When it comes to reviewing Cape Wind’s final environmental impact report to the state, some voices speak louder than others.
And one of those voices is the Cape Cod Commission. Barnstable County’s regional planning agency is one of 17 federal, state and municipal agencies involved by statute in reviewing and issuing permits for the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.
This week, commission staff issued a report that is not only critical of what Cape Wind submitted in its 5,407-page environmental filing but recommends the state delay accepting it by requesting more information.
Ian Bowles, secretary of the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, is scheduled to rule on the report by March 29, saying whether it is ”adequate” or ”inadequate.”
The public will get its chance to comment at a commission hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at the Mattacheese Middle School in West Yarmouth.
The environmental impact report filed on Feb. 15 represents five years worth of studies paid for by Cape Wind to address the project’s potential environmental effects.
The commission staff report says Cape Wind needs to be more specific in its answers about such issues as the potential affect on commercial fishing near Horse Shoe Shoals, the proposed site for the 130-turbines; how the wind farm will be decommissioned if there is damage or once its anticipated 20-year life span comes to an end; and potential alternative sites.
If deemed adequate by Bowles, the state filing would then become the primary source of information for all state, county and municipal agencies involved in the permitting process.
If Bowles agrees with the commission staff and deems the Cape Wind submission ”inadequate,” then it is likely the state would request a supplemental report and the process would ”continue on,” said Robert Keogh, spokesman for the office of environmental affairs. Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said yesterday that company officials are aware of the commission report but have not yet studied it. However, the company is not likely to file a supplemental environmental impact report without a specific order, he said.
”We have already submitted an environmental impact report that is the most studied and analyzed environmental report in the history of Massachusetts,” he said.
Cape Wind rebuffed an earlier request by the commission to withdraw the report – a move that would have extended the 30-day review period.
The commission has not taken a public position on the wind farm. It participates in the review process because it is a regional planning and regulatory agency and studies all large construction projects in an effort to maintain community development and character standards, executive director Margo Fenn said.
Whenever a developer files an Environmental Notification Form with the state for a project in Barnstable County – as Cape Wind did six years ago – it triggers a development of regional impact application with the commission.
Cape Wind did that in November 2001.
In November 2004, the company filed a draft environmental impact report with the state and federal governments.
The project is subject to federal review because the turbines will be placed in federal waters. Transmission lines will run through state waters and onto land where state, county and municipalities have varying jurisdiction.
In March 2005, then-state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ellen Herzfelder said the draft report was adequate, but she directed Cape Wind to expand on some of its answers in the final report.
Until last month, the state and federal environmental reviews were moving along parallel tracks. However, by filing with the state in February, Cape Wind bifurcated the process.
The state filing started the clock on a 30-day public review period, set to expire before the federal government issues its own draft environmental report.
In its report, the commission staff notes that two years ago Herzfelder ”strongly encouraged” Cape Wind to delay filing the state report and align it with the federal review, now under the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Services. That report is due out sometime next month, according to an Interior spokeswoman.
Because that report is not complete, the commission argues, no one knows what terms might be set by the federal government and how it might affect state decisions.
When Cape Wind filed the state report last month, it started two clocks ticking. First, by law, the state must hear public comment and review the final impact report within 30 days. A week after this period ends, the state must decide whether the report is adequate. If the state finds the report adequate, then the Cape Cod Commission has 45 days to begin reviewing the Cape Wind project as a development of regional impact.
By Karen Jeffrey
Cape Cod Times
16 March 2007
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