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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Befuddled - or Not

I attended part of the Town Council meeting last night and one topic surprised and perplexed me. Here is the email received by the Town Council from the Washington County Regional Planning Council (WCRPC).

Before I continue I must make it clear that I have considerable sympathy with the people who live near the proposed Whalerock wind project. I also have a lot of skepticism about whether a place can be found in Charlestown for a commercial-scale wind project that will be accepted by the citizens. This post is not really about that – it’s about how the Town Council dealt with this request, or not.

Because of the conflict over a proposed wind project in North Kingston, NK has requested that the state put a moratorium on all wind projects. If the state did that it would delay a wind turbine project in Ninigret Park enough so that the grant money would run out and the project would be cancelled. This project has not been controversial since it is relatively far from housing and is a small tower. Nonetheless, it would be an important symbol of green energy and an important field test of how effective wind power can be here.

Ok, so the Executive Director of the WCRPC that is sponsoring this project and another in New Shoreham, Jeff Broadhead, becomes alarmed and sends out an email asking for help to get these projects exempted from a moratorium. So it comes up on our Town Council agenda and here is what happens…

Councilor Gentz brings up the topic of “not supporting a statewide moratorium on wind generators”. The rest of the Councilors seem confused and there is no motion at first. I guess they didn't read the email in advance. Then Councilor Avedisian makes a motion “that the Council adopt a resolution not supporting the statewide moratorium on wind energy.” Gentz states that “by not supporting the moratorium we've made the same statement and we don’t need a motion to do that”. After some confusing talk the motion died for lack of a second. Councilor Frank started asking “we do nothing..” and Gentz said “if we do nothing we're not supporting the moratorium.” You can listen to the discussion here. (You will need to rewind a little if you want to hear the beginning of this topic.)

But here is the meat of the request – “I’ve written to Mike Embury about it, and urge you to do the same.” Mr. Broadhead is not asking the TC to do nothing; he's asking for active help in getting these projects exempted!

By not acting, our Town Council has helped doom our ability to use these grant funds to build a wind power demonstration in Ninigret Park. Or perhaps that was the objective?

author: Tom Ferrio