State Senators Adam Hinds and Marc Pacheco hosted a session of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Future Tour in Pittsfield on Monday.
Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco of Taunton, who founded the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, started the Massachusetts Clean Energy Future Tour to engage residents from Cape Cod to the Berkshires on issues like clean energy and climate change.
“We need to move forward and fight the worst effects of global change and embrace a clean energy future,” Pacheco says.
Pacheco says renewable energy is not just an environmental policy but an economic one, too.
“Critics said that we would kill jobs in Massachusetts if we did that,” Pacheco says. “That we would ruin our economy.”
Pacheco says clean energy employs more than 105,000 Massachusetts workers – an $11.8 billion industry. Massachusetts is tied with California as the most energy-efficient state.
Western Massachusetts State Senator Adam Hinds says this wasn’t news to any of the roughly 100 people in the room at Berkshire Community College.
“Really our highly informed constituency when it comes to energy and the environment,” Hinds says, “and in part that’s because we have been on the front line of pipeline proposals and a whole range of topics on that front.”
But not everyone came to cheer renewable energy.
Some residents – like Michael Farney of Florida, Massachusetts – renewed concerns about wind turbines and solar arrays in their neighborhoods harming their health.
Farney claims he has experienced chronic anxiety, sleep deprivation and a heart condition because of the turbines’ noise and vibrations.
“Do you know what it’s like to come home after 30 years of living in peace and quiet to see blades of 350 foot wind turbines in your neighborhood,” Farney says. “Do you know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in your own yard listening to industrial noise that never seems to end?”
More than half of the three-hour hearing was dominated by six out of the 40 speakers who echoed Farney’s concern. Their testimony ranged from the carbon footprint of installing wind turbines and the power they generate to the impact on nearby property values. One woman even played a YouTube video to demonstrate what it sounds like to live near wind turbines.
Residents from Florida and Clarksburg have been complaining about the Hoosac Wind Project since it was erected in 2012.
Lenox Selectman Channing Gibson also thinks wind projects are sprouting up too fast.
Lenox had a proposal to build two turbines on Lenox Mountain. But it stopped short after a town-appointed committee found the consultants overestimated the amount of power the town would receive.
“… and that we were not going to make our financial goals and that we going to have impacts that were never really made clear to the citizens,” Gibson says.
Gibson also cited a possible drop in tourism, a staple of Lenox’s economy.
The discussion shifted to fossil fuels and the Kinder Morgan Connecticut pipeline expansion project. The utility company is cutting down trees in Otis State Forest to bring together Western Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut on the same natural gas line.
Speakers also raised concern about the nation dropping out of the Paris Climate Accord. Pacheco reminded everyone that Massachusetts has joined 37 other states that are moving to remain in the pact.
"Your senator and I do not have to be convinced that we need to move forward as rapidly as possible," Pacheco says.
The Democrats say they will continue to push a pro-renewable energy agenda.