The Patrick administration is pushing for passage of the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (Senate No. 2206), and the state senate could vote on it this Thursday.

The Act remains a bad deal for communities, citizens, wind facility neighbors - and our environment and economy - and should be defeated.

Despite a few small changes to the Act, it still allows an unelected board appointed by the governor to override a decision on a wind-facility application by the local town board. The wind developer does not need approval from the local board before proceeding to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board for a permit. If the town denies a permit, and the EFSB permits it, the latter prevails.

The Act replaces environmental laws with new, weaker standards which the EFSB is empowered to establish, apply, and waive. In fact, even if a wind facility does not comply with the EFSB's standards, the EFSB is required in some instances to issue a permit if it meets lower thresholds.

There are no protections for rare species; the Act requires standards for protecting their habitat, but none for the species themselves.(The only exception is if a rare species using the wind-facility site happens to be a bird or bat considered by the state to be vulnerable to wind turbines.) There are no opportunities for anyone to sue in state court to protect the rare species against impacts from the wind facility.

Almost all meaningful rights of participation and appeal are lost under the Act. Municipalities no longer have standing to appeal an EFSB permit to the courts.

The Act creates an unprecedented benefit for a single industry.

No other New England state exempts wind facilities from environmental laws or full judicial review. In Massachusetts, developers of conventional power plants must first make all reasonable attempts to obtain local and state permits before seeking exemptions through the EFSB. For them, EFSB proceedings are subject to judicial review through the court system.

In all respects, the Act does not create a level playing field with conventional power plants, it tilts the field steeply in favor of the wind facilities at the expense of town home rule, environmental protections, and the existing safeguards for citizen participation and rights of appeal.

If this Act is enacted, other special interests will seek the same special exemptions from local and state laws.

With the state now funding studies for wind facilities in areas with marginal wind speeds, more than 150 communities in Massachusetts will be vulnerable if this Act is approved. If you want to see if your community has developable wind resources, please email me, and I'll send you a copy of your county wind map.

The only way to stop this bill is if enough citizens protest to the state senate.