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Lease question could affect wind farm review  

On March 29, the state might say “go” while the Cape Cod Commission says “no.”

Like many, the Commission awaits a decision from the state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs as to whether Cape Wind Associates’ final environmental impact report on a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound receives a certificate of adequacy. Such a certificate is needed to trigger review of the project by certain local agencies, including the Cape Cod Commission.

But the commission is not sure whether, by law, it can begin its review process unless Cape Wind has demonstrated some control of the property. In this case, that would mean a lease agreement and/or easement from the Minerals Management Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Cape Wind, which seeks to construct 130 wind turbines in federal waters, filed its Final Environmental Impact Report with the state Feb. 15 and the deadline for a decision is March 29. However, MMS isn’t expected to reach its final decision until next winter and won’t have its draft environmental impact statement ready until late spring.

Margo Fenn, executive director of the commission, said the regional agency has yet to make a decision on what she called “an interesting issue” and has sought the advice of its legal counsel.

“It is a normal part of the process that we require legal control of the property,” said Fenn. “This is clearly a very unusual case.”

For Charles Vinick, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a vocal opponent of the wind farm, Cape Wind’s lack of a lease means the Commission can’t begin its review of the project as a development of regional impact, or DRI.

“The Cape Cod Commission ought not to start its review process unless Cape Wind has some sort of lease to the site,” said Vinick, who raised the issue during a recent editorial board meeting with The Register.

For Cape Wind, it means nothing of the sort.

“We find no factual or legal basis for the Alliance’s assertions,” said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for the company.

The commission had a public meeting about the environmental report Tuesday night in South Yarmouth, a meeting intended to help the commission craft its own comments to the state.

At roughly 5,000 pages, Cape Wind’s report is intended to answer questions first raised when the developer received a certificate of adequacy on its draft Environmental Impact Report in 2005.

The controversial project is subject to federal, state and local review but MMS serves as the lead review agency. The agency took over that role from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following passage of the Energy Act of 2005.

MMS intends to conduct a series of public meetings this summer following the release of its draft report.

The developer says the wind farm will bring up to 420 megawatts of renewable energy to the Cape and Islands and provide 75 percent of the region’s electricity needs during average winds. Cape Wind also estimates the wind farm would bring 150 permanent jobs to the area.

By Craig Salters

townonline.com

23 March 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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