An audience of Long Islanders gave a collective thumbs down Wednesday night to a draft report by a federal regulator seeking to set guidelines for the use of coastal waters for renewable energy projects.
A couple of dozen people, mostly wind-farm opponents, showed up for the gathering at the Melville Marriott held by the federal Minerals Management Service, which sought feedback on a draft of the program-wide impact statement for all such projects in federal waters.
Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone criticized the report as a giveaway to energy companies. Charging that MMS had granted “virtually everything” one wind-energy contractor, FPL Energy, had requested, Bellone said, “My concern is that MMS is acting as more an expeditor than a regulator.”
He called the wind-energy portion of the report “unsalvageable,” and recommended MMS “tear it up and start over.”
Laurie Farber, an expert on migratory birds and former conservation chairwoman of the Sierra Club’s Long Island executive committee, expressed concern that language in the draft was less than concrete. The guidelines, she said, leave wiggle room with phrasings such as “may include,” or suggestions to “avoid,” rather than telling applicants, “you must or you will.”
“That concerns me greatly,” Farber said.
Tom Vanderberg, a member of the Save Jones Beach wind-farm opposition group, took similar exception to the language, arguing that its characterizations of “minor” impacts, for instance, could not be quantified and opened the door to abuse.
“The final [program guidelines] have to be more courageous,” he said, “and less designed to let the industry write its own ticket.”
MMS officials took note of the feedback but didn’t respond to the criticisms.
But in what some saw as a change of position at the start of the session, MMS clarified that the Long Island Power Authority’s proposed wind farm would come under the rules of the final program-wide impact statement. LIPA’s project and the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket, Mass., are the only two projects that have been allowed to move ahead while the program guidelines were being devised.
“The projects will not get ahead of the program,” an MMS official said. “Those projects cannot be built until this [national program statement] is finished.”
By Mark Harrington
27 April 2007
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