Opponents of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm have appealed an air quality permit issued for the project by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The appeal, which Cape Wind officials are calling “frivolous,” contends that the comment period on the permit should be reopened because of failures by the EPA to properly complete the administrative record and because the proposed location of the staging area for the project’s construction has been moved from Rhode Island to New Bedford.
The anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) filed the latest challenge to the project last week with the Environmental Appeals Board. The panel makes the final decision on appeals of EPA administrative decisions.
“This is just another frivolous appeal by an opposition group that is funded by fossil fuel interests to try to delay the new jobs, cleaner air and greater energy independence that Cape Wind will bring,” Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
Cape Wind’s opponents countered that the appeal was based on substantial changes to the facts the EPA used to make its decision.
“It’s primarily procedural but not frivolous,” said Audra Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. “Cape Wind has done a lot of bait and switch on a number of issues.”
In addition to a change in Cape Wind’s base of operations for construction, the leased area for the project has increased, as has its projected cost over the years, Parker said.
The EPA also changed its air quality standards after public hearings on the Cape Wind permit and before it made a decision on the project, Parker said.
Although the impact from Cape Wind was modeled using the new standards, there was no opportunity for public comment, she said.
“I think the entire evaluation needs to both stand on its merits as well as on correct procedures,” Parker said.
If the groups’ appeal is denied, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound will “likely” challenge the permit in court, she said.
“I wouldn’t call it a delay tactic,” said Bettina Washington, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) tribal historic preservation officer.
The appeal is serious and needs to be addressed, she said.
“Under EPA regulations, the final permit decision is not yet effective because review was requested,” EPA spokesman David Deegan wrote in an e-mail to the Times. “That will remain so until the appeal before the Environmental Appeals Board is resolved.”
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound already has lawsuits related to Cape Wind pending against the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Cape Wind must still secure a buyer for half of its power and funding for the 130 turbine wind farm, which is expected to cost more than $2 billion to build.
There is nothing new to report on the sale of the excess power or funding for the project, Rodgers said.
Last year, the Interior Department signed off on Cape Wind and the state Department of Public Utilities approved a contract for Cape Wind to sell half of the turbines’ power to National Grid for 18.7 cents a kilowatt hour.
For National Grid’s average residential electricity customer, the extra cost of Cape Wind’s power would equal about $1.50 per month in its first year of operations.
The EPA approval was the final permit required for the project.