by Bill Fonda/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The review process
Aside from the Minerals Management Service, which makes the final decision, 19 agencies are reviewing the proposed Cape Wind project. Seven have to issue permits – though none will until after the Environmental Impact Statement is complete – while the remaining agencies serve an advisory role.
The breakdown is as follows:
National Marine Fisheries Service
Army Corps of Engineers
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Aviation Administration
Massachusetts Historical Commission
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Department of Energy
Cape Cod Commission
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management
National Park Service
Massachusetts Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance
U.S. Geological Survey
The Cape Wind proposal has lent itself to a lot of black-and-white thinking – that it is the greatest discovery since fire or a scourge on the soul of Cape Cod.
Yet, as Rodney Cluck of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service explained, the decision of whether to approve the project – which could come in late 2007 – is not black-and-white, yes-or-no.
There is the possibility that the MMS could approve the project, but with adjustments such as moving the turbines or phasing in the installation.
“A lot of times, it’s not that simple,” Cluck said. “Usually, they’re in between.”
The Minerals Management Service has been the lead agency for Cape Wind since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed last summer, taking over from the Army Corps of Engineers. Cluck is the agency’s project manager for Cape Wind.
MMS is working on an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, a lot of which Cluck said will be about how construction, operation and decommissioning of the turbines will affect birds, economics, fish habitat and other issues.
The Army Corps issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in November 2004 that listed several potential positive effects of the wind farm, including job creation and less pollution.
“We needed more information from the company to really complete the plan,” Cluck said.
Cluck hopes to have a draft of the EIS by December 2006 or January 2007 and a final draft by next winter. The intent is to provide information toward making a decision.
“My job is to use good science,” Cluck said.
Another part of Cluck’s job is to make sure the 19 agencies involved in reviewing some part of Cape Wind work together. He has held several meetings with them.
“We’ve been trying to work with these groups and put together a good gamut of agencies that will cover all the issues we need to address,” he said.
Seven agencies, including the Army Corps, Coast Guard and Massachusetts Historical Commission, have to grant permits for the portions of the project under their purview, although they won’t until after the EIS is done.
The remaining 12 agencies serve in an advisory role. Their ranks include the Cape Cod Commission, the federal Department of Energy and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Even if they do not issue permits, all the agencies can provide their opinions.
“They are not shy about weighing in on any of the issues,” Cluck said. “It is important to work with them as closely as possible. It’s my job to make sure we all work together. Each one of these agencies has a job to do, and they know it better than I do.”
Even if the project is approved – with modifications or without – that does not mean Cape Wind is done with the federal government. With oil and gas projects, Cluck said the MMS frequently has the business hire a certified verification agent to keep tabs on its operations.
“Reporting back to the federal government is not uncommon,” he said. “It’s a way to make sure everything is covered.”