At clean energy tour, dialogue dominated by wind turbine opponents airing grievances

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By Wednesday, Jun 21 News  12 Comments
Victor Feldman
A stop on the Clean Energy Future Tour at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield was dominated by concerns from audience members about wind turbines.
Sen. Marc Pacheco answers questions on wind turbine noise pollution from constituents. Photo: Victor Feldman

Sen. Marc Pacheco answers questions on wind turbine noise pollution from constituents. Photo: Victor Feldman

Pittsfield — It was just three weeks ago that President Trump made his controversial decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. The president justified his decision by saying that the agreement would hurt economic growth. The move was met with outrage from climate activists, business leaders and even members of the president’s cabinet including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Since then, 11 states including Massachusetts have vowed to meet the standards of the climate accords on their own. It is within this context that state Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, the founding chairman of the Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, is taking his Clean Energy Future Tour on the road.

On Monday evening (June 19), inside a small but packed auditorium at Berkshire Community College, Pacheco took the floor. He started with a joke, pointing to newly elected state Sen. Adam Hinds on his right, Pacheco said, “It’s so great working with your senator, he is so hopeful and optimistic. You can tell he’s new.” Amid laughter from the audience, Pacheco pivoted to the grave matter at hand. Using a PowerPoint presentation, he showed charted data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA studies that represented how the national temperatures had increased dramatically over the past decade.

The landmark Paris climate agreement was the work of decades of climate advocacy, protest and growing scientific consensus: 97 percent of climate scientists believe the earth is warming due to human activity. Now the U.S. finds itself on a surprisingly short list of nations that failed to sign or ratify the agreement: Nicaragua, Syria and the United States. But Pacheco said that he refuses to give up hope. He recalled watching former Vice President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary many of the audience members mentioned they, too, had seen. Compelled by observing the horrors of climate change play out on the big screen, Pacheco was driven to become what he referred to as a “climate messenger.” He traveled down to Nashville, Tennessee, shortly thereafter to be trained by Gore himself on how to educate the public about climate change.

Clean energy employment numbers for Massachusetts. Photo: Victor Feldman

Clean energy employment numbers for Massachusetts. Photo: Victor Feldman

Pacheco’s goal was not to prove the existence of climate change, but to demonstrate that clean energy production could do the opposite of what the president claimed–grow the economy by creating millions of new jobs.

Pacheco explained that 15 percent of the electricity in the United States is generated using renewable energy sources, primarily wind, hydroelectric and solar power. In all but nine states, there are more jobs in clean energy than in fossil fuels. Massachusetts alone has over 105,000 jobs in clean energy and that number is growing rapidly. Extolling the virtues of offshore wind power, Pacheco added, “We are the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” The way he and Hinds see it, renewable energy presents the biggest opportunity for jobs and economic growth in their lifetimes.

After a concise presentation, Pacheco opened the floor to questioning. Perhaps believing that the audience members would be as concise in their comments as he was, Pacheco made the regrettable decision not to place a time limit on each speaker.

Immediately, drama ensued.

Panelists, from left: Sen. Adam Hinds, Sen. Marc Pacheco and legal aid Kyle Murray. Photo: Victor Feldman

Panelists, from left: Sen. Adam Hinds, Sen. Marc Pacheco and legal aid Kyle Murray. Photo: Victor Feldman

The first seven speakers came ready to do battle against something they believed Pacheco had ignored in his presentation: wind power.

One opponent of wind energy was armed with a three-page testimonial about his plight of living near a wind turbine. He presented his document in the oratory style of a contestant in a slam poetry competition: quickly, nervously and with pauses designed to draw out the maximum impact of his words. He began, “Do you know what it’s like to live for 30 years in peace and quiet, to come home and see 350-foot blades from wind turbines in your neighborhood? Do you know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in your own yard, having to listen to an industrial noise that never seems to end?”

His testimony was impassioned and clearly sincere, but the speakers that followed earned less sympathy from the audience.

The next speaker was appalled at the discovery that being near a wind turbine made her “feel weird.” To make matters worse, one man went as far as to suggest that the suicide of his neighbor had been triggered by the noise pollution created from a nearby wind turbine.

In the spotlight, Pacheco kept his cool as, one by one, residents stood up to complain about the sound pollution and visual impact of wind turbines. After the first hour, he said that the audience’s concerns had been heard before and would be taken seriously, but that is was time to shift the conversation to cover new territory.

The dialogue took a brief pause from complaints to talk about what the state could do besides investing more heavily in wind and solar. One resident suggested building a commuter rail to New York. Fiber-optic Internet as well as more money allocated towards public education were also suggested as ways to involve the community in cutting dependence on fossil fuels.

A Berkshire County resident reads testimony on the perils of living near a wind turbine. Photo: Victor Feldman

A Berkshire County resident reads testimony on the perils of living near a wind turbine. Photo: Victor Feldman

The event was scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. but ran an hour longer. With outbreaks of contention and speakers who appeared more intent on hijacking the conversation rather than contributing to it, the hearing turned into a forum on the perils of wind turbines. Despite this, Pacheco insisted that all 40 people who had signed up to speak would have the opportunity to do so.

Clearly, constituents sent a strong message that night to Pacheco. The upshot was that wind turbines can cause real harm to small communities: They create serious noise pollution and require mountain tops to be converted into construction sites. However, wind turbines generate nearly twice the electricity as photovoltaic cells and are among the most viable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Pacheco had said in an email blast, “This tour is an answer to thousands of constituent conversations, calls and emails concerning the health and future of our local communities, our state, our country and our world as a whole.” He may not have gotten the answers he was looking for, but sometimes that’s the price of acting democratically and listening to the people.


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12 Comments   Add Comment

  1. dennis irvine says:

    Our challenge is not as simple as plugging in some solar panels and continuing with business as usual growth based economics; we live on a finite planet. If we deploy limited resources chasing the belief we can simply replace oil with ‘renewables’ we will undermined our ability to transition to a lower carbon, sustainable way of life. Our only, genuinely, renewable resource is community.

    From MIT- https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608126/in-sharp-rebuttal-scientists-squash-hopes-for-100-percent-renewables/

  2. Steve Farina says:

    While I agree that renewable energy sources offer job/business opportunities and economic growth, as well as being relatively good for the environment, where does this statement come from:
    “97 percent of climate scientists believe the earth is warming due to human activity. “?
    Is there some documented survey of all climate scientists somewhere?
    Also, even if 3% disagree with 97% does that automatically make them wrong?
    Didn’t the scientific community once believe and propogate that the world was flat, until o few dissenters showed that they were looking at the data wrong?

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      I remember sitting in the Mt. Everett gym and watched Congressman Conte hold up a plastic bag and tell us these will save the earth on the first official Earth Day and we know what happened later.

      Those were the days when paper was bad.

    2. Shawn G. says:

      Scientists believed the earth was flat? No- people in general believed the earth was flat. People also believed the sun went around the earth. If you look at history, the pattern is clear, science has cleared up and demystified reams of myths and misunderstandings.

  3. Joseph Method says:

    The 97% number comes from an analysis of papers apparently: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-06-15/97-percent-consensus-on-climate-change-it-s-complicated . In any case it’s certain that climate denial is a minority position along scientists. It’s true that consensus doesn’t prove a theory but the point of bringing it up is that we usually defer to scientific consensus. We rely on it to keep our planes in the air, to produce better smart phones, and to treat us for illnesses. But the moment that the consensus touches on something that would have an economic cost suddenly we’re the expert evaluators capable of second guessing the consensus. That looks like motivated reasoning to me.

  4. Frank Haggerty says:

    Falmouth Massachusetts Wind Turbines Ground Zero Poorly Placed USA
    Politicians took the sales peoples’ word that consequential CO2 savings would be realized ! Ground Zero Poorly Placed Wind Turbines USA
    https://patch.com/massachusetts/falmouth/falmouth-massachusetts-wind-turbines-ground-zero-poorly-placed-usa

  5. Michael Fairneny says:

    Victor Feldman you are welcome to come to my home and see and hear for yourself what I have to deal with each and every day….One moment in time won’t fully explained my dilemma… but people are suffering all over the world due to improper placement of industrial wind turbines… These are not windmills .

  6. Elizabeth Andersen says:

    Maybe Senator Pacheco’s dire climate change power point presentation would not have turned into a turbine neighbor cry for relief if our Massachusetts government would FINALLY get serious about the hazardous pulsing noise emitted by large turbine near homes. I live in Falmouth and have two town owned turbines across the street from my home which have made our lives a true nightmare so we have fought through 7 years of courts – against our town leaders who felt $ was more important than people, and we have had our health and nuisance turbine issues recognized as REAL by the court judges. Shame, shame, shame all of you who think that just a few should suffer for the rest. And get with it Senator Pacheco and all you other green energy band standers because it is had to get citizens interested in saving the Earth when politicians (amateurs) pitch their $GREEN$ ideas on us, make their name know, and then blow town never to be heard from again.
    My husband and I owned and operated an alternative energy company for 30 years – until our town leaders with the great help of our MA politicians, squeezed 2 turbines into our neighborhood without any input from the neighbors. The extremely loud 24/7 pulsing and pounding of the turbines tortured us until we were physically, mentally and financially broke. For this reason I will never trust ANY government official again!

  7. David Moriarty says:

    All this “Fake It and Take it in Massachusetts” has got to end. Time to send all these Beacon Hill politicians a real message. Massachusetts does not and never will support Eco Fascism.

  8. Ted Hartke says:

    I abandoned my home in December 2013. The wind turbine noise was terrible…..severe sleep deprivation drove us out of our house in Vermilion County Illinois. InvEnergy refused to allow us to sleep in our own home.

    1. Larry Lorusso says:

      Ted, so sorry for your loss, I hope you find peace and quiet.

  9. Larry Lorusso says:

    Mr. Feldman, were you actually listening to what speakers at the meeting said? I hope so, but your article doesn’t give me any hope you are listening and you have your mind made up. You declare us as opponents. I’m pro environment, exactly why I have issues with IWT’s on our mountain tops. You are typical of the media, reciting the lines of the renewable industry, saying IWT”s are great. All those “jobs”, at Hoosac Wind amounts to a whooping 3 permanent jobs. Amazing a project that cost $90,000,000 and sacrificed 2 different mountains ridges results in little local employment. What we will get in the bargain is electric rate increases, and that’s after subsidies more than twice what the going rate for wholesale rates of electricity here in New England. Perhaps that isn’t of any concern to you and have plenty of money to contribute to the coffers of multinational corporations who contribute little to nothing to our communities. Iberdrola with little investment in our communities gets a pass on paying taxes like the rest of us and negotiates deals that are worth less than 10¢ on the dollar.

    You mock the neighbors, nervous, how do you think it feels to air very personal concerns to a room full of strangers? The pauses, not for drama, but trying to keep emotions in check as we are feel threatened in our own homes on a daily basis. We have been called crazy and other things because we speak up to warn others and don’t want to see others suffer for no good reason. We do feel weird at times and worse. Try not sleeping for several nights in a row and then go and use a saw, see how you feel. It catches up and can be easy to make simple mistakes that have large consequences!

    Interesting you didn’t mention how Hoosac Wind and all the costs only generates a few thousands of a percent. What a deal, and saving the World too! What about you Mr. Feldman, what are you doing personally about climate change, generate any electricity, and getting around, public transportation? How do you heat your house? I hope your not one of the hypocrites that point the finger at us laughing saying something must be done and then go about your own life without a care on who’s back you step on. People have actually told me to move or buck up and take it like a man, of course not to my face.

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Ruth Verones, 90, of Alford

Tuesday, Nov 21 - Ruth married her beloved husband, John (Sonny) Verones, in 1950 and they raised their family on a dairy farm on Alford Road.