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Barnstable lawsuit challenges wind farm

A dispute over transmission lines for the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm landed in court this week.

As part of their quest to kill Cape Wind’s plans for 130 turbines in the Sound, Barnstable officials filed a complaint in Barnstable Superior Court Wednesday claiming the Cape Cod Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over the transmission cables that would link the turbines to the shoreline.

In October, the commission rejected a plan to have the transmission cables make landfall in Barnstable, and Cape Wind appealed that decision to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.

In the complaint filed Wednesday, Barnstable officials contend the state Energy Facilities Siting Board does not have the authority to review the commission’s denial of the transmission lines.

“The ultimate question is: who has appellate review over the action of the commission,” Charles McLaughlin, an attorney for Barnstable, said yesterday.

The nine-member siting board is responsible for ensuring a reliable energy supply in the state at the lowest possible cost and minimum environmental impact. In 2005, the board approved the transmission lines proposed by Cape Wind to connect its proposed wind farm to the electric grid.

The Cape Cod Commission denied the cables in October on procedural grounds, a decision Cape Wind appealed to the siting board.

The siting board was scheduled to hold a hearing on Cape Wind issues on April 21. The hearing was supposed to focus on the appeal and a Cape Wind request to bundle all remaining local permits under the siting board’s authority. But the hearing was postponed until the siting board rules on motions regarding jurisdiction over the project, according to a memorandum the siting board sent to Barnstable’s legal department yesterday.

The question about who has jurisdiction over Cape Wind’s transmission lines and who should judge an appeal of the commission’s denial of the transmission lines should be decided before the siting board proceeds with further deliberations, McLaughlin said.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday is one of several legal challenges hanging over Cape Wind, which has waged a seven-year campaign to build the Nantucket Sound turbines. The Nantucket Sound facility would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

On Thursday, a judge heard arguments on motions to dismiss another lawsuit filed by the town of Barnstable. That Barnstable Superior Court lawsuit challenges a state environmental report on the Cape Wind project.

By Patrick Cassidy
Staff Writer

Cape Cod Times

12 April 2008