This Tuesday, March 5 at 1pm the New Hampshire House Science, Technology and Energy Committee will vote on two important bills effecting New Hampshire environmental and energy future: HB 580and HB 484.
Both of these bills relate to the expansion of wind turbines in the western and northern regions of the state. Both of these bills currently rest in committee. A large portion of representatives considered “retaining” the bills which essentially means they sit without action for an indefinite period — while energy industries continue unabated with their development within currently outdated and insufficient guidelines and rules.
We urge people to call the committee members and their house representatives to tell them to pass these two bills and get them out of committee and onto the house floor for a full vote. Click on the link below for a full listing of committee members with links to their email address and telephone numbers. Most NH Reps are very responsive to citizen inquiries and will answer phones and emails promptly and always will read them.
House Science, Technology and Energy Committee
Senators in support of or acting sponsors of the HB 580:
– Sen. Jeannie Forrester – sponsor
– Sen. Jeff Woodburn – supporter
HOUSE BILL 580 proposes a moratorium on any further construction of wind turbines or transmission lines. Linked above, the bill text is short and to the point.
A moratorium on any further construction or approval of transmission lines (as originally intended by the bill’s authors) and wind turbine development will allow communities and all stakeholders a chance to develop stricter and more appropriate guidelines for renewable energy development. Industry has threatened that the renewable energy time table will be lost causing the RSP to spin out, they have threatened that they will leave the area, never to come back again if they don’t get what they want now. They also threaten that federal tax credits will soon expire, presumably never to be resurrected again. None of these claims have any basis in reality.
Ironically committee members expressed their desire for more information on the issue, many of them stating that they just didn’t have all the facts. Without the moratorium, the SEC will continue its approval process unabated and the people will not have the information and the facts so desperately needed on this issue.
The wind turbine industry has threatened that waiting will cause them to look elsewhere; that a wait signals ‘bad to do business in New Hampshire’. Seems rather disingenuous when at the same time industry lobbyists say that they have the communities’ concerns at heart, that they are confident of the quality and sustainability of their product and that they will work with communities.
HOUSE BILL 484 sets parameters for the SEC to consider aesthetic issues relating to the placement of structures, particularly their visibility “without amplification by the human eye”. Most importantly HB 484 will add to the existing SEC rules of RSA 162-H the following regarding public input:
“6 New Section; Public Approval. Amend RSA 162-H by inserting after section 10 the following new section:
162-H:10-a Public Approval.
I. The site evaluation committee shall determine whether any part of any structure of any proposed project is visible without amplification to the human eye from public property in a particular city or town. Its determination shall be based on information provided in the application and any change in or amendment thereto, any petition filed under RSA 162-H:7, VII, at any public hearing, and in any other balanced way deemed appropriate by the committee.
II. For each city and town in which the committee finds in the affirmative and for which a petition under RSA 162-H:10, VII was submitted, a vote shall be taken in such city or town at the next regular meeting of its legislative body. The question before the voters shall be as follows: “Are you in favor of the state approving the energy facility project proposed by ________________ for the city/town of _____________, specifically a [insert “power plant,” “windmill farm,” etc.] off _______________ road?”
III. The town or city clerk shall certify to the site evaluation committee the result of the vote in his or her community, and the committee shall total the votes for all participating communities taken together.
IV. No proposed project shall be granted a certificate where the total of the negative votes of all participating cities and towns taken together exceeds the total of the positive votes; provided, however, that such a certificate may be granted if subject to the condition that no part of any structure of the proposed facility is visible without amplification to the human eye at any time or season from any public property.”
LET THE SEC DO ITS WORK:
When this writer talked to some members of the committee, the trust in the SEC and its process was remarkable. But assumptions can be dangerous. Currently the rules that govern the SEC (Site Evaluation Committee) fall under RSA 162-F and RSA 162-H and deal mostly with traditional power generation plants such as gas, coal and nuclear. Unfortunately although the wind industry has developed on some small scale within New Hampshire there exists no firm guidelines for the SEC to follow regarding the development of wind energy in the state. In 2007 a group of industry experts and other stakeholders put together a proposal of guidelines for wind, but the SEC has failed to adopt the proposed guidelines.
An amendment was proposed by Bob Backus (d) and Susan Arnold of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) that would demand that the the committee recommend that these guidelines be updated and adopted by the SEC. But this amendment was proposed as a compromise to the resistance of some members of the committee to move on a moratorium. While the updating and adoption of the 2007 rules is needed, many see this as still allowing a loop hole through which current applicants can jump through. The amendment fails to mandate that all applications stop until further research and updating is complete.
At the working session last Tuesday an industry rep for PSNH spoke of her familiarity with the working group that drew up the 2007 guidelines, noting “I was around then.” She noted that the process took at least a year. Can we or should we depend on the industry to be willing to wait a year or more for the new guidelines to come online? Can we have faith that they will not pressure the SEC to continue their current permitting process and allow development unabated?
One has to wonder if the SEC is willing or ready to deal with the complex issues of wind energy if they have not bothered to adopt or even request an update of the proposed guidelines of 2007. Most markedly, if one bothers to scan the guidelines, it is clear that the working group admits that they have only a small amount of data to go on and that further study on the issue of wind energy generation is urgently needed and that was in 2007!
THE SEC PROCESS:
Many of the representatives in the committee pointed to the “Antrim Decision” as proof that the SEC does in fact do their job in hearing out a communities concerns and will rule accordingly. Unfortunately, as was pointed out in testimony at the February 19th hearing in Representative’s Hall by an Antrim resident and activist, it took four long hard years for the community to come together — all volunteer — to combat the paid wind industry lobbyists. It is worth noting as well that Antrim was the only town that was able to stop a wind project from gaining SEC approval even though numerous projects have gone online over the years, not all with shining success. Groton Wind Farm, LLC (Iberdrola satellite) already has caused problems that are currently pending before the SEC. Although the issues, placement of buildings and poor road maintenance are disturbing in and of themselves, most troubling is Iberdrola (in this instance Groton Wind Farm, LLC) seems to demonstrate poor management if not outright dishonesty in its practices.
The rules governing the SEC process, 100-300 spell out in detail the process by which hearings are held. It is clear from reading the guidelines that general court procedure is followed with rules of discovery, cross examination and petition by the public or “interveners” that may be cumbersome and difficult to navigate for those not legally trained. HB 484 gives more direct empowerment to communities at least on the issue of site placement a more direct and democratic process.
TRULY GREEN OR JUST ‘GREEN WASHING’?
You know, the “green” packaging at stores, touting that a product has a better carbon footprint of some competitor, that a product’s production used less energy or that a small portion of the product’s content is made up of recycled material? Ever cynically wonder if all that is really true or just a lot of fluff? Ever stop to consider that possibly there’s a certain irony to a company making a profit off of increased consumption while calling itself ‘green’?
In our haste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we must examine all options carefully and intelligently. Enough data exists from wind turbine energy production around the globe to draw serious questions that must be answered. The core cause of our current environmental crisis has more to do with past ignorance of the grave costs of energy generation to our environment and health. It seems that now in the 21st century we should have the wisdom to know that the first order of business is to all options consider carefully. While wind energy may not, in the simple view produce CO2, many portions of its construction do:
– wind turbine sites require extensive deforestation for access roads and maintenance buildingsas one person notes on windeffects.org, deforestation removes vital natural environmental scrubbers for CO2 gas.
– the irregularity of energy generation by wind requires backup from traditional fossil fuel resources in order to balance out its lackluster and irregular contribution to the power grid.
– wind power can only provide an efficiency of around 10-17%, figures of 30% efficiency touted by the industry constitute only the highest efficiency in the best conditions, such is never consistently provided by wind. In fact the only locations in New Hampshire where turbines might have a “good” to “moderate” rating are on the tops of currently valued and protected mountaintop ridgelines.
– wind turbines as proposed for New Hampshire and elsewhere are expected to tower at 454′, requiring footings as large as 20′ square, some estimates are as high as 60′ x 20′ deep. The excavation required for any footing is always far larger than the footing itself, so consider this estimate conservative for the destruction of landscape. This is particularly important when considering the ‘bony’, that is rocky terrain of New Hampshire.
– currently EPD Energy has plans to move forward on a project that will directly impact the Mount Cardigan State Park and the surrounding towns. Mount Cardigan is a popular tourist destination and part of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s system of with a lodge that hosts nearly 8,000 overnight guests a year and maintains a network of trails throughout the western region. It is estimated that the Mount Cardigan trails serve over 15,000 hikers a year in all seasons. EPD energy’s proposed wind installations will sit directly on current trails impacting this vital gem of New Hampshire’s western region.
– the owner of the Rumney Village Store recently told this writer that his business jumps up 600% in the spring and summer months as tourists come to enjoy Newfound Lake, Rock Rumney and the surrounding mountains and hills in the area. They don’t come to walk wide deforested access roads to wind turbines. While a few turbines may not be intrusive, an industrial wind “farm” of nearly 500′ turbines planted close together along ridgelines with access roads to each carved out of the forest is quite another matter.
Finally, the elephant in the room when discussing energy use and generation is conservation. The acceptance of the paradigm of expanded consumption to drive economic expansion and profit must be challenged at its root. While the reduction of greenhouse gasses in the production of energy must continue, this cannot carry on in a vacuum. The time when energy was seen as cheap and easy has come and gone; manifest destiny has played out. We’ve drilled, blasted, dug, carved, scraped and soiled our planet to the point where we lay on the precipice of near destruction.
In addition, in the vein of continued consumption and individualized technology we’ve become more disparate and more disconnected from our communities and ourselves. Our national government has become enmeshed with global corporate power on a level never before seen. Disconnected from local communities and their needs, giant corporations intrude on communities to exploit the local citizenry and extract their resources, whether natural or human, for their own profit, returning little if any benefit back. Sustainability for the future must consider the long term health and growth of a community — for its own sake, not for the profit of a few large companies that will inevitably leave the unprofitable mess for the community to deal with.
For further information see links below:
Wind Turbines Show How Costly Free Can Be : Minnesota Public Radio
Wind Power’s Dirty Secret: Its Carbon Footprint: KATU.com, Portland Oregon