Statewide Planning & Permitting Criteria Needed

There is presently no legally established wind energy siting plan or criteria, applied consistently throughout Massachusetts and offshore that would minimize environmental impacts of wind energy development. While Mass Audubon recognizes that there are regulatory programs in place to permit wind energy projects, we believe it would be beneficial to both the industry and the environment to have a comprehensive planning and siting criteria framework in place to guide projects to the most appropriate locations.

A statewide plan should be developed, identifying appropriate and inappropriate areas and/or criteria for siting wind farms. The energy deregulation law (Chapter 164 of the Acts of 1997) established a fund dedicated to the promotion and development of renewable energy facilities. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative administers these funds. Some of this money has been spent mapping wind resources across the state. Development of a statewide wind energy siting plan to minimize environmental impacts would be another appropriate use of this money, as it would facilitate faster and less controversial development of wind energy facilities. The statewide siting plan should encompass all land within Massachusetts as well as state and federally controlled offshore waters. The state and federal government should cooperate in undertaking this planning process through a coordinated, comprehensive Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act/National Environmental Protection Act (MEPA/NEPA) review process, resulting in a "programmatic" Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS). The planning process should be open and transparent, with ample opportunity for public comment. Once a statewide plan is developed through MEPA/NEPA, it can provide a blueprint for development of wind energy projects for the next five to ten years.

Siting criteria should be developed and included in the programmatic EIR/EIS to guide wind farms to locations where bird risks and other environmental impacts are low. Statewide, consistent environmental siting criteria should be built into state and federal wind energy development planning as well as permit review processes for specific projects. For example, wind turbines should not be located in areas where bird use is especially concentrated, along major migratory corridors, or where rare or endangered bird species are likely to be impacted. The cumulative impacts of multiple wind energy projects should be considered in both statewide planning for wind farm siting and in the environmental review and permitting processes for individual projects.

Mass Audubon testified in support of Governor Romney's March 25, 2003 proposal before the Joint House-Senate Committee on Energy to establish an Ocean Zoning Task Force and will work with the administration on addressing planning issues identified in this position statement.