ORLEANS DISTRICT COURT – In his opening statement on Monday morning, Jan. 14, attorney Michael P. Sams of the Boston law firm Kenney & Sams, representing Aquacultural Research Corporation, summarized his reason for being in Judge Brian Merrick’s courtroom at Orleans District Court.
“If it is established that [in 2010] the Dennis Old King’s Highway Committee heard all pertinent information and made a rational decision [to allow ARC to construct a 600 megawatt wind turbine on its property adjacent to Chapin Beach in Dennis] and then the regional OKH commission allowed their personal objections to [wind] turbines to influence their votes [overturning the local committee’s approval], then you must decide: Did the Commission exceed its authority when they agreed that the Dennis Committee exercised ‘poor judgment’?”
The Commission heard the case after Dennis resident Rosemarie Austin, who considers herself a visual abutter at ¾ mile from ARC, appealed the local committee’s decision.
Sams read into the record all statements of fact that have not been objected to or denied during earlier court hearings, which began in 2011 when ARC challenged the Commission’s decision in court. Attorney Leslie-Ann Morse of Yarmouth Port, representing the Commission, objected to Sams’ reading of the facts, but Judge Brian Merrick overruled the objection. “I allowed this to avoid a long trial,” Merrick said.
Merrick approved testimony later in the week by Dennis Selectman Wayne Bergeron, Dennis historian Burt Derick, Dennis OKH Committee member Joshua Crowell and “all people engaged with shellfish farming and related businesses” who believe that ARC is essential to their livelihood.
“This shellfish farm works in a tough environment,” Sams said. “Competition with southern fisheries that undersell them prevent them from raising their prices, and they work within the vagaries of Mother Nature.” Sams said that ARC’s high energy costs prevent the owners from making necessary capital improvements, estimated by Craig Lohr of Lohr Construction in East Dennis at just under $1 million.
Sams introduced ARC vice president and treasurer Gail Hart, who has shared ownership of the business since 1994 with Richard Kraus, ARC president, and Susan Machie, the corporation’s clerk.
Hart testified under oath for more than two hours. During questioning, she read into the record ARC’s expenses, including the company’s annual energy usage since 1996 and their energy costs since 2006, which average $118,000 a year and totaled $132,000 in 2011. Hart said that she and her partners spend eight to 10 percent of their total costs on energy.
Hart explained that ARC can’t raise its shellfish seed price because other hatcheries would undersell them and that in the past, seed brought from off-Cape hatcheries to Provincetown, Chatham and Wellfleet sickened, and crops were lost. She said Florida hatcheries already undersell her hard shell clam seed by 10 cents each. “They have no energy costs in Florida,” she said. A Virginia hatchery undersells ARC by seven cents per hard shell clam seed and by 20 cents per oyster seed.
Thomas Michelman of Boreal Renewable Energy Development, who conducted the feasibility study for a wind turbine on ARC’s property, testified that the 600 megawatt turbine would supply all the energy needed to operate ARC, eliminating their present use of fossil fuel. He said that a smaller wind turbine would not generate sufficient energy to supply ARC’s needs and that the number of solar panels required to generate the amount of energy that ARC consumes would need five acres of land that is without shadow and would have to be secured to the dunes. “It’s not practical,” he said.
Asked his opinion on siting the turbine within Dennis’ wind energy overlay district, which project opponents have suggested, Michelman said the same turbine in the overlay district would produce only 70 percent of Arc’s requirements.
Court adjourned after Michelman explained why the 242-foot wind turbine is the only source of renewable energy that would reduce ARC’s energy bills and allow the owners to secure a loan to invest in their infrastructure.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Orleans District Court.
For trial updates, visit wickedlocaldennis.com throughout the week.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding