Good enough, not good at all, and not enough information.
The Cape Cod Commission staff released a cautiously worded review yesterday of Boston-based Cape Wind Associates’ plan to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
“It was a mixed bag,” said commission project planner Phil Dascombe.
The report comes at a critical time in the six-year review of the project. The commission begins its formal public hearings on Cape Wind tomorrow. A key draft environmental impact statement on the project by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service is expected by the end of the month.
State environmental officials and the state energy facilities siting board have already signed off on the project.
The Cape Cod Commission report released yesterday focuses on electricity transmission lines that must be laid from the turbines through state waters to land in West Yarmouth. The lines would transmit power from the project to an NStar facility in Barnstable.
Of 32 minimum performance standards assessed by commission staff, eight were met, six were not and 18 required more information from Cape Wind, according to the report.
The missing information may come through the federal review process or in Cape Wind responses to commission questions, Dascombe said.
In May, the commission decided its jurisdiction over the project would include activity within state waters – defined as areas no farther than 3 miles from land. The planning agency went a step further, declaring the commission would also consider the effect on the Cape of the project as a whole, including activity in federal waters.
The broader interpretation of the planning agency’s jurisdiction was evident in part of the staff report released yesterday. The report says views of the turbines from historic Cape properties may call for the commission’s involvement in the federal review of the project.
If the commission denies the project, a lawsuit or a ruling by the energy facilities siting board would be required to overturn the agency’s decision.
“A project can be denied if it fails to meet all the applicable (standards),” said John Lipman, the commission’s acting executive director.
But the agency is committed to acting as an objective party in its review, Lipman said, adding that public comment will play an important role in determining the beneficial or negative impacts of the project.
The commission will received public comment on the Cape Wind project at least once over the next week.
Tomorrow, a public hearing is scheduled at 5 p.m. at Mattacheese Middle School, Higgins Crowell Road, West Yarmouth. The commission is also soliciting requests for expanded comments on Cape Wind. Requests to make expanded comments must be submitted to the commission by Friday at 10 a.m.
A public hearing on the expanded comments has been scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. in the Barnstable District Court building.
A commission subcommittee is expected to forward a recommendation on the project to the full commission by the end of the month, Lipman said. The commission must make a decision by Oct. 7 unless Cape Wind agrees to an extension.
Reached by telephone yesterday, a spokesman for Cape Wind declined to comment on details of the commission staff report, saying only that the company was reviewing the study’s contents.
A spokeswoman for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a nonprofit group formed to oppose Cape Wind, said the commission staff report confirms long-held concerns over the turbine project.
“The staff report confirms the Alliance position that the project does not conform with a number of standards and that there is insufficient or inadequate information,” Audra Parker said.
Like her Cape Wind counterpart, Parker declined to comment on details of the report.
By Patrick Cassidy
5 September 2007
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