The CCC met last week to receive public testimony of the scope of its authority in reviewing the project, which would build a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound to generate electricity. That electricity would be transmitted to the mainland via submarine cables that would make landfall in Yarmouth.
The big question is whether the CCC’s planned review of the project will tackle the entire wind farm, even though the facility proper is located in federal waters and outside of state control, or just the cables, which do fall under the commission’s purview.
The commission must also determine which set of Regional Policy Plan (RPP) standards to use in its review: the less strict 1996 standards, which were in effect when the project began; or the newer 2002 standards.
“Like most things associated with Cape Wind, we got a whole spectrum of opinions,” said Margo L. Fenn, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission.
Ms. Fenn said the commission must also determine if project developers Cape Wind Associates have effectively filed a completed application as a development of regional impact (DRI) since, under normal circumstances, “the applicant has legal control over the property” it wishes to develop. Cape Wind does not have “site control” since it plans to build in federal waters and is not buying or leasing the site.
According to Ms. Fenn, supporters on both sides of the issue have indicated they would pursue court action if they disagreed with whatever the CCC makes. “I think there is a likelihood this will end up in court,” she said.
However, Mark Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind, said there has been “no discussion from us, certainly, about that”¦I think that’s just speculation.”
“We’re not focused on lawsuits right now, we’re focused on the decision-making process,” Mr. Rodgers said.
Susan L. Nickerson, executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, also called the notion of a legal challenge “pure speculation…it would be premature to comment on legal action at this point.”
“It’s always an option, and we would keep the door open,” she said, “but it’s too early to think about that.”
The CCC last weighed in on the wind farm in March during a joint Cape Cod Commission/Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act hearing on the final environmental impact report (FEIR), submitted by Cape Wind Associates the month before.
The FEIR detailed how Cape Wind planned to mitigate the facility’s various negative impacts during construction and operation. The CCC regarded the document as “unresponsive” to concerns raised by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), and in an 18-page report specifically criticized the lack of time for public feedback on the FEIR, decisions based on incomplete data, and a lack of information about alternate sites and configurations.
Ian A. Bowles, the state’s executive secretary of environmental affairs, approved the FEIR in late March, but the CCC requested the developers to file a supplemental EIR to fill in data gaps.
Approval of the FEIR triggered the start of the CCC’s DRI process, and last week’s hearing was part of an overall 90-day public review period. At the end of that period WHEN, the CCC will have 60 more days to issue a finding.
The commission may approve a DRI if the review finds the projects benefits outweigh its drawbacks; if the development is consistent with the county regional policy plan (RPP) and Yarmouth’s local comprehensive plan (LCP); and if the development is consistent with Yarmouth’s municipal development bylaws or, if found inconsistent, still generates “adequate opportunities” for growth in areas including housing, education, or the economy.
The Cape Cod Commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 3 PM, and will be held in the chamber of the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates in the First District Courthouse in Barnstable. The meeting is open to the public, but the commission will not be receiving further public testimony on the wind farm review issue.
For more information, visit the official Cape Cod Commission web site at www.capecodcommission.org
25 May 2007
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