BARNSTABLE – Opponents of wind energy projects on Cape Cod have scored a narrow victory in their attempt to pry more information from county officials about two regional energy agencies.
The Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates voted Wednesday to appoint a panel to investigate concerns about the activities of the Cape Light Compact and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC).
The vote of the 15-member legislative board at its regular meeting in the Barnstable District Courthouse marks the first concrete action in response to months of questions and reams of emails from opponents of local wind energy projects seeking information on the two agencies.
“That’s basically what the public is looking for, is for us to step up to the plate and ask the questions,” said delegate Leo Cakounes of Harwich.
Members of a group that opposes the placement of wind turbines near Cape neighborhoods presented their case to the assembly before the vote, arguing that repeated requests for information from county officials on the relationships and finances of the Compact and the cooperative have been largely ignored.
“I believe as citizens we expect a full accounting,” said Preston Ribnick, a Wellfleet resident who has helped spearhead the push for information about the regional energy agencies.
Regardless of a citizen’s motivation, a citizen is entitled to a response from public officials, Ribnick said.
Ribnick and Eric Bibler, a Connecticut resident with family on the Cape, asked the assembly to take four actions: investigate the Compact and CVEC, write letters to the agencies asking for a response to their questions, schedule a public meeting on the subject, and ask the cooperative to submit a controversial wind energy project in Brewster to the Cape Cod Commission for review.
After having his requests for public records and financial information on the agencies repeatedly stonewalled, Bibler recently filed three Open Meeting Law complaints with the state attorney general’s office, he said, adding the Cooperative has relied heavily on a strategy of going into executive session to avoid public scrutiny.
CVEC was formed in 2007 to pursue renewable energy projects for its members, and it has received more than $2 million from the Compact to keep it afloat.
While CVEC is moving forward with an 18-megawatt photovoltaic project in about a half-dozen Cape and Vineyard towns, the agency has struggled to successfully complete a wind energy project, focusing its efforts most recently on the two-turbine Brewster project.
The Compact was created in 1997 to buy energy in bulk for residents on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard as well as provide energy efficiency programs.
The regional energy agencies serve the county and local towns, prompting questions from critics about whether conflicts of interest exist among representatives to the various organizations.
The push for information from the Compact and the cooperative is linked to the Brewster wind project, Brewster Selectman Ed Lewis said during Wednesday’s Assembly of Delegates meeting.
“This is all about derailing Brewster wind,” he said, adding that delegates shouldn’t believe everything they hear about county staff and officials from critics such as Ribnick and Bibler.
“If they’re doing something illegal you should investigate,” Lewis said of county employees. “If they’re doing their job, you should ask them questions.”
Although some delegates had doubts about investigating the Compact and CVEC, others argued that such inquiries are well within the assembly’s purview.
“I think we have extraordinarily broad powers to investigate here,” said delegate Deborah McCutcheon of Truro.
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