November 20, 2007
Editorials, Massachusetts

Hasty move hurts bay

Under the guise of supporting clean energy, members of the Massachusetts House have rushed an amendment through the legislative process that threatens the future of Buzzards Bay. It erases part of the ocean sanctuary protection Massachusetts coastal waters have enjoyed for decades, allowing clean energy development – most notably, wind turbines – to be built with a less stringent public review.

In a shady move, Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, the House energy chairman, slipped the measure into an energy bill at the last minute. The bill received only a voice vote, with little debate.

Surely had SouthCoast representatives and other coastal legislators known of the implications of the amendment, they would have opposed it.

Removing part of the public review process for turbine development clearly places business interests above the public good. It also flies in the face of the smartly crafted Ocean Act, the bill we strongly support that would create an ocean management plan for state coastal waters.

The Ocean Act has passed the Senate and is awaiting House approval. But now members of the House, perhaps taken for fools by a few special-interest-driven colleagues, have given tacit approval to legislation that is virtually the antithesis of the Ocean Act.

By making development too easy, the amendment could translate into projects that harm the environment, are poorly sited and interfere with public use of the ocean.

It’s up to the Senate to block it. SouthCoast representatives in the House, meanwhile, should speak out against the surreptitious inclusion of the amendment in a bill not expected to be debated on the floor.

Stopping this ill-advised amendment should not hinge on opposition to, or support of, wind farms off the coast. We support wind power. Indeed, we have given conditional support to a wind project that would be affected by the amendment – developer Jay Cashman’s plan to build 120 windmills in Buzzards Bay – provided the project passes a battery of federal, state and local reviews, does not harm the environment and does not interfere with fishing, shipping, boating or swimming.

Mr. Cashman’s plan may well be right for Buzzards Bay. But the House amendment weakens the public review process that protects the bay – the crown jewel of the SouthCoast for reasons both aesthetic and economic. And that we cannot and will not support.

South Coast Today

20 November 2007

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