PITTSFIELD — The state senate's Clean Energy Future Tour made a stop at Berkshire Community College Monday to receive testimony from local residents about climate change and renewable energy.
But the first 70 minutes of the two-hour hearing was dominated by local neighbors of wind turbines and other anti-wind activists. Their testimony centered on noise levels near the turbines, the carbon footprint of erecting wind turbine projects, the output and the impact on nearby property owners.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Future Tour is a statewide committee initiative on clean energy, climate change and constituent engagement, led by Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, who is the founding chairman of the Senate Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change. State Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, hosted the forum at BCC, which drew about 100 people.
The tour consists of nine public hearings in various communities across the state to hear the thoughts and suggestions of constituents on clean energy and climate change issues.
The testimony received, written and oral, will be reviewed and incorporated into a report from the committee.
Before hearing comments, Pacheco explained the Massachusetts has been one of the leaders in expanding the sources of renewable energy, and expanding the renewable energy economy in the state.
He noted that statewide, there are now 105,000 jobs in the state's clean energy sector, including more than 12,000 in Western Massachusetts, which showed 6 percent growth from 2015 to 2016, and more than 1,000 new businesses in the clean energy sector.
Massachusetts is tied with California as the most energy-efficient state in the union, Pacheco said.
Despite the Trump Administration's abandonment of the Paris Climate Accord, Massachusetts joined 37 other states in keeping with the accord, and together, he said, will exceed the goals set forth in the international agreement.
"Your senator (Hinds) and I do not need to be convinced that we need to do everything we need to do to move forward on climate change as quickly as possible," Pacheco said.
The first few speakers at the forum included a resident of Florida and close neighbor to the Hoosac Wind project.
He attributed medical issues like chronic anxiety, sleep deprivation and a heart condition to the unending "industrial noise" and vibrations he said comes from the turbine installation.
Other speakers echoed his concerns, taking more than an hour of the remaining time.
Pacheco explained that they had been heard, their testimony is on the record and would be considered. He hoped others could bring up their input on topics other than wind energy. At one point, the audience joined his appeals when a woman declined to wrap up her comments.
He went on to say that more people are employed by the clean energy sector than in fossil fuel companies "times five." And if federal subsidies for fossil fuels were to be eliminated, renewable energy would be much cheaper than gas or oil.
One gentleman wondered about the legitimacy of climate change, noting that there have been incorrect theories put forth by scientists in the past.
Pacheco said that when 97 percent of scientists agree on the problem, the cause and the solution, then action needs to be taken.
Others rose to decry the effects of air pollution on the health of people all around the country and the world, including children suffering from asthma, and called for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
"We have to keep trying, and this state is clearly a leader," said one speaker from Dalton. "We can't lose site of the medical impacts resulting from air pollution we don't see."
Another speaker asked the legislators "to pursue renewable energy despite the atmosphere in Washington, D.C."
She also pointed out that higher energy costs in Western Massachusetts need to be addressed.
Local resident Eleanor Tillinghast stressed that energy conservation is an important aspect of reducing the use of fossil fuels, and how much of an impact passenger rail service to the Berkshires connecting New York and Boston would have. She also called for more bus transportation to local communities.
High-speed internet and promoting the sale of locally grown food would also be important efforts to reduce carbon emissions, she added.