The ball is in the court of the Cape Cod Commission. But what’s in play is still up for debate in the minds of many who attended last night’s public hearing on Cape Wind Associates’ proposal to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
Speakers on opposing sides of the project tried to draw a clear line in their arguments at Mattacheese Middle School.
“What is within the jurisdiction of the commission here? A routine piece of infrastructure,” said Seth Kaplan, clean energy and climate change program director with the Conservation Law Foundation.
The commission is reviewing Cape Wind as a so-called development of regional impact. The commission review is required for any project that files an environmental impact report with the state. While a commission staff report released Tuesday focused on transmission lines in state waters and on land, the commission voted in May to extend its jurisdiction to include potential impacts on the Cape from wind farm activity in federal waters.
Last night, dozens of speakers, many from clean energy and environmental organizations, agreed with Kaplan and called for the commission to swiftly approve the project’s transmission lines.
“The world is watching you, Cape Cod Commission,” said Fred Schlicher of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network.
Many speakers made the case for Cape Wind as a tool to help fight global warming and disputed claims by Cape Wind opponents who said the construction of the 440-foot high turbines would harm the environment of Nantucket Sound.
“The only way you’re going to know what a wind farm is like is to see one,” said William Griswold of Centerville, who invited members of the commission subcommittee reviewing the project to join him on a trip to Denmark to visit an offshore wind farm.
Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind, said he was gratified to see so much support for the project.
“These are the most studied and analyzed electric cables ever proposed in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said, adding that despite ample information already available on the project, the company would continue to work with the commission on its regional impact review.
Rodgers declined to speculate whether Cape Wind would sue if the commission denied the project.
Opponents of the project said the regional planning and regulatory agency’s jurisdiction over the project should extend into the federal waters, where the turbines would actually be built. Federal authorities have jurisdiction in waters three miles or more off a U.S. coastline.
In particular, wind farm foes said the Cape Cod Commission should be able to consider the possibility of an oil spill at the power facility’s transformer station. “Looking at Cape Wind’s own spill data, you will see that landfall is in Barnstable County,” said Cliff Carroll, a founder of windstop.org., an anti-Cape Wind Web site.
An attorney for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Patrick Butler, said the Cape Cod Commission clearly extended its jurisdiction beyond the state boundaries in May. “That is the legitimate reading of your purpose and powers,” he said, adding that a report from commission staff did not touch enough on the overall benefits and detriments of the wind farm project.
On Monday, the Cape Cod Commission is scheduled to hear extended public comment during a hearing in Barnstable. Requests to file extended comments were due by 10 a.m. today. The regional agency has until Oct. 7 to make a determination on the Cape Wind project.
The project has already been approved by state environmental officials and the state’s energy facility siting board. A draft environmental impact statement from the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service is due out by the end of this month.
The commission previously butted heads with the siting board in a separate proposed commercial development when it denied a route for a KeySpan gas pipeline proposed through Yarmouth, Dennis and Harwich. The siting board overruled the commission’s denial, and the pipeline is scheduled to be installed this fall.
By Patrick Cassidy
7 September 2007
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