By David Schoetz, Staff Writer
BARNSTABLE – Wary of giving the slightest appearance of a Cape Wind endorsement, the Cape Light Compact governing board this week tabled a resolution supporting renewable energy.
The governing board, made up of appointees from all 21 towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, has resisted taking a formal position on the offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound despite lobbying efforts by the project’s supporters – including Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon – and opponents.
The Compact, which represents the combined interests of the region’s electric consumers, considered a resolution in June that conditionally backed the development of wind energy off the Cape’s coast. After the effort failed, the contentious Cape Wind issue was tabled for the summer.
This week, board members, who are appointed by local leaders, discussed a much broader resolution that recognized the need to confront a dangerous reliance on fossil fuels by embracing various renewable energy technologies. ”This resolution is not to be construed as the Compact supporting any particular development,” the language read.
But that assurance failed to satisfy board members, who ultimately voted 11-5 to indefinitely table the resolution and, effectively, any further discussion about Cape Wind.
”This causes so much controversy,” said Audrey Loughnane, Barnstable’s Compact member and one of the most vocal critics of the resolution. ”We all know it’s about the wind farm,” she said.
Robert Jones, the Sandwich member, agreed that backing the proposed resolution would be perceived by the public as the Compact’s support for Cape Wind. In the past, Jones has reminded some board members that the towns they represent have taken formal positions against the proposed wind farm. He also said the Compact already supports renewable energy.
In addition to offering customers a renewable ”green” power option at a premium price, one of the agency’s goals listed in the Compact’s governing document is ”to utilize and encourage renewable energy development to the extent practicable.”
At the end of September, the Compact will receive the results of a $100,000 study to determine whether becoming an electricity cooperative would benefit Cape and Vineyard customers. A cooperative model could allow the Compact to own and operate local renewable energy projects and enter into long-term wholesale pricing contracts, which Gordon says he wants.
But to Chris Powicki, principal of Water Energy & Ecology Information Services and a Compact watchdog, the resolution’s specific recognition that renewable energy sources ”would better serve” the region than fossil fuel sources would have been a valuable step.
Powicki criticized the agency for allowing the politics of the Cape Wind issue to undercut a resolution that so clearly avoided an endorsement. ”This benign resolution gives them an opportunity to step beyond the 800-pound gorilla and take a proactive stance,” he said.
Not every board member was against taking up the resolution. Richard Philbrick of Orleans, for example, said the group tasked with representing the region’s electricity interests sits around ”quibbling” while a utility-scale renewable energy project is proposed locally. ”We talk about a kilowatt here, a kilowatt there,” Philbrick said. ”This is one of the few places you can get megawatts.”
But Barry Worth, the Harwich member, seemed to summarize the agency’s consensus opinion on Cape Wind. ”It would be nice if it would just go away,” he said.
David Schoetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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