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 grand opening and dedication ceremony has been held for the South Shore Medical Center’s new 85,000 square foot medical building at 143 Longwater Drive in Norwell.
The new facility consolidates South Shore Medical Center’s existing Norwell office and its Libbey Parkway-Weymouth facility into a single location. Care for most of South Shore Medical Center’s patients has been transferred to the new location, and all patients are expected to be cared for at the new facility by the end of November.
South Shore Medical Center’s new facility features 100 examination rooms and 70 medical offices, along with easier access, additional parking, comfortable waiting rooms and care areas, and more advanced diagnostic and treatment equipment for the Center’s team-based care of patients.
South Shore Medical Center, a division of Atrius Health, has been providing medical care for area residents and families since 1962, and currently operates facilities in Norwell and Kingston, as well as the Atrius Health Women’s Center in Weymouth. South Shore Medical Center is one of six medical groups that comprise Atrius Health, a not-for-profit alliance that services one million adult and pediatric patients at 50 practice locations in Eastern Massachusetts.
“This new facility will enable us to better serve our more than 65,000 patients, and to deliver the highest quality healthcare using our team-based approach,” said Thomas Carroll, chief executive officer of South Shore Medical Center. “This beautiful new building will help us continue our 51-year legacy of helping people stay healthy.”
The new South Shore Medical Center facility was jointly developed by South Shore Medical Center and FoxRock Properties of Quincy, MA. The construction manager for the project was Campanelli Construction, a construction management firm and division of Braintree-based Campanelli.
For additional information visit www.ssmedcenter.com.
Having rejected a medical marijuana moratorium that would have extended into 2015 and approved a moratorium that ends in December 2014, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has developed a cut-off point for towns that want to extend temporary moratoriums on the fledgling industry.
Since voters approved a medical marijuana initiative petition in November 2012 and the Department of Public Health in May adopted regulations for establishing marijuana dispensaries, about a third of the state’s cities and towns have enacted temporary moratoriums designed to provide more time to develop new zoning and other regulations.
On Wednesday, the AG’s Municipal Law Unit chief, Assistant Attorney General Margaret Hurley, gave approval to the town of Dartmouth for a moratorium extending until Dec. 4, 2013.
“However, we cannot presently see how a moratorium that extends beyond December 31, 2014 would be considered reasonable,” Hurley wrote, citing a 1980 case Sturges v. Chilmark, which involved zoning on Martha’s Vineyard.
The AG’s office has previously ruled that towns cannot ban medical marijuana dispensaries because that is contrary to the state law passed on a ballot referendum.
On Sept. 12, Hurley denied a bylaw passed by Canton Town Meeting, which would have ended June 30, 2015. “We recognize that every town’s planning needs are different, and that some towns have professional planning staff while other towns rely solely upon volunteer planning board members. Even in light of these varying planning needs and capacities, it is reasonable to expect a town to complete its planning process for the limited (albeit new and complex) use of [registered marijuana dispensaries] by December 30, 2014, a full 19 months after publication of the DPH regulations,” Hurley wrote.
Towns are required to submit their bylaw changes to the AG for approval. Cities do not have to undergo an AG review for their ordinances.
- A. Metzger/SHNS
Herb Chambers is making moves to develop a vacant piece of land across from the Derby Street Shoppes, and the car dealership could be operating in 18 to 24 months.
According to a release from the company, the recently opened Lexus of Norwell is scheduled to move to the Derby Street corridor within the next two years, and will feature a showroom and service department.
Though the project may seem a ways off, approvals are already being sought through Hingham's Zoning and Planning boards for permission to develop the space.
“This is actually probably going to be our fourth hearing on this. It’s been going on quite a while,” Hingham Planning Director Mary Savage Dunham said of the two boards' next joint meeting on Sept. 11. She said that meetings about the property started in June.
According to Savage Dunham, the applicant is seeking several permits, including a special permit to develop a dealership where it is not typically zoned, and approval of different dimensions for each parking spot. Herb Chambers is also seeking a site plan review.
A timeline for approval is still unknown.
“I think we’ll know more after this [Sept. 11] meeting,” Savage Dunham. “If the boards feel they have the answers they need, they could theoretically vote at this meeting, I’m just not sure if all their questions will be answered.”
An Herb Chambers spokeswoman did not have any further details about the development, but attorney Jeffery Tocchio said Conservation Commission meetings have been ongoing. The next conservation meeting is Aug. 26.
A traffic study has also been completed to determine the impact on the roadway, Savage Dunham said.
Though there have been some whisperings of a larger traffic development, such as building a connecting road to Route 53, Town Projects Engineer Roger Fernandes was unaware of any such provisions that were part of the current proposal.
“I think right now the only thing before the town is that project as related to that property. I’m not aware of any larger project at this point,” he said.
The project will run concurrently to state plans of redeveloping the roadway to improve traffic congestion and pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
Fernandes said he is planning the 25 percent design specifications for the roadway for a Planning Board meeting on Sept. 16.
A Cape Cod lawmaker and environmentalists are pushing for a study of the health effects of wind turbines on residents who live near the energy-producing machines.
Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) told lawmakers on the Public Health Committee Tuesday that passage of her bill (H 2048) would not cost the state anything because there are health experts and citizens who are “ready and willing and able to study this issue.”
Roxanne Zak, energy committee chair of the Sierra Club, said a study would provide information about the proper amount of distance between wind turbines and residents to prevent health effects on residents. Zak said it is critical for the public to acknowledge “wind turbine syndrome” is real, and that sound and pressure differences can create health problems for some people.
“We can’t dismiss the evidence that people are having problems,” she said.
The majority of Massachusetts residents support wind energy, Zak said, but they need reassurance that projects will be sited properly. “If we want the public to accept wind power, we have to look at both the positive and negative effects of wind turbines,” Zak said.
Legislation intended to address land-based wind turbine siting issues nearly passed during the 2009-2010 session but came up short and failed to gain traction last session.
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. 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.
Several calves have been born recently at Hornstra Farms' Hingham and Norwell locations, as the dairy farm continues its slow but steady growth.
The calves are part of an ever-evolving process of building a herd, said owner John Hornstra.
“We milk like 38 cows right now, and bottle the milk from those 38 cows,'' he said. "And then the young cows are future milk producers. We hope to milk 60 cows when we’re at full production. We’re raising these cows to fill our barn.”
According to Hornstra, cows give milk for only 305 days after giving birth. To keep milk production going, cows are continually bred. Gestation takes nine months, and cows are typically bred again a few months after giving birth.
That process had grown Honstra’s heard from the six he started with in 2005 to the 38 at the farm today, which is soon to have even more once the calves are grown.
“There’s a bunch at Hersey Street and a bunch at our farm in Norwell,” Honstra said of the babes, who are grazing on open pastures.
Farming goes back a long way with the Hornstra family, starting in 1915.
In the early '70s, the family got out of the cow business, but when John Hornstra took over in 1985, he was determined to bring it back.
“I always wanted to have a farm where people could come and see the cows being milked and it being bottled and making ice cream. That’s when I decided I wanted to have a farm locally,” he said.
Hornstra has been building on that dream since then, making improvements to the farm to support the diary operation, and adding milking cows bit by bit.
“Other than having my own children, [farming is] probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Raising a cow, seeing the milk it’s producing, it’s very rewarding,” Hornstra said.
Despite the growth of the heard, Hornstra Farms is not a factory, owners say. Production is done as it was on an old-fashioned dairy farm, and the farmers don’t use artificial growth hormones.
That commitment to fresh, local, and pure has customers coming back after a rough economy.
“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “We have a wonderful clientele of people that prefer better-quality products or fresher or local. That’s what we specialize in, is locally produced.”
Hornstra Farms will soon be open to the public so people can see the cows being milked as well as come by for fresh produce.
“We’re still under construction, but we’re hoping to be ready for the public sometime … this summer,” Honstra said.
For more information on the farm, click here.
With 10 years of offering small community grants to organizations throughout the South Shore, the Blue Hills Community Health Alliance will start a new initiative this year, offering up to two larger grants to worthy organizations.
Geared towards groups in Braintree, Quincy, Hingham, Scituate, Canton, Cohasset, Hull, Milton, Norwell, Norwood, Randolph, Sharon, and Weymouth, the goal of the grants is to improve local health.
As has occurred in the past, several grants, typically 10-20, ranging from $500-$3,500 each, will be handed out for smaller initiatives. Yet for the first time this year, one or two “Impact Grants” will be given out ranging from $3,600-$10,000.
“We did fund many wonderful grants last year,” said Stephanie Nitka, Blue Hills Community Health Network Area Coordinator. “It’s exciting to see what each group does with a small amount of money, and it will be exciting to see what happens with these Impact Grants.”
Last year, grants were given to a variety of organizations after an extensive vetting process, with Quincy’s Germantown Neighborhood Center, Point Webster Middle School, Quincy Asian Resources, and Manet Community Health Center all receiving funding.
Over $39,000 in funding was doled out in total to 13 organizations.
This year, along with the opportunity to win larger grants, the organization has also received more money, preparing to hand out $55,000 in funding to a variety of organizations.
According to Nitka, the funding comes from a Determination of Need funding from hospitals – money that is taken from hospital renovations and given to the Department of Public Health to be dolled out to community organizations.
On the Health Alliance website, funders included the South Shore Hospital, Norwood Hospital, Harvard Vanguard, and Weymouth MRI.
With more money this year, the process will be no less intensive. Those looking to apply will have to attend a mandatory information session on either April 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. or on April 25 from 5 to 7 p.m.
From there, organizations will fill out an application. Projects must either improve access to care, prevent or manage chronic disease, improve mental health in the community, or address substance abuse.
A judging panel made up of reviewers from the community judge the applications on how they fit the criteria and will decide who receives funding.
According to Nitka, applications are due by May 16 and winners will be announced by June 30. Awarded programs will start July 1.
For more information and to register for an information session, visit here.
It was a senior night that will live forever in Norwell girls' basketball history.
Six minutes into the second quarter, senior center Brenna Diggins grabbed her 1,000th career rebound as the Clippers went on to defeat Mashpee, 54-14, and move to 16-4 on the season.
She hit 1,000 career points as a junior - currently sitting at 1,359 - for the first player in school history to be a double member of the 1,000-stat club.
"For our program it solidifies what the entire program stands for - playing every possession and not taking anything for granted," coach Matt Marani said.
Diggins, playing gingerly on a sore knee, entered seven rebounds from the historic mark and finished exactly there, coming out two minutes later and sitting for the rest of the game. She had 11 points.
Marani said he run plays for her to do her thing - ideally finding a one-on-one situation to let her drop-step, but really he expects everything and anything from her.
"It starts in the paint with Brenna, and her teammates step up as we play," he said. "She drives her team, and it's been that way for four years."
Diggins only has two regular-season games left in a Clippers uniform.
"I hope someday I'll another have a player like her, but it's very doubtful ," Marani said.