Possession, they say, is nine-tenths of the law. So who possesses Nantucket Sound?
Most who spoke Monday at a Cape Cod Commission public meeting on Cape Wind Associates’ Final Environmental Impact Report to the state said it’s not the property of the company that claimed Horseshoe Shoal for its proposed 130-turbine wind park.
Proponents of the project, on its way to costing a billion dollars, were outnumbered at the microphone but not in their zeal. For them, such wide-scope questions were well beyond the document on the table for review, given limits on the state and commission’s jurisdiction.
Cape Wind, which has always said it would pay whatever fee the federal government requires for use of public trust lands on the Outer Continental Shelf, maintains that the state (and therefore the commission) can’t poke its nose into matters in federal waters beyond the three-mile limit. When those boundaries were adjusted recently, Cape Wind drew in its skirts to ensure no turbine was left behind in areas subject to local review.
But now Hyannis attorney Pat Butler, representing the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, is tugging on those skirts. He argues the Cape Cod Commission’s enabling legislation requires that it review projects that will have a direct impact on the Cape.
“We believe the Cape Cod Commission has jurisdiction over the entire project, and the impacts occurring in Barnstable,” he said Monday at the Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth. Like many who spoke, he called for a supplemental FEIR that would be more responsive to questions from the commission, and for a delay in the process until the federal review is complete.
The last point was raised by several speakers, who noted that the former state Secretary of Environmental Affairs, in issuing in 2005 a certificate for the draft Environmental Impact Statement, strongly encouraged a joint federal and state final filing.
In remarks filed with the commission, Butler claimed the land-use agency’s enabling legislation requires that any development outside of Barnstable County “which has a mandated portion located partially within Barnstable County, is subject to review for all possible impacts associated with the entire project, particularly those impacts occurring within Barnstable County (even if generated from that portion of the development outside the three-mile limit).”
As an example, Butler cited the possibility of an oil spill at the site that would spread quickly inside the three-mile limit and damage the Cape’s coastal resources.
Project supporters such as Dick Elrick, president of Clean Power Now, said “six years and 15,000 pages of documents” demonstrated Cape Wind’s commitment to answering questions about the project. He added that 15 wind farms had come on-line during the half-decade or so that this regulatory review has consumed.
Backers continued to cite health benefits including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which critics said were exaggerated.
Opponents said the final report to the state does not provide specifics on decommissioning, nor on mitigation for changing the views from Cape and Nantucket historic districts, including the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Cape Wind argues that these will be hammered out during the federal review.
History was the theme for college professor Rob O’Leary, who serves also as Cape & Islands state senator. He said he found striking parallels between the development of offshore wind and railroad development 150 years ago. In both cases, public property was turned over to business interests.
A century and a half ago, O’Leary said, “some people made an exorbitant amount of money at the expense of the public. We have a right to know the amount of money being made here.”
In the 1800s, the senator said, “the private agenda subsumed the public agenda, and we got too many railroads in the wrong place.” Also, he said, the process was not well thought through, “and in the end was corrupted.”
By de-coupling federal and state review, O’Leary said, Cape Wind appeared to be “gaming the regulatory process.”
A decision on certification of the EIR by state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles, which may include requiring a supplemental report, will be issued shortly.
By Edward F. Maroney
20 March 2007
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