Conflicts are nothing new in the six-year debate over a wind turbine project planned for Nantucket Sound.
But now that Boston-based Cape Wind Associates’ proposal to build 130 wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod is in the lap of the region’s land use regulatory and planning agency, at least two of the group’s 19 members find themselves on the sidelines.
“I recused myself from any participation in the wind farm process,” Royden Richardson, Barnstable’s representative on the Cape Cod Commission, said yesterday.
Richardson, who as a Barnstable town councilor in 2002 sponsored a resolution in opposition to the project, is joined by Susan Kadar of Truro. She recused herself several years ago over what she said was a “minor technicality.”
When a member of the commission questioned that technicality, Kadar decided that the cleanest way to deal with it was to remove herself from decisions on the project.
When asked for an explanation last night, she declined to elaborate on the technicality.
The newest staff member at the commission, executive director Paul Niedzwiecki, said Monday he was carefully reviewing with the commission’s lawyer possible conflicts of interest that may stem from statements he made as Barnstable’s assistant town manager.
Although Niedzwiecki said he did not think there would be any conflicts in regard to Cape Wind, the review is being undertaken “out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
The commission has the power to delay if not kill the project, a move at least a half-dozen subcommittee members seem to have initiated Monday when they voted unanimously to recommend a denial of Cape Wind’s application as a “development of regional impact.”
By state law, the commission can review projects over a certain size or projects referred to it by a member town.
Of the 11 members who were not a part of the subcommittee or who have not recused themselves, one will be in Italy when the vote is taken and another – the governor’s appointee, Herbert Olsen of Orleans – is prohibited from voting unless there is a tie.
With the commission poised to make its decision on Oct. 18, the questions of conflict have other commission members keeping their views on the proposed wind far to themselves.
And although the opinions of the six members of the subcommittee appear to be clear, even those should not be taken for granted, said Patrick Butler, alawyer who represents the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
“It ain’t over till it’s over,” said Butler, quoting one of Yogi Berra’s lines.
Butler, who has appeared before the commission more than 100 times, mostly as an advocate for applicants, said that even the stance of the commission members’ respective towns may not be a clear indication of how they might vote.
Reached by telephone yesterday, at least five commission members said they would not reveal their opinion even if they had one.
“Has anybody taken that bait?” said Brad Crowell, the commission’s representative from Dennis.
Florence Seldin of Chatham said she would be on vacation in Italy when the vote is taken. Seldin is a member of Cape Cod’s chapter of the League of Women Voters, which came out in support of Cape Wind’s project in 2005, but her absence when the vote is taken by the full commission makes moot any question of a conflict on her part, she said.
“I personally am not leaning one way or the other,” said Harwich representative Leo Cakounes. Anyone who disclosed a bias to a member of the press and still expected to vote on the project should be removed, he also said.
It remains a matter for the courts if the commission’s final decision can be overruled by the state’s Energy Facility Siting Board, which already approved the project, or by a challenge directly from Cape Wind.
A draft environmental impact statement from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service is expected out by the end of the year.
By Patrick Cassidy
26 September 2007
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