The co-chairman of the joint committee responsible for controversial wind energy siting legislation has announced he will seek to table the measure, spelling its likely demise and handing opponents of the bill a major victory.
In remarks made yesterday at an energy forum at the Berkshire South Community Center, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, said he had heard concerns about local control, the process of developing siting standards and other problems with the legislation and wind energy that prompted him to call for a study of the bill - effectively ending chances it will be taken up by the full legislature in the current session.
“I believe that we ought to take the three wind energy siting reform acts and put them into a study group,” Downing said. “That will effectively end debate on those bills for this legislative session.”
Downing is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. State Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, is the committee's other cochairman.
A representative from Keenan's office said he had no comment on Downing's remarks.
Downing's remarks follow on the heels of senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, withdrawing her support for the bill, which has been a major initiative for Gov. Deval Patrick's administration in its drive to meet wind energy goals he set for the state.
The bill is meant to streamline permits and provide standards for large wind-energy projects. It would consolidate the permit process for turbines two megawatts or larger into a single, local board for municipalities in areas, such as Cape Cod, that the state designates as a "significant wind resource area."
Downing said he had heard from constituents during 15 hours of hearings on the bill held in Hancock and on Cape Cod.
“We heard from both and mainly I will tell you people who were opposed to those proposals and to some individuals mostly in the administration who supported those proposals,” Downing said.
The siting bill has been fought by those opposed to putting wind energy projects near residential areas. Opponents cite the health problems allegedly caused by the wind turbine at the Falmouth wastewater treatment facility.
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