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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Charlestown's ban on wind energy gets its first statewide review



Charlestown Strikes Up the Ban on Wind Turbines

By DAVE FISHER/ecoRI News staff
This small, residential, rooftop wind turbine
 is now illegal in Charlestown
.
CHARLESTOWN — The General Assembly’s newly enacted laws facilitating the siting, construction and power-purchase agreements for commercial-grade renewable energy projects took a big hit yesterday. At 9:52 last night, the town of Charlestown became a U.S. trendsetter in the renewable-energy sector when the Town Council voted to pass the first-in-the-country ban on any size or type of electricity-generating wind turbines. The sweeping prohibition applies to large commercial turbines as well as smaller, residential models.
After working for three years to craft an ordinance that was acceptable to residents, the most recent — and heavily redacted — incarnation of the town’s wind ordinance was passed by a vote of 3 to 2. Council members Greg Avedisian and Marjorie Frank were the dissenting votes, while members Lisa DiBello, Dan Slattery and President Thomas Gentz all cast "yea" votes on the ban.


The idea for an outright ban was borne of the mind of town solicitor Peter Ruggiero. This month would have marked the one-year anniversary of the previous moratorium on wind-turbine construction. According to Ruggiero, Rhode Island case law insists moratoria, by legal definition, should be short term, stopgap measures to allow local governments more time to craft sufficient and efficient ordinances. Local arbiters of jurisprudence would have looked unfavorably on an extension of that moratorium, he said.
“It is better, from a legal standpoint, for the town to enact the ban, and work on crafting a new wind ordinance from the ground up," Ruggiero said.
Tim Quillen, speaking on behalf of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, expressed opposition to the ordinance as drafted. “This would be a step backward for the town,” he said. "This ban is a radical overreach by the council.” He suggested that the ban be enacted on turbines over 200 feet and 100 kilowatts (kW). Any turbines less than 200 feet highand from 15 to 100 kW should be exempted from the ban.
Scott Keeley, who works for the wind turbine company Flodesign, based in Waltham, Mass., spoke against the ban in terms that few locally had heard. “I urge you all to look at the wind resource map for Rhode Island,” he said. “No place in Rhode Island has the sustained wind speeds to make (land-based) commercial turbines financially feasible. If a banker is involved in these large turbine projects, you will never see them.”
He claimed that the lack of a return on investment would keep all but the most foolhardy investors away from pursuing the construction of commercial-grade turbines here. In that case, the Town Council and Planning Commission are just spinning their wheels in attempting to craft an ordinance to deal with such generators.
Local resident Linda Felaco, an American Association for the Advancement of Science member and a frequent contributor to the blog Progressive Charlestown, stated simply, “As a homeowner, it is my right to generate my own power.”
Don Stevens, co-founder of the Compass Charter School and owner of an experimental farmstead that is, in his words, "trying to be off of the grid,” insisted that the town should be an example in the renewable-energy sector, and this ban is not the way to go. “A smart grid is developing that relies on multiple inputs," he said. "We need to explore all of those inputs, whether they be wind, solar or geothermal.”
Local residents Ronald Ariglato and Tom Gilligan are in favor of the ban until an ordinance can be properly crafted. Referring to quality-of-life issues and public health and safety hazards allegedly associated with commercial wind turbines, Gilligan said, “Caution is warranted because the consequences can be drastic.” He made no mention of the drastic consequences of continued fossil-fuel dependence.
When the Town Council was asked by former member Deborah Carney how long the ban was expected to be in place, Councilman Dan Slattery posited that the residential turbine ordinance should be ready in three months and an ordinance concerning commercial turbines should take no more than a year to write.
Council members Slattery and DiBello framed the ban as a way of moving forward prudently and avoiding a legal gray area.
Council members Avedisian and Frank urged proponents of wind power to organize the way that the opposition has. Avedisian said bluntly, “This is not an attempt to take baby steps. The result of this ban will be a huge step backwards for the town. Why the original ordinance can’t be pared down to address residential installations is beyond me. Then, we can move on to addressing larger turbines.”

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like a town full of hicks who have voted in half-witts to the town council who haven't heard about climate change? I can see on the map that Charlestown is pretty far from Oklahoma\Texas etc which has just experienced one of the hottest spells on record but aren't there any newspapers or internet in the town? Even over here in rural England, we have all seen how bad the US economy is and it seems a shame that as the world reaches "Peak oil" a town council stops individuals from generating their own energy. I'm sure energy costs are increasing in the US and that it is importing most of its energy but maybe I've got this wrong?

    In our village, we had a few thick people (but we didn't put them in control of the parish council!) and we encouraged them to watch Al Gore's DVDs and YouTube documentaries such as "Home" that clearly show we must all start changing our habits and do something. Today, one of these "thick" people now saves plenty money after installing LED lights in his home.

    What a shame the townsfolk of Charlestown are all so poorly educated. Many years ago working in Africa, I came across a village that banned all TVs because the tribal chief thought that the radio waves would negatively effect women's fertility. We don't expect to see this sort of thing in the US. Maybe all the town councillors who voted for this stupid regulation should be sent for retraining? Maybe we could run some cake stalls over here to fund internet access for the councillors?

    My worry is, that if the town keeps these uneducated people as councillors, the big utility corporations are always looking for uneducated communities to either dump waste or to site a new nuclear power plant?

    May I recommend that the councillors first watch a couple of episodes of the "Simpsons" as they should be familiar with this. They will then "get" the nuclear power plant bit and being thick. Then sit them down to watch educational videos such as "Home" on You Tube etc. It really did work for our "thick" people.

    Anyone, please let me know if we need to raise money for this.

    Miss Edith Hamilton-Parker (retired)
    Ewelme, Oxfordshire, England

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  2. Miss Hamilton-Parker,
    Thanks for the international comment.
    I have some friends who lived in Ibstone for many years. So I have visited the area and it is lovely! We arrived one time when the local pub was having a charity auction of vegetables. I think it was only a ruse so the local police would let them stay open after the normal closing hour. Otherwise why would you start an auction late at night.

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  3. It is nice to see that the council is so concerned about residential safety. They should take the next logical step which is of course to ban farms and gardens. More people die each year in this country in farming accidents than from wind turbines. Plus, gardens attract insect pests that are bad for health, tourism, et al...who needs wholesome, local food anyway since there are McDonalds in all the neighboring towns. Of course, Ruth Platner will have to shut her little operation down but I am sure she would be more than willing since it just makes so much sense...

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  4. Dear Mr Ferrio, I am so pleased you enjoyed your stay in our area and the local pub "auctions". I remember during the war, I used to drink most Americans under the table as they weren't used to strong beer.

    "Anonymous" has written perfectly how the town councillors should be treated. But I think the situation is serious as I've since looked in more detail about your town and it seems such a nice community and not like some town like on "Deliverance". I am so bemused how your town council got taken over by thick people. How can your town develop a strategy to ensure the town copes with future energy rising energy/food costs? Why elect people who are thick and don't understand what we are about to face in the near future. They hide behind the advice from the local lawyer but as everyone knows lawyers are always useless pen-pushing people.

    I really do thing you need to either re-train or vote out your town councillors as they will surely kill the town with their small mindedness.
    Edith

    ReplyDelete

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