The newest head of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection knows Cape Cod.
Kenneth Kimmell was appointed last week to succeed DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary-Designate Richard K. Sullivan Jr. – who was himself recently chosen by Gov. Deval Patrick to replace Woods Hole native Ian Bowles.
“This is a dream job for me,” said Kimmell, a Newton resident who spends time at his mother-in-law’s home in Eastham.
Kimmell, 50, has served for the past three years as general counsel to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs where, among a host of other responsibilities, he oversaw the state’s permitting of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm.
Before his work with the state, Kimmell was an attorney in private practice who represented Dennis and Yarmouth in their fight to relocate a natural gas pipeline installed by KeySpan on the Mid- and Lower Cape.
The battle ended with the state Energy Facilities Siting Board overriding a Cape Cod Commission decision to reject the utility’s preferred route for the pipeline.
Despite the result, Yarmouth was well served by Kimmell in his role as special counsel, acting Town Administrator Peter Johnson-Staub said.
The siting board would later override the commission’s decision to deny a permit for transmission lines to connect Cape Wind’s turbines to the electric grid.
That ruling was upheld in August by the state Supreme Judicial Court a decision some municipal officials said erodes local control, a concern echoed by opponents of a wind energy siting reform bill Kimmell helped draft and champion while working for Bowles.
Kimmell argued that concerns about the legislation were unfounded and in his new role as DEP commissioner he sees no similar conflict with local authorities.
“I don’t expect to have any jurisdictional battles with the Cape Cod Commission or local government,” he said. The bill is currently stalled in the state Senate.
But as DEP commissioner Kimmell will continue to influence a host of fiercely debated issues in the region including the planning of expensive sewers and the installation of wind turbines.
While Kimmell did not expect to have much involvement in the wind energy siting reform bill as commissioner, the DEP could help disseminate information on noise-related issues associated with wind turbines, he said.
Noise has become a major concern for neighbors of turbines at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility and is often highlighted by opponents of other wind energy projects proposed across the Cape.
The DEP will also continue to work with Cape officials as they grapple with building wastewater infrastructure that could cost the region between $4 billion and $8 billion.
“Certainly I think one of the most unique aspects of Cape Cod are the salt marshes and the wetland systems,” he said, adding that eutrophication of the Cape’s waters is a major problem. The Massachusetts Estuaries Project has been successful in using a scientific approach to help towns address the problem, Kimmell said.
While he will review concerns over the science behind wastewater treatment plans, he trusts the work that has been done so far, Kimmell said.
“I certainly want to make sure that that project continues to go forward,” he said of the joint effort by DEP and UMass Dartmouth.
Kimmell is fair and competent, Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki said.
The commission has worked closely with DEP on wastewater issues, including a lawsuit the Conservation Law Foundation has threatened to bring against the commission to force swifter action in the area, Niedzwiecki said.
Despite the close cooperation, Niedzwiecki said he hopes state environmental officials will focus more on water quality issues.
“I think that is more of a pocketbook issue for Cape Codders right now,” he said.
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