Yes In My Back Yard
A Berkshire Eagle essay by Rinaldo Del Gallo on the need for the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act. Quite literally, local regulation and NIMBY groups such as "Green" Berkshires and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound are making it nearly impossible to find suitable locations for wind turbines.
The Berkshire Eagle
Here is the big problem; everybody likes wind energy, just "Not in My Back Yard." Those who feel that way are commonly called NIMBYs. Who is a NIMBY? Well, "green" folks like Ted Kennedy and Robert Kennedy Jr. who support wind power except off the shores of Cape Cod where the senator lives. They really do want wind energy but want it in "suitable" places that are "appropriate." In other words, not in their backyards.
Green Berkshires is one of these NIMBY groups. "GREEN" in "Green Berkshires" seems to stand more properly for the acronym, "Getting Rid of Environmental Efforts Nearby," not being green.
I do not agree with the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the moneyed gentry who want to keep wind turbines off the shores of Cape Cod so as not to spoil the view from their yachts or hundred million dollar mansions, but I cannot complain about their name. That said, I highly recommend the five-minute John Stossel piece on "ABC Dateline" (put "NIMBY" and "Wind Power" in the YouTube search engine) that gave a scathing review of these spoiled patricians.
NIMBY is by no means unique to wind turbines. Everyone wants affordable housing -- just not in their backyards. Before you know it, the same Volvo liberal who supports affordable housing also supports local land use laws that maintain the "character of the community," i.e., land use laws that make affordable housing virtually impossible.
That is why Massachusetts passed anti-snob laws in 1969 in an effort to promote the development of affordable housing. Anti-snob laws limit the ability of local government to use its power over land use and development to effectively exclude housing that lower-income households can afford.
Just as those advocating for affordable housing need anti-snob laws to combat NIMBYism, those that advocate green energy from renewable resources need the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act. The act is needed so that those who would like to turn to wind energy can realistically hope to find a site for their wind turbines without encountering years of NIMBY resistance before local boards and in the courts.
It is the aim of the act to mandate clear and predictable siting standards for wind facilities, and to provide one-stop permitting at the local level, with any appeal to go before the siting board -- not a court. Also, the siting board would issue a one-stop permit for all state permits that are needed. The act aims to create procedures to decrease the amount of permitting time from the current eight to 10 years to nine to 18 months.
Quite literally, local regulation and NIMBY groups such as "Green" Berkshires and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound are making it nearly impossible to find suitable locations for wind turbines. Am I exaggerating? According to the state Energy and Environmental Affairs Web site:
- "Hoosac Wind, a 30 MW wind farm in the Berkshires that is supported by the two host communities, has been in permitting since 2001, and has been delayed by successive appeals of a wetland permit for an access road. The wetland permit was issued in 2004 and is still on appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, even though the local conservation commission, the regional staff and commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Berkshire Superior Court have all determined that the project met applicable wetland standards.
- "Princeton Wind, a 3 MW municipal wind project, was delayed for 31/2 years because of appeals of zoning permits. The appeals caused the private developer that was partnering with the town to withdraw, requiring the town to assume the full cost of the project.
- "Berkshire Wind, a 15 MW project in the Berkshires, has been in the development process for over 10 years due in part to efforts by anti-wind opponents to enact restrictive zoning bylaws, and by lawsuits from abutters."
The Wind Energy Siting Reform Act's assertion of state authority is a strength, not a weakness, as claimed by Green Berkshires. If everyone could ban wind turbines in their communities while arguing that they support wind turbines, but they do not "fit" their community, they all would. And we would have no wind turbines.
Why the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act? So that the procedures for the siting of wind energy facilities result in timely and predictable permitting decisions making it an economically viable enterprise without all the NIMBYs getting in the way with endless local opposition, permit refusals, and lawsuits. The downside of the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act? It does nothing to reform the siting of wind turbines on our oceans, allowing for continued NIMBYism on Cape Cod.
Call me a YIMBY -- Yes In My Back Yard. I love looking out of my North Street office and watching the beautiful windmill on the mountains of Jiminy Peak.
According to one article in the Boston Globe, "For most Danes, these towering turbines are anything but an eyesore, and anything but a threat to the environment. In fact, they are featured on postcards and proclaimed attractions by tour guides on ferry boats."
Good for Berkshire tourism? Probably. I can picture the postcard now.
Rinaldo Del Gallo is a practicing attorney whose columns have appeared in newspapers across the nation.