Edgartown and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission have formally joined the fracas over the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.
In a petition filed last week with the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, the Edgartown selectmen declared, for the first time, their opposition to what they consider to be Cape Wind Associates’ attempt to circumvent local permitting authorities.
The siting board is responsible for ensuring a reliable energy supply in the state at the lowest possible cost and minimum impact on the environment.
In October, the Cape Cod Commission denied Cape Wind’s plan to build transmission lines from Yarmouth to the 25-square-mile site of its proposed 130-turbine wind farm in the Sound.
Cape Wind appealed that decision to the siting board, which has previously ruled in favor of the project.
The board will conduct a hearing April 22 on both Cape Wind’s appeal and its request to bundle all local permits under the board’s authority.
The selectmen cited concerns over the effect Cape Wind would have on the town’s fishing industry and the possible implications for the island’s own planning and regulatory agency should the Cape Cod Commission denial be reversed.
“In the event that (the siting board) concludes that it may circumvent and override the (Cape Cod Commission), the town advances that such a decision would undermine the authority of the (Martha’s Vineyard Commission) and would be detrimental to the town’s interests,” the selectmen wrote in their petition to intervene.
The Edgartown selectmen also raised concerns over the company’s attempts to get around local permitting authorities in Yarmouth and Barnstable.
“Decisions having a local impact are best decided, in the first instance, at the local level,” the island’s selectmen wrote.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission plans to file its own request to intervene in the case by the end of this week, that group’s executive director, Mark London, said yesterday.
The commission’s objection to the Cape Wind petition is procedural only, London said.
“Our concern is that this would be a dangerous precedent of bypassing the Cape Cod Commission,” he said.
The siting board previously overruled the Cape Cod Commission in 2007 on a high-pressure gas pipeline project in Yarmouth. That decision was not challenged in court and the project went forward.
Cape Wind’s proposal is expected to face substantial court challenges if it is approved.
Because the petitions from Edgartown and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission come after the deadline for such requests, both groups are asking for leave to file late.
“The town has good cause for this late filed request because it was not until Minerals Management Service’s public hearing on Martha’s Vineyard on March 13, 2008, that the project’s impact on fisheries, and the potential negative impact the project would have on Edgartown, became clear,” the Edgartown selectmen wrote.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service is the lead federal agency in the review of Cape Wind and held one of four public hearings on its draft environmental report on the project last month on the island.
At that hearing many of the island’s fishermen spoke out against Cape Wind.
Minerals Management Service expects to release a final report on the project by the end of the year and a decision in the winter.
By Patrick Cassidy
8 April 2008
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