November 21, 2007

Cape Wind appeals ruling that blocked wind farm in Nantucket Sound

Cape Wind Associates today asked a state energy panel to overrule a decision by the Cape Cod Commission that blocked a plan to build a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind asked the state to green-light the project and approve all state and local permits needed for constructing the turbines.

In a sweeping, 32-page petition, the developer of the wind farm proposed off the Cape and Islands seeks a “composite certificate” that would overturn a decision by the Cape Cod Commission and grant all other required permits.

The petition was filed today with the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, which licenses energy projects and which approved of Cape Wind’s transmission lines in 2005. The Siting Board was formed by the Legislature to ensure that the state creates a reliable energy supply with minimum impact to the environment at the lowest possible cost. The panel has broad authority to overturn the decisions of local boards such as the Cape Cod Commission if it believes an energy project is in the public’s best interest.

Cape Wind’s appeal notes that the Siting Board can overturn a decision because of inconsistencies between agencies – and that the Cape Cod Commission’s decision is inconsistent with the Siting Board’s own 2005 ruling.

The Cape Cod Commission is a regulatory agency formed by the Legislature to protect natural resources on the Cape. Development projects large enough to trigger an environmental review by the state also must be approved by the commission. Though the wind farm would be built in federal water – outside the purview of state or local agencies – the commission and other state and local agencies have jurisdiction over two transmission lines needed to carry power from the wind turbines to a switching station in Barnstable.

The controversial wind farm won a favorable state environmental review, but still needs numerous permits from state and local agencies – including a Chapter 91 license from the Department of Environmental Protection; a water quality certification from the state DEP; access permits from the Massachusetts Highway Department for work along state highways; a license from the Executive Office of Transportation for a railway crossing; orders of conditions from the Yarmouth and Barnstable Conservation Commissions; and road opening permits from Yarmouth and Barnstable.

The proposal for the wind farm is also still under review by the federal government. The Minerals Management Service, a division within the US Department of the Interior, has been conducting an environmental review, but its draft report has been repeatedly delayed and now is not expected until December.

Cape Wind first introduced plans for the wind farm in Nantucket Sound in 2001 – and the lengthy time frame has frustrated the developer and environmentalists.

“With oil approaching $100 per barrel and strident calls from the scientific community to take action on climate change now, there is growing urgency to deliver the economic and environmental benefits of Cape Wind, and we hope our filing today will help make that happen,” Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said in a statement.

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff

Boston Globe

21 November 2007

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