and the smaller environmental organizations can hold their heads high for a battle well fought. We all worked together to make sure the work of the past century to protect wildlife habitat was not lost. Unfortunately, the bill to allow the state to force wind energy siting on local communities was a top priority of the Governor and his Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. This is the price we have paid for the Governor merging the interests of the energy industry with the State’s environmental agency.

Sadder still is that the so-called statewide environmental groups eagerly lobbied in favor of the bill. This gave the proponents for industry all the political cover they needed to trample on our rights and our natural heritage. It still never ceases to amaze me what our government is willing to destroy in the name of so-called global warming.

The bill will now go back to the Senate for a final vote, then, if passed to the governor where it will be signed and become law.

 

Wind Energy Siting Bill Alert 7/12/2010

GOAL has been made aware that H.4687, the Wind Energy Siting bill, may be coming up for a vote in the House this week. While we are engaged in other fights against anti-civil rights bills like H.4102, we cannot forget other legislation that will adversely impact us in other ways.

This bill, H.4687, represents an enormous change in conservation and environmental permitting policy in Massachusetts for a narrowly defined politically favored industry. These newly proposed changes pose a very real threat to conservation lands and open space all across the commonwealth. The very same open space lands that sportsmen and women have worked decades to protect.

The senate version of the bill, S.2260 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Siting Reform for Land Based Wind Projects” was passed in early February. The senate actually passed the bill on a “voice” vote rather than a roll call. This was done so that no senator could be held responsible for supporting the legislation.

Now the House is scheduled to take it up this week. For over a year now, GOAL and other organizations have been asking very pertinent questions that have never been answered:

  • Why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system?
  • If Massachusetts provides a means for this particular industry to bypass the normal environmental permitting system, will this lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the same ability?
  • If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?
  • Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

The language in this proposed bill so strongly puts the authority to override environmental law and local control it actually states “…no state agency shall impose or enforce any law, ordinance, by-law, rule or regulation nor take any action nor fail to take any action which would delay or prevent the construction, operation or maintenance of such facility.” Notice that it states “any” law, not just environmental permitting laws! That word alone shows how much power the state wants to site these facilities.

GOAL members should contact their state representatives and urge them to OPPOSE H.4687 “The Wind Energy Siting Bill” because of its blatant threat to conservation lands, standardized environmental permitting policies and massive authority placed in the hand of an unknown unelected state agency.

Click here to view the proposed permitting chart that would be created by the bill.

Click here to find your state representative

For more information see below.

 

Wind Energy Siting Bill Update 5/21/10
GOAL members are well aware that we have been opposing the wind siting legislation that has been making its way through the legislature. The bill represents an enormous change in conservation and environmental permitting policy in Massachusetts for a narrowly defined politically favored industry.

These newly proposed changes pose a very real threat to conservation lands all across the commonwealth. The very same open space lands that sportsmen and women have worked decades to protect.

The senate version of the bill, S.2260 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Siting Reform for Land Based Wind Projects” was passed in early February. The senate actually passed the bill on a “voice” vote rather than a roll call. This was done so that no senator could be held responsible for supporting the legislation.

On Wednesday, May 19, 2010 the Massachusetts House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on their new version of the bill, H.4687. This scheduled vote was a surprise to most since there was very little warning that the bill would be put on the agenda after lying dormant in the legislative process for months.

One major difference in the House version is the moving of the permitting system for wind projects from the Energy Facilities Siting Board to something called the Division on Green Communities. When GOAL inquired as to what this division was, virtually no one could tell us. After some research we found that it had been established in 2008, but to date had never even been staffed.

Below is part of the language regarding this new division that might start to regulate and permit certain entities within communities. We grew more concerned when we learned one of its missions was to help communities “reduce pollution”. While this might sound like basic litter and trash, we urge members to keep in mind that just a few years ago the state tried to pass a toxic use reduction bill that included lead ammunition as a source of pollution.

  • Chapter 25A: Section 10. Division of green communities; duties of director; program; qualification as a green community; funding; rules; annual report
  • Section 10. (a) The division of green communities shall assist the commonwealth's municipalities and other local governmental bodies to: reduce energy consumption and costs, reduce pollution, facilitate the development of renewable and alternative energy resources, and create local jobs related to the building of renewable and alternative energy facilities and the installation of energy-efficient equipment. The director of the division shall be responsible for the administration and oversight of the green communities program and shall apply and disburse monies and revenues as provided in this section.

Aside from the potential risk from this new division, the bill basically removes all local control from the permitting/siting system. So much so that if the Division of Green Communities finds that “the facility has complied to the maximum extent practicable” and/or “the benefits of the facility outweigh the detriments” they can approve the permits. This boils down to an unelected official making determination on what they feel is best for you and me.

GOAL and our allies against this legislation were able to convince the House not to take this bill up for a vote on Wednesday, but we do expect that the supporters will try again.

GOAL members should contact their state representatives and urge them NOT to support H.4687 “The Wind Siting Language” because of its blatant threat to conservation lands, standardized environmental permitting policies and massive authority placed in the hand of an unknown unelected state agency.

 

5/14/10 update. S.2245 becomes S.2260 Please contact your legislators and let them know that you oppose this bill. Here is the letter in opposition from GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace;

 

Re:      Opposition to S.2260 - “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Siting Reform for Land Based Wind Projects”

Dear Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives,

It has come to our attention that the House of Representatives may be taking up S.2260, the Wind Siting Reform Act, as early as next week. On behalf of the members of Gun Owners’ Action League, I would like to take this opportunity to once again express our deep concerns over this legislation. The premise of the legislation is to create a fast track permitting system for an industry that has become politically favored by certain groups and individuals.

Since the summer of 2009 Gun Owners’ Action League has continued to ask pertinent questions regarding the need and the implications of the legislation. To date these critical questions have never been answered.

   Why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system?

   If Massachusetts provides a means for this particular industry to bypass the normal environmental permitting system, will this lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the same ability?

   If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?

   Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

As the state’s leading conservationists, gun owners and sportsmen/women have led the way in professional wildlife management and habitat protection. We have carefully and purposefully carried out a series of historic and sustainable programs that have withstood the test of science and time.

On the national scale there is the Migratory Waterfowl Stamp and the Pittman-Robinson program. These efforts by gun owners and sportsmen/women have resulted in establishment of wildlife refuges and habitat programs throughout the nation.

On a more local level, we worked to establish and maintain the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund and the Wildlands Stamp Acquisition program. Both of these are almost completely funded by gun owners and sportsmen/women.

All of these programs were established methodically and carefully and have withstood decades of second guessing and attacks. It is because their supporters did not act in haste to a “politically correct” misguided movement that they have been so successful. Just recently the members of the House assisted GOAL in restoring funding to these very programs here within the Commonwealth. Once again, the legislature chose to back successful well thought out programs.

The so-called “green movement” while well intended seems to be acting in haste and political expediency. Neither of these actions represents the best interest of the historical conservation efforts that have been so successful.

To ensure that the Commonwealth is being a responsible steward of the wildlife and land entrusted in its care, we would urge the members of the legislature to take a step back and conduct an in depth study of just exactly what is being done in the Commonwealth in the name of being “green”. Such a study should include the costs, environmental and monetary, involved in all of the proposed and existing legislation, regulation, policy and other matters concerning the “green” energy movement. While renewable energy is certainly an important part of our future, the Commonwealth cannot afford to do it wrong and sacrifice the environmental and conservation successes of the last century.

If Massachusetts truly wants to lead the nation in this new technology, than let us do it right. Let us lead the nation in deliberate well thought out successful strategies. The environmental permitting laws and regulations are there for a purpose and exist to complement the Commonwealth’s strong tradition of conservation and professional wildlife management.

The existence of these procedures represents a culmination of careful planning and best management practices that is the envy of many parts of our country and the world. What message are we sending to the world if the Commonwealth eagerly sets aside those traditions and practices because a temporarily favored industry thinks we move too slow?

Again, I would urge the Committee to carefully study all of the recent policy initiatives and legislation before acting on any further drastic changes that are represented in S.2260. We urge the House to NOT support S.2260, but instead ask that the legislature revisit the energy needs of the Commonwealth in a more careful and sustainable manner.

 

Sincerely,

 

James L. Wallace

Executive Director

 

Download GOAL's printable pdf with info on the bill here.

GOAL Legislative Alert
OPPOSE S.2245

The Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 2245 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Siting Reform for Land Based Wind Projects”. S.2245 would establish a special “expedited” permitting system for land based wind power development projects.

This legislation has been labeled a priority of the Patrick Administration and recently the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles has expressed his “frustration” about the pace of this legislation.

For several months GOAL has sent letters to the legislature asking many questions regarding the legislation. To date none of those questions have been answered!

  • How many wind projects of 2 megawatts and over have been applied for?
  • How many of those projects have been denied and why?
  • How many projects have currently been given a pass on certain permitting processes by Energy Facility Siting Board or other entities?
  • How many turbines are we projecting to have to allow statewide to have a reasonable impact on Massachusetts energy needs? According to the Governor’s goal of 2000 megawatts it could be over 1000!
  • Why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system?
  • If Massachusetts provides a means for this particular industry to bypass the normal environmental permitting system, will this lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the same ability?
  • Are we sacrificing a century’s worth of environmental progress for a politically correct, but not environmentally correct, moment in history?
  • If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?
  • Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

Since none of these questions have been answered throughout the bill’s process, GOAL can only assume that the legislation is being pushed through to aid a temporarily politically favored industry. Such legislation is simply bad public policy. GOAL urges all of our members to contact their state senators and ask them to OPPOSE S.2245, The Wind Energy Siting bill.

Contact information for your legislators here.

 

October 21, 2009
Re: Wind Energy Siting Reform Act

Dear Legislator,

This past summer, GOAL sent a letter to expressing our concerns regarding the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act. As you may recall, the premise of the legislation is to create a fast track permitting system for wind energy facility sites. The bill is still currently within the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

For reference, the original bill numbers for the legislation were S.1504 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform” and H3065 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform.”

GOAL remains in opposition of this legislation.

In our July 7, 2009 letter we asked some very important questions that still have yet to be answered. These included:

  • Why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system?
  • If Massachusetts provides a means for this particular industry to bypass the normal environmental permitting system, will this lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the same ability?
  • If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?
  • Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

Our other concerns regarded a direct attack on Article 97 protected lands. Last summer’s version of the bill included Section 10. This section specifically outlined a clear intent to allow industrial access to protected lands using an expedited permitting process that ignored environmental law.

Section 10: The executive office of energy and environmental affairs, in consultation with the department of conservation and recreation, department of fish and game, and the department of energy resources, shall undertake a planning process to identify state lands protected under Article XLIX, as appearing in Article XCVII, of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth (Article 97) that are both suitable and unsuitable for wind power generation. Locations identified as unsuitable for wind power generation shall not be used for that purpose. The plan shall be completed prior to any change of use or disposition of Article 97 lands for wind power generation. The executive office shall issue the plan within one year of the effective date of this act; the plan may be revised from time to time in accordance with the requirements of this section. Change of use or transfer of such lands shall require a detailed analysis of project alternatives and mitigation for loss of acreage and of any ecological, recreational and scenic resources.

In the latest redraft that was provided to us in late September, this language was deleted from the legislation and apparent protections for Article 97 lands now appear in the newest draft such as:

This chapter shall not apply to lands that are under protection pursuant to Article XLIX, as appearing in Article XCVII, of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth (Article 97).

While we appreciate that the redraft attempts to address this particular concern, it is interesting that we were never contacted during the redraft process. It is also very clear that while this language has been changed, the intent to allow access to lands for a currently favored industry remains a priority of the current administration and threat to a century of conservation and environmental efforts.

Under the current laws it is far too easy and fairly common for the legislature to remove lands from protected Article 97 status. Because that process is too easy and the administration’s intentions have been made clear, GOAL would urge that if the legislature chooses to move forward with this legislation that an additional amendment to the bill be attached. The new language should provide for a ten year moratorium on any industrial use, including energy, for lands previously designated as Article 97 protected.

GOAL also expressed great concerns over certain terminology being used in the legislation such as “complied to the maximum practicable extent” and “benefits outweigh the detriments” as a means for a government entity to issue permits for noncompliant siting standards. These conditions still exist in the latest draft. The intent of the legislation to allow a certain industry to bypass environmental law is bad enough, but to then allow permits to proceed that don’t even adhere to the expedited standards is simply ludicrous. However, the fact that these arbitrary conditions remain provides a transparent view of the true nature of the legislation.

In our July 7, 2009 letter, GOAL also reiterated our initial objections to the merger of Energy (industry) and the Environment under the same Secretary post. It should now be obvious to all that our concerns were well founded. As a result, GOAL would urge the legislature to once again separate the two agencies as soon as possible.

Finally, we warned that the bill could also have other adverse affects such as turning the general public away from wind and other renewable energy sources after witnessing the devastation wrought on public lands. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for this to happen. Even before any physical intrusion to lands has taken place, the very concepts put forth by this legislation are causing a growing resentment among the general public. The fact alone that the message being sent by this legislation is that an energy source that was previously sold to the public as being “green” can’t withstand environmental scrutiny is enough cause to raise suspicion. Again, if so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly? Should not the “badge of honor” for renewable energy industry be that it can withstand environmental muster, thus setting an example for all other industries?

Even in light of the new changes made to the legislation, GOAL still cannot support a bill that intends to allow a certain industry to bypass environmental law and standards. We would urge the legislature to not pass such a law. We would instead ask that the legislature encourage renewable energy industries to work with local communities and conservation groups to set examples for future generations to admire rather than regret poor decisions that led to the destruction of our precious natural resources.

Sincerely,

James L. Wallace
Executive Director

 

September, 2009
Wind Energy Siting Reform Act

In early July an environmental organization based in the Berkshires alerted GOAL to a bill concerning an expedited permitting process for wind towers on land. The organizations name is GreenBerkshires.org. Eleanor Tillinghast, a board member of the group, has established a great working relationship with local sportsmen. In fact this past spring she received the Sportsman of the Year Award from the Berkshire County League of Sportsman’s Clubs.

So the question was why would GOAL and sportsmen be concerned with wind towers? That was my thought until I read the bill and met with the GreenBerkshires people.

The bill that has raised concerns is a new draft of what is called the “Wind Energy Siting Reform Act.” The bill is currently before Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The intention of the bill is to provide wind power industry (for on land only) a fast track permitting process to avoid having to deal with the current environmental permitting laws that all other industry must work through.

A major concern for sportsmen and women is that the bill also targets conservation lands, state forests, and wildlife management areas. In section 10 of the bill it states: “The executive office of energy and environmental affairs, in consultation with the department of conservation and recreation, department of fish and game, and the department of energy resources … identify lands protected… that are suitable and unsuitable for wind power generation.” It is clear from this section that the legislation is targeting state conservation lands and making matters worse, doing so in a manner that allows this industry to bypass current environmental law.

The following is a copy of a letter the GOAL has sent to the legislator expressing our concerns about the proposal.

Dear Legislator,

I write to you today with great concern over a piece of legislation that has been brought to our attention. The legislation is apparently a redraft of what is being referred to as the “Wind Energy Siting Reform Act”. The premise of the legislation is to create a fast track permitting system for wind energy facility sites. As we understand, the bill is currently within the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The original bill numbers for this redraft were S.1504 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform” and H3065 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform.”

As a representative of gun owners and sportsmen and women, our members have a deep heritage in conservation efforts. For nearly a century, we have worked diligently to enhance and protect wildlife habitat and open space lands. We have done so in initiatives like the 1937 Pittman Robinson Act and the 1990 Land Stamp Act through which we have self taxed ourselves to set aside land and habitat for the benefit of all. The version of the bill that we have been supplied with clearly appears to be a threat to a century’s worth of conservation effort.

The very first question that comes to mind in regards to this proposal is why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system? If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly? Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

Over the last few decades Massachusetts has established a thorough permitting process that is intended to protect wildlife habitat. It appears that this bill would grant a complete pass on this system in favor of a particular industry. It also appears that this fast track permitting system for so-called green energy would in fact be responsible for destroying large tracks of previously protected lands.

At first look the bill actually appears to establish a separate bureaucracy to ensure that public lands are protected from any potential inappropriate use by industry. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In short there are virtually no protections for previously state protected lands in the bill. At each level of permitting in the bill, there are ways to defeat the “siting standards” that these entities are charged with establishing and enforcing. In fact, the general public won’t even know what the standards will be until after the bill has passed into law.

When a conservationist reads terms such as “complied to the maximum practicable extent” and “benefits outweigh the detriments” as a means for a government entity to issue permits for noncompliant siting standards, it is always cause for alarm.

Not very long ago when the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs became the Executive Office of “Energy” and Environmental Affairs, GOAL expressed concerns over how the environment would fair being placed second in the same agency. It appears our concerns were well founded.

It is our belief that this bill only represents the fast tracking of the industrialization of our once protected lands. If this bill were to pass sportsmen and women will forever ask the question: Have we worked collectively for nearly a century to entrust our government with public lands for the future of wildlife habitat and future generations, or have we been duped into setting aside land entrusted to our government only to have it exploited for industry?

The bill could also have other adverse affects such as turning the general public away from wind energy after witnessing the devastation wrought on public lands as a result. One could also imagine that the passage of the bill could lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the opening of public land for their particular needs. Also, if previously protected public lands are to be used in such a manner it would certainly mean the end of any further efforts to conserve any lands that are to be entrusted to the government’s care.

GOAL strongly urges the legislature to not support the intentions of this Act and to protect the lands that have been placed under your trust. This bill represents a threat to such trust. Again, if so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?

Sincerely,

James L. Wallace
Executive Director

 

July 7, 2009
Re: Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (New Draft)

Dear Legislator,

I write to you today with great concern over a piece of legislation that has been brought to our attention. The legislation is apparently a redraft of what is being referred to as the “Wind Energy Siting Reform Act”. The premise of the legislation is to create a fast track permitting system for wind energy facility sites. As we understand, the bill is currently within the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The original bill numbers for this redraft were S.1504 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform” and H3065 “An Act Relative to Comprehensive Wind Energy Siting Reform.”

As a representative of gun owners and sportsmen and women, our members have a deep heritage in conservation efforts. For nearly a century, we have worked diligently to enhance and protect wildlife habitat and open space lands. We have done so in initiatives like the 1937 Pittman Robinson Act and the 1990 Land Stamp Act through which we have self taxed ourselves to set aside land and habitat for the benefit of all. The version of the bill that we have been supplied with clearly appears to be a threat to a century’s worth of conservation effort.

The very first question that comes to mind in regards to this proposal is why does this particular industry need a fast track permitting system? If so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly? Should not the challenge for “green” industry be that it should be able to set an example for all other industries by easily passing any environmental challenge set before it?

Over the last few decades Massachusetts has established a thorough permitting process that is intended to protect wildlife habitat. It appears that this bill would grant a complete pass on this system in favor of a particular industry. It also appears that this fast track permitting system for so-called green energy would in fact be responsible for destroying large tracks of previously protected lands.

At first look the bill actually appears to establish a separate bureaucracy to ensure that public lands are protected from any potential inappropriate use by industry. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In short there are virtually no protections for previously state protected lands in the bill. At each level of permitting in the bill, there are ways to defeat the “siting standards” that these entities are charged with establishing and enforcing. In fact, the general public won’t even know what the standards will be until after the bill has passed into law.

When a conservationist reads terms such as “complied to the maximum practicable extent” and “benefits outweigh the detriments” as a means for a government entity to issue permits for noncompliant siting standards, it is always cause for alarm.

Not very long ago when the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs became the Executive Office of “Energy” and Environmental Affairs, GOAL expressed concerns over how the environment would fair being placed second in the same agency. It appears our concerns were well founded.

It is our belief that this bill only represents the fast tracking of the industrialization of our once protected lands. If this bill were to pass sportsmen and women will forever ask the question: Have we worked collectively for nearly a century to entrust our government with public lands for the future of wildlife habitat and future generations, or have we been duped into setting aside land entrusted to our government only to have it exploited for industry?

The bill could also have other adverse affects such as turning the general public away from wind energy after witnessing the devastation wrought on public lands as a result. One could also imagine that the passage of the bill could lead to legal and legislative challenges from other industries demanding the opening of public land for their particular needs. Also, if previously protected public lands are to be used in such a manner it would certainly mean the end of any further efforts to conserve any lands that are to be entrusted to the government’s care.

GOAL strongly urges the legislature to not support the intentions of this Act and to protect the lands that have been placed under your trust. This bill represents a threat to such trust. Again, if so-called “green energy” can’t pass the muster of the current environmental laws, then how can it be called environmentally friendly?

Sincerely,

James L. Wallace
Executive Director

 

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