August 15, 2011
Rhode Island

Inviting public input on island energy plan

By Judy Tierney, The Block Island Times, 14 August 2011

The completed draft of the Block Island Energy Plan, a year and a half in the making, wound its way to the Planning Board at their monthly meeting Wednesday night. Town planner Jane Weidman provided some guidance on areas to focus on as they study it over the next month in preparation for a discussion at their September meeting.

“Read it carefully,” she advised, “especially the [section on] implementation.” That section includes six action items, she told them. One is a recommendation that the town buy the Block Island Power Company. Another addresses the cable issue, and still another focuses on island wind turbines if the offshore wind farm is not built. There is also a piece addressing on-site solar energy at the sewer and water plants.

Planning board member Sam Bird, who served on the committee that wrote the energy plan, told the board the plan was written to be “a vision for where we want to go vis-à-vis energy issues in the future.”

The role of the Planning Board, Weidman said, is to review it and to amend it. After Planning gives its approval, the Town Council will review it prior to giving their approval to add it to the town’s comprehensive plan. Weidman suggested the board meet with the council to discuss it and have a public workshop, then possibly schedule a joint public hearing with the council.

Several members of the public who have been vocal in their opposition to the Deepwater Wind project contributed their thoughts on the draft energy plan and the process. One of those was Rosemary Ives, a part-time resident. Ives urged the board to hold a public hearing separate from the Town Council, rather than “hopping” to a joint meeting, and to go through the document page by page with the town planner and members of the energy committee.

Michael Delia, describing himself as an intervener in the hearings between Deepwater Wind and the PUC, wants the board to pay particular attention to the details of agreements between the state and Deepwater laying out plans for 200 turbines around Block Island in state waters. “A successor [to Deepwater] could use that plan,” he said, predicting the wind farm would be sold when built.

Maggie Delia would like more on solar power in the plan, especially a homeowner program. “We have an opportunity to do something in this community that would stand out,” she said.

Having just received the report, the board was not ready to discuss its details. Board member Sven Risom did have one suggestion, however: that a timeline be added to the recommendations.

Chair Margie Comings set the discussion of the plan for the September planning meeting. “People should come in in September and tell us what they like or don’t like,” she said. “They should come in early in the process… and discuss it with us. They might have concerns that maybe we haven’t thought of.” She also will advertise the meeting in the newspaper to let people know about it. After the discussions, a public hearing for October or November will be set.

Copies of the energy plan are available at Town Hall.

Climate change and a vacancy on the board

In other business, the board set a date of October 8 for their climate change workshop, but will seek funding from several island non-profits to hold it. They learned recently that the town can fund only a few hours of Weidman’s time to work on it.

There is another vacancy on the board and two people have come forward to apply for it, Socha Cohen and Arlene Tunney. Saying, “I have no problem with either candidate,” Comings asked her board if they had other suggestions. “I want everyone to get a chance.” Interested residents should submit their names and a resume.

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