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Land-use regulators deal blow to wind farm  

Deny it.

That’s the recommendation from a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee reviewing Cape Wind Associates’ plans to run electrical transmission lines from 130 wind turbines it wants to build in Nantucket Sound through Yarmouth to an NStar facility in Barnstable.

“We’re stuck having to make a decision based on information we don’t have,” subcommittee chairwoman Elizabeth Taylor said before the group voted unanimously against the project yesterday in the commission’s offices on Route 6A.

Missing information and Cape Wind’s refusal to grant a second extension for the decision prompted the denial, subcommittee members said.

An extension for the commission decision must be agreed to by both the applicant – Cape Wind in this case – and the commission. Cape Wind has already agreed to one extension of two weeks.

The commission, the Cape’s land-use planning and regulatory agency, is reviewing the Cape Wind project as a “development of regional impact.” Such a project must, under state law, be reviewed by the commission because of its size, or, if the agency agrees to do so, at the request of a member town.

Absent from Cape Wind’s permitting application to the commission and information sent over the past week in two follow-up e-mails was a detailed emergency response plan in case of a hazardous materials spill.

Subcommittee members at yesterday’s meeting expressed frustration over being forced to make a decision without that plan and other pieces of technical information that Cape Wind representatives say will come later.

In a prepared statement, Cape Wind vice president for project development Craig Olmsted said “the record before the commission is complete and exhaustive and is adequate to base its decision on.”

“The information the commission has reviewed has, for the most part, been available for several years and any additional information requested by the commission has been submitted in a timely manner.”

The subcommittee members disagreed.

And some of Cape Wind’s responses, such as the company’s refusal to pay $30,000 for a freshwater pond study and failure to develop an open space plan, were not enough to appease commission staff and members.

“We have again asked you for an extension that you have again denied,” Taylor said. “We feel that this is clearly a failure to submit information.”

Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said the company would wait for the full commission’s decision to make a comment but said the company did not have any plans to agree to another extension.

The state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board and secretary of Environmental Affairs, Ian Bowles, already have signed off on the project.

Earlier this year a Cape Cod Commission decision to deny a KeySpan pipeline project was overruled by the siting board, but that ruling was never challenged in court.

Patrick Butler, attorney for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group opposing the wind farm, said the commission need not rely on decisions by other regulatory agencies, including Bowles’ department.

“There is no requirement that you follow any findings in the secretary’s certificate,” Butler said.

After the vote Butler said commission staff and the subcommittee did an admirable job in reviewing the project.

But Cape Wind’s decision not to grant an extension of the statutory time frame baffled him.

“I just can’t understand for the life of me why they wouldn’t grant additional time to do this type of review,” Butler said.

The commission subcommittee will present its recommendation to the full commission on Oct. 18.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service is expected to release a draft environmental impact statement on the project by the end of the year.

What happens next:

* Oct. 18: Cape Cod Commission Cape Wind Energy Project subcommittee recommends the full commission deny Cape Wind’s proposal to run transmission lines from 130 wind turbines through Yarmouth and Barnstable to the electrical grid.

* Should the full commission deny the project, Cape Wind can appeal the decision to the commission and to the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board, which has already approved the project.

*If the siting board overturns the commission decision, the commission can appeal and ultimately seek to overturn the siting board’s decision in court.

By Patrick Cassidy
Staff Writer

Cape Cod Times

25 September 2007

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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