Lawmakers waded back into a battle waged for years between environmentalists who want to shorten the permitting process for smaller wind energy projects and residents who say their health suffers from living near a turbine.
During a legislative hearing Tuesday, residents who live near turbines accused environmental activists of persistently pushing legislation to make it easier to permit land-based wind energy projects without acknowledging health effects. Environmentalists argued benefits of the renewable energy outweigh some of the negative impacts.
George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, told lawmakers on the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee they need to have the political will to pass legislation streamlining the permitting process.
“Wind energy is the future,” he said. “And to think that progress in this area can come without any harm is a misconception.”
Bachrach argued that when highways were built some people were hurt when they lost property, but there was “overall common good.”
“Somehow there is this notion in Massachusetts that we cannot build wind energy unless no one is hurt,” he said.
Two bills before the committee (H 2980 and S 1591), filed by Rep. Frank Smizik and Sen. Barry Finegold, would institute comprehensive siting reform for land-based wind projects.
Similar legislation made it all the way through the House in 2010, but the Senate failed to finish work on the bill. Senators in favor of it attempted to get it passed during informal sessions, but it was repeatedly blocked by opponents during that summer.
Supporters of that bill, including the Patrick administration, said it would have helped expedite wind-based turbine projects while preserving the ability of municipalities to reject unwanted projects. No one from the Patrick administration testified on the bills Tuesday.
During the hearing, some opponents argued Massachusetts is too densely populated to allow wind turbines to be built anywhere on land.
Residents from Falmouth who live near a wind facility urged lawmakers not to pass the bill.
Neil Anderson, a Falmouth resident who lives one quarter-mile away from a turbine, described his suffering. Along with headaches, Anderson said he has trouble concentrating and memory loss. He said he has to leave his house when the winds are high.
“My life has been torn upside down. All I do now is fight wind turbines,” he said.
Anderson refuted claims by some environmentalists who say the wind turbines do not cause health problems.
“They just don’t have a clue about what is going on,” Anderson said. “This is about massive wind generators that are just too close.”
Anderson argued that Massachusetts is too densely populated for turbines to be sited anywhere in the state. “They don’t belong anywhere in Massachusetts,” he said.
He invited lawmakers to sit on his front porch and “see what these turbines can do.”
“Maybe one of you will get a headache, start feeling the pressure in your ears, because it’s real,” Anderson said.
In January 2012, an independent report commissioned by the Patrick administration concluded that wind turbines present little more than an "annoyance" to residents and that limited evidence exists to support claims of devastating health impacts. Falmouth and western Massachusetts residents argued at the time that the report was biased and based on "cherry-picked" information that ignored the real-world impact of turbines.
Smizik, a Democrat from Brookline who chairs the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, said current law favors large fossil fuel plants because only energy plants larger than 100 megawatts can go to the Energy Facilities Siting Board for a consolidated permit. Land-based facilities tend to be much smaller, so they do not have the “luxury” of the fast-tracked permitting option available to fossil fuel plants.
Smizik said the legislation he filed would streamline the process for on-shore wind energy only if the project met strict public safety and environmental standards.
“This bill does not give special interest to the wind energy industry, it just levels the playing field,” Smizik said.
The legislation establishes clear standards and timely and predictable permitting procedures, Smizik said, reducing the time and cost for wind projects.
Smizik said the legislation does not take away local control, something opponents contend it does. There is opportunity for public input, he said.
Rep. Timothy Madden, a Democrat from Nantucket, opposed the bill, saying it takes away a “great deal” of local control.
“My opposition on this bill has not changed over the last several years,” Madden said.
Madden filed a bill (H 2957) that would allow coastal communities to create exclusion zones for wind turbine development.
Smizik said one area of opportunity for wind energy that is being missed is in agricultural land. Farmers struggling to maintain viable farmlands could develop wind farms on their land as a way to power farms and increase profits by selling the energy, he said.
Michael Parry, a sheep farmer who owns 220 acres in Shelburne, said he would never put a wind facility on his property after researching the effects of turbines.
“I would never subject our neighbors to that. I wouldn’t subject my family to that, and I wouldn’t subject my livestock to that,” he said.
Parry mentioned a wind facility located near a dairy farm in Glenmore, Wisconsin where the farmer reported reduced milk production from his cows after the turbines went up. Parry said he favors renewable energy, but feels environmentalists are pushing projects before the impacts are understood.
A former Marshfield High student convicted of conspiring in a Columbine-like plot against his former high school died suddenly in a Quincy home on Nov. 25.
Quincy Police said no foul play is suspected in the death of 26-year-old Joseph Nee, which occurred at approximately 8 a.m. Monday morning.
Police wouldn’t comment any further on the cause of death and press officials with the District Attorney’s office declined to issue details of the investigation.
"In this case, it appears that no foul play was involved in the death of Joseph Nee and it appears no prosecution will result," said David Traub, director of communications for the Norfolk District Attorney's office. "We would not have further comment on the cause or manner of death, which are determinations made by the Medical Examiner, not the DA."
Nee was incarcerated in 2008 for his role in a planned attack on Marshfield High School in 2004, when Nee and then 16-year-old Tobin Kerns were accused of conspiring to kill students and faculty with explosives and guns.
Nee and two classmates went to police with details of the plot, saying Kerns was planning the massacre. Police arrested Nee a month later, when friends of Kerns implicated Nee as the mastermind of the plot.
Nee was the son of Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.
After a four-day trial, Nee was sentenced to serve nine months of a 2 ½ year sentence in the Plymouth County House of Correction. With credit for time served while awaiting trial, he spent six months behind bars before completing the sentence.
Nee appealed the ruling to the state’s highest court in 2010, however the court upheld the guilty verdict.
According to his obituary, Nee became a dedicated foreman for Feeney Bros. Excavating Company for over nine years.
Funeral services were held on Nov. 30.
By Shujie Leng BU Washington News Service WASHINGTON — Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, Tuesday afternoon asked the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay a rate increase arising from recently enacted flood insurance legislation…
Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer to promote coffee line at West Roxbury, Marshfield Roche Brothers grocery stores
The following is a press release from Rockin’ & Roastin:
On November 9, Aerosmith drummer and Rockin’ & Roastin’ creator, Joey Kramer, will make appearances at Roche Bros. in Marshfield and West Roxbury. In July, Kramer announced that his Rockin’ & Roastin’ organic coffee line would grace the shelves of all Roche Bros. locations throughout Massachusetts.
To celebrate this partnership, Kramer will hit up Roche Bros. to mix and mingle with local shoppers and fans alike. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet, chat and pose for photos with Kramer, while checking out the latest offerings from Rockin’ & Roastin’. Kramer also will be personalizing Rockin’ & Roastin’ purchases with his legendary signature, making it a delicious collector’s item.
Available in whole-bean and ground versions, Kramer’s trio of brews from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Sumatra are currently on the shelves of Roche Bros. in Marshfield and West Roxbury retailing for $7.99-$8.99 per 12-ounce bag.
This event is complimentary to the public. With purchase of a Rockin’ & Roastin’ bag of coffee, Kramer will personally autograph it. For more information, please visit: www.rockinandroastin.com and www.rochebros.com.
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Both branches of the Legislature increased the penalty for picketing or protesting military funerals, to up to two years imprisonment, while Rep. James Cantwell sought further limits on protests by groups, such as Westboro Baptist Church, that hold inflammatory signs at funerals of soldiers.
“Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that these actions were just an exercise of protected free speech,” Cantwell said, before the House’s passage of the Valor Act II (S 1885) Wednesday.
He said the group’s signs and songs are designed to elicit an “emotional reaction” and asked, “How can these actions be legal?”
In its version, the Senate increased the buffer zone for military funerals to 1,000 feet.
The House version puts the limit at 500 feet.
Cantwell withdrew an amendment he proposed that would prohibit demonstrations immediately before and after military funerals, and said after some consultation he believes that will come up “at another date.”
Lawmakers hope to have the bill signed into law by Veterans Day.
Runners at the start line of the Electric Run at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 4. More than 15,000 runners partcipated in the run and the start was staggered with aproximinately 2,000 runners leaving the start line every 15 minutes.
On a sunny Saturday last month, thousands of women in colorful gear descended on the Marshfield Fairgrounds for the Shape Diva Dash over a obstacle course. The Dash is among the rapidly growing number of 5K fun runs, obstacle races, mud runs, and endurance activities mostly put on by for-profit, out-of-state companies that bill them more like social events. For the most part, the companies align themselves with national or local charities. But critics argue that because the companies are private, they are not required to divulge how much goes to charity. Nonprofit road race organizers argue that the rapid growth of fun runs hurts their own fund-raising efforts.
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MILTON, Mass. (AP) — A rookie Curry College campus police officer has been fired after he allegedly broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home and pointed a gun at her.
A spokeswoman says 26-year-old Paul Kodzis started in March but no longer works at the Milton college.
Kodzis pleaded not guilty earlier this week to charges including assault with a dangerous weapon, home invasion with a firearm, and domestic assault.
Authorities say a woman in a Marshfield home awoke early Monday morning to find Kodzis in her room, standing over her, pointing a baton and gun at her, and yelling.
The gun was not fired and no one was hurt.
Kodzis turned himself in Monday evening.
He is being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Friday. He could not be reached for comment.
© Copyright 2013 Globe Newspaper Company.
Worried about new federal flood insurance rules sparking another foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Martha Coakley on Wednesday partnered to file legislation limiting the amount of insurance homeowners in the flood zone must purchase.
Though the Winthrop Democrat said the state-level action could blunt the impact of new federal flood insurance regulations, DeLeo said Congress must still act to further protect the expanded group of coastal residents and businesses and those living near lakes and rivers who are now required to purchase more comprehensive and costly insurance.
“People aren’t going to be able to pay their insurance, and as a result of that they’re going to lose their home unless we can convince our friends in Washington, which right now I guess they’re a little bit involved with a couple other issues, but they’re really going to have to get on the ball and address this,” DeLeo told reporters after meeting with House Democrats.
The bill filed by DeLeo and Coakley would limit the amount of flood coverage a homeowner or business must purchase to the value of the mortgage on the property, instead of the replacement value of the home. Creditors would also be prohibited from requiring coverage for contents of the home, or including a deductible less than $5,000.
Taking one of the only steps a state can to limit the amount of coverage required under federal guidelines, the Beacon Hill leaders hope to lower premiums for impacted homeowners, while retaining the option for consumers to purchase more coverage if they desire.
“These new flood insurance changes are going to devastate many families and businesses in our coastal communities,” Coakley said in a statement. “We continue to urge the federal government to delay implementing these changes until they’ve followed all the steps required by law.”
Coakley said she did not expect insurers to have a “huge complaint” with the legislation.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 required the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redraw national flood maps, and eliminated various subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure sustainability.
Critics, however, say the new maps have captured large swaths of real estate at little to no risk of flooding, forcing larger numbers of property owners to purchase insurance. New rules governing the required height of buildings and other structural requirements for properties in the flood zone have also driven up the price tags on policies.
Rep. James Cantwell, a Marshfield Democrat, recently provided the News Service with a copy of an insurance bill for a Scituate homeowner that spiked up to $68,000 under the new program. He called the new FEMA flood maps “ridiculous.”
The homeowner, Peg Sullivan, told the News Service that she previously paid a $1,300 premium for the same coverage.
“It’s hurting our Massachusetts builders. It’s hurting our Massachusetts realtors. Right now, all up and down the coast, we have essentially people are being frozen out. They can’t sell their homes, and people aren’t buying because there’s so much uncertainty about what their rates are going to be for their flood insurance. The speaker taking swift action right now is so warranted and so helpful and I’m thrilled to be joining with him,” Cantwell said.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and the state’s entire Congressional delegation recently sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging a delay in the Biggert-Waters reforms.
Cantwell said budget cuts limited FEMA's ability to review its surveys, and the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, has placed on furlough the governmental affairs person at FEMA whom he speaks to about constituents' concerns. Scituate and Marshfield hired their own consultant to contest the FEMA maps.
Cantwell, whose bill (H 865) had a hearing last month calling on the Division of Insurance to regularly investigate the National Flood Insurance Program, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that DeLeo’s bill can be heard and brought forward for a vote before the end of the year.
Though he made clear the “ultimate answer” must still come from Washington, DeLeo said he hopes that by tying the insurance requirements in Massachusetts to the value of a mortgage, property owners will fare “significantly better” than they would under the federal guidelines.
“We’re truly going to see people losing their homes, not from floods, but from flood insurance,” DeLeo said.
Visiting the North Shore on Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick used a speech before the North Shore Chamber of Commerce to announce two major capital budget investments at Salem State University and North Shore Community College.
The governor detailed the state’s plans to invest $32.9 million to modernize and expand Meier Hall for science, technology, engineer and math majors at Salem State. Another $20.7 million will be spent updating the Lynn campus of North Shore Community College to accommodate additional student services and classrooms, according to the administration.
The labs at Salem State University have not been updated in more than 40 years since they were first constructed in the early and late 1960s. The university has 430 students majoring in biology and biotechnology, and 80 chemistry students.
The NSCC project will include an addition to the campus to house academic technology, math re-design, adjunct office spaces, a Center for Academic Success, tutoring, student services, student lounges and classrooms.
– M. Murphy/SHNS