State agencies challenge draft ruling on Bourne wind farm; Cite likely precedent against future renewable energy proposals
The [Cape Cod Commission] is faced with weighing renewable-energy ideals and goals as espoused by the Patrick administration and wind-farm planning that evolved in Buzzards Bay against the perceived need for green power; while neighborhood opposition pivots on the potential for lost property values and vista blight.
BUZZARDS BAY – There have been numerous procedural twists and turns in review of New Generation Wind plans to construct four turbines off Scenic Highway and Route 25, Buzzards Bay. Now there is another.
The controversial wind-farm proposal advanced by Tudor Ingersoll of Buzzards Bay and Samuel Lorusso of Hyannis is bound for a final Cape Cod Commission hearing Thursday in Barnstable. An agency sub-panel has advanced a negative recommendation to the full-member voting commission, which could lead to a vote against the wind-farm.
This development attracted high-level state attention. The commission received a December letter from state environmental and energy officials, taking issue with an agency sub-panel’s wind farm stand; notably that it would not serve a perceived community need and that problems exist with the use of food-grade vegetable oil-based transformers.
The commission’s stance prompted comments by Richard Sullivan Jr., secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Both men in a Dec. 21 letter to the commission said they respect the land-use agency’s authority to make decisions within its scope, which includes New Generation. Both also said there are “strong policy and legal consideration that support the need for the commission to closely review the basis for the sub-committee’s decision (to not recommend) and reach an outcome that preserve’s the commonwealth’s ability to address local based siting concerns, yet furthers the state’s need to promote our common energy goals.”
The DEP does not consider the proposed vegetable oil to be a hazardous material for purposes of its policy concerning wind turbines. The agency says the material poses no threat to “water supply protection as a general matter.”
Given this sentiment, the state officials suggest the commission also review and reconsider its finding that the turbine project will pose a significant contaminant threat to groundwater and drinking water supplies.
The EEA also contends turbines do not pose a negative impact on drinking water supply, adding that protection and oversight remain in the domain of the MassDEP.
The state concerns are pointed and clear. The agencies do not dispute the commission’s ability to regulate the siting of a wind farm based on zoning, environmental concerns and other impacts. But they question the role the commission has – or more to the point what it does not have – in determining the need for electrical generation “and specifically the need for additional renewable generation.”
Ingersoll has argued consistently that the wind-farm proposal would benefit the greater public good in a sustainable way, complies with local zoning and could benefit neighboring subdivisions as well as the town and region beyond in the green-energy sphere.
Bourne selectmen – or more accurately three out of five members on a previous board – have taken the public stand of opposing the New Generation plans for industrial-grade turbines in an attempt to help protect property values in abutting neighborhoods as well as future homebuilding options in that area.
EEA and the DEP now argue, however, that if the commission’s sentiment that New Generation Wind plans do not meet minimum performance standards of the Cape regional policy plan and the agency’s draft decision to kill the project is followed, this would establish a precedent that would make it difficult – if not – impossible – for any renewable energy project to obtain commission approval.
“Such an outcome not only frustrates the commonwealth’s goals for the development of clean energy and reduction of green-house gas reductions, it conflicts with the commission’s objective to promote prudent renewable energy development on Cape Cod as a desirable goal.”
So the commission is moving ahead on yet another difficult Bourne proposal in the wake of the agency’s review of controversial CanalSide Commons, difficult Atlantic Subaru and complicated Adventure Isle projects.
New Generation plans have been closely watched and subjected to numerous public hearings. The proposal is the first in Massachusetts for a land-based wind farm.
Bourne Energy Coordinator Richard Elrick says the full voting commission likely will couch its decision to nix New Generation Wind plans despite state concerns about the agency’s review and decision-making.
Bourne Town Planner Coreen Moore said the state letter “could carry some weight. It seems like the commission is denying this project not on technical matters; they’re denying it on economic.”
Moore said New Generation plans comply with local zoning. But the commission argues the proposal is inconsistent with Bourne development bylaws and that the probable benefits do not outweigh the probable detriments.
The commission is faced with weighing renewable-energy ideals and goals as espoused by the Patrick administration and wind-farm planning that evolved in Buzzards Bay against the perceived need for green power; while neighborhood opposition pivots on the potential for lost property values and vista blight.
Bourne’s representative to the commission is real estate broker Michael Blanton of Monument Beach. He also served on the commission’s New Generation sub-committee.
The agency vote – should it not be delayed – could be a defining decision for the commission; rejecting turbines north of the canal while similar structures spring up on the Massachusetts Military Reservation on both sides of the Cape.
There are two 1.5 megawatt turbines at PAVE PAWS on Flat Rock Hill, two at the southern end of the MMR and a 161-foot high endurance wind turbine at the Massachusetts National Cemetery; all part of an energy conservation project on the installation.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding