Cashman to pursue bill to clarify law to make sure turbine project is allowed
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
The developer of a proposed wind farm for Buzzards Bay plans to seek legislation to clarify an existing state law to ensure its renewable energy project can move forward.
Todd Presson, director of wind energy development at Jay Cashman Inc. in Cambridge, said he expects the construction company will pursue legislation next year that would allow the South Coast Wind project, which calls for 90 to 120 turbines off the coasts of Fairhaven, Dartmouth and the Elizabeth Islands in Buzzards Bay.
Construction in the bay is tightly restricted by a state law governing ocean sanctuaries because the bay is within a state-designated zone known as the Cape and Islands Ocean Sanctuary.
But the state law is unclear: One section doesn’t allow for any structures to be built on the seabed or for offshore power plants in such sanctuaries, while another section appears to make an exception for energy generation, distribution and transmission projects.
Unfortunately for Jay Cashman Inc., state regulators recently ruled that the law does not allow the Buzzards Bay project. Stephen Pritchard, the secretary of the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs at the time, issued a certificate on Aug. 9 that says the exemption does not apply to generating plants within an ocean sanctuary – just gas and power lines leading to a generating plant outside of a designated sanctuary.
Presson said his company will eventually notify the state of its arguments for allowing power plants to be exempt.
But Presson also said Jay Cashman Inc. will pursue legislation to clarify the existing law, either through a standalone bill or as part of a bigger ocean management bill. The Legislature has adjourned from regular formal sessions for the year.
“˜”˜We know it needs to be addressed by the Legislature at some point,” Presson said. “˜”˜Based on our reading, it seems like turbines are permitted. But the language is unclear, and I can see how you can read it either way. … I don’t think the language was written with this kind of project in mind.”
Sen. Mark Montigny, a Democrat from New Bedford, said he was happy to learn that the Legislature will have a role to play in the project, which is already generating controversy in the towns along Buzzards Bay among people who are worried about the project’s scope.
“˜”˜If they’re looking to hurry this development to Buzzards Bay, then it’s going to get ugly,” Montigny said. “˜”˜This can’t be rushed.”
Montigny said he’s worried that the project’s size may affect the bay’s natural environment. He said he prefers the Cape Wind project – which would put 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, but also faces opposition – because there’s more room in that body of water for turbines.
But Montigny said he also recognizes that some windmills may be appropriate for Buzzards Bay.
“˜”˜If there’s really good wind speed in Buzzards Bay and Nantucket Sound, you cannot afford to reject them out of hand,” Montigny said.
Presson said Jay Cashman Inc., which is developing the Buzzards Bay project through its Patriot Renewables LLC subsidiary, has no plans to rush to construction. Planning and permitting could take between three and five years for the roughly $750 million project, Presson said.
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