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Watchdog group’s president quits in wind farm rift  

The president of the board of directors of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod has resigned over a dispute about whether to endorse the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

Jack Barnes, 72, of West Falmouth, sent his letter of resignation to fellow board members at the prominent local environmental organization Friday, citing his belief that the organization’s executive director, Maggie Geist, plans to push for an endorsement of Cape Wind’s proposal.

The nonprofit has 5,700 members, according to its Web site. Its members have supported a long list of environmental preservation and restoration projects, including the cleanup of groundwater at the Massachusetts Military Reservation, the Cape Cod Land Bank bill and the establishment of Cape Cod Bay as a no-discharge area.

Geist did not respond to a message left at her office by press time last night.

The current board members support Geist and wish Barnes well, Susan Shephard, the former vice president and now president of the organization, wrote in a statement faxed to the Times.

In his letter, Barnes laid out conditions he felt were necessary for the board to take a position on the project.

“Everybody sort of assumes that we’ll save all sorts of carbon and fuel from the wind,” Barnes said in a telephone interview yesterday. “No one asked the system operator how it is going to be integrated” into the electric grid.

Barnes, who worked in the automotive industry before coming to the Cape and volunteering with a number of civic organizations, raised his concerns with the board earlier this year, he said. He said he questioned whether a public position on Cape Wind would be advisable during an ongoing capital campaign and celebration of the group’s 40th year.

Despite a consensus at the time not to take a stand on the project, Geist forwarded a draft letter to board members endorsing the project in March, according to Barnes.

However, Shephard said in a telephone interview last night that the only letters the board reviewed and approved regarding Cape Wind were comment letters sent to various public agencies reviewing the proposed project.

Barnes urged the board to forgo taking a position, but a “straw vote” of members fell slightly in favor of doing so, he said. “The question, I guess, is whether it is a straight majority vote and you ignore the substantial minority,” he said yesterday.

In a May letter that Barnes sent to the board listing information he thought would make it possible for the organization to make a decision on the project, he included Cape Wind’s funding sources, its plan for integrating the wind farm into the electric grid and a draft contract for the energy it would generate.

Barnes also called for a commitment by the company to publish timely reports that would include the amount of electricity generated by the project and the savings in fuel and emissions from the wind farm’s operation.

Although the board has yet to take formal action, Barnes said he believes Geist was pushing them to endorse Cape Wind by this fall, he said.

The position of advocacy groups on either side of the Cape Wind debate may not influence individual opinions as they once did, said Glenn Wattley, president and CEO of the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. But the alliance hopes people like Barnes stay inside an organization and continue to raise concerns as the permitting process moves forward, he said.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service, the lead federal agency to review Cape Wind, released a favorable draft environmental impact statement on the project in January.

That agency received more than 40,000 comments on the document, including a letter from the APCC that commended the draft for its “clarity and fairness” but continued to raise concerns about the impact of the turbines.

A final version of the project’s federal environmental review is expected out by year’s end.

A public comment period on leasing rules for offshore alternative energy projects – including Cape Wind – runs through Sept. 8.

By Patrick Cassidy

Cape Cod Times

22 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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