BECKET -- At a forum sponsored by the town’s Democratic Committee and attended by about 40 residents, wind energy was a major topic of audience discussion after 4th Berkshire District challenger Scott Laugenour of the Green-Rainbow Party and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, outlined their views on key issues.
Moderator Ann Krawet of the committee asked about "large wind-energy systems being put on our ridges fairly close to residents who are enjoying the beauty and quiet of the area."
The guests also included 2nd District state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who represents Becket until Jan. 2, when the town joins the reconfigured 4th District.
All three politicians found common ground, declaring their opposition to proposed wind-siteing reform legislation, which did not come up for a final vote this year in Boston. Supporters say it would eliminate lengthy court challenges to turbine projects while maintaining local control.
"I’m opposed to the bill, I’m on record voting against it," Pignatelli said. "I’m a huge advocate of local control. Keep state government out of our own business. Š Let the local government run its course in the process."
He cited the decision by Lenox earlier this year, following research by a local study panel, not to pursue a proposed municipal turbine project atop Lenox Mountain.
"Local control is the answer to us protecting what we have and letting you chart your own course," he said. "Here I am as a state representative, and I don’t trust the state when it comes to ‘We’ll give you six months to figure it out. But if you don’t, we’re going to do what we want anyway.’
"That doesn’t work for me. Keep the state out of it, let you guys be in control of whatever renewable energy you want to do."
Laugenour agreed, defining local control as a town meeting vote, "not something that drags on for a long time."
"We do need to consider clean, renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint. We need solar, wind and conservation, but let the communities figure out how to do it," Laugenour said.
He said that local control does not mean local appointees or even a Select Board "that might have been elected by 15 percent voter turnout, but a town meeting vote that is debated by everyone and voted on as the final arbiter for any wind-siting."
Laugenour also contended that the state "has not done a good job addressing the health effects for anyone living within a certain distance of a turbine."
He pointed to medical impacts on people living within a quarter-mile of an installation in Falmouth, on Cape Cod. "Those people need reparations for what was done to them," said Laugenour.
Mark also described the proposed wind-energy bill as a "bad idea," explaining how Berkshire lawmakers opposed efforts to insert it into a renewable energy bill that won approval. He mentioned public forums held in Hancock and Lenox attended by state officials as opportunities for county residents to express their strong opposition.
"We worked hard to make sure this didn’t get inserted into the broader energy bill at the last minute," Mark said.
To reach Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.