Eight individuals that applied to have legal standing during Deepwater Wind’s permitting process have been denied, according to a ruling by a subcommittee of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) last week.
The vote by the Ocean Special Area Management Plan subcommittee was unanimous. A total of six applications (by five individuals and one couple) to intervene were denied; a seventh application by a representative of the American Alliance of Fishermen was denied separately. The vote was taken April 5.
A moment of awkwardness was injected into the hearing during an exchange with Terence J. Tierney, the attorney representing the applicants, and a member of the CRMC.
In referring to the expertise of one applicant, Jon Ives, Tierney said: “This is not ‘Joe Six Pack’ from Central Falls making this stuff up as he goes along.” Ives, an island resident, is an environmental consultant.
“I want to caution you about making comments that sound somewhat demeaning to people from Central Falls,” said CRMC member Tony Affigne.
Tierney started to respond to Affigne’s comment, but Affigne stopped him from speaking. Later, Tierney apologized for his comment, saying that he hadn’t meant it to be offensive.
Later, Affigne said, as his reason for ruling against the applicants, said the individuals “have not demonstrated a particularized harm, which is imminent or injurious, which is not shared by many thousands of other citizens.”
An intervenor in the wind farm’s application would have a legal standing as Deepwater Wind continues its permitting process with the CRMC – for example, intervenors could submit testimony and be cross-examined.
“I felt that it was a blow to our individual rights and freedoms,” intervenor applicant Maggie Delia told the B.I. Times. “They didn’t allow a single intervenor.” Delia and her husband Michael are summer residents. “I’m a summer resident for over 30 years,” she said. “I really love the island.”
CRMC Vice Chair Paul Lemont said that anyone impacted by the Deepwater Wind process will have a chance to weigh in on the issue. “Public comment is going to allow great discourse,” said Lemont.
At the end of the meeting, Annmarie Waters stood and started to speak. Given that all applicants were denied, Waters said “Who could be legally represented as an intervenor,” but she was interrupted by CRMC chair Anne Maxwell Livingston.
“I appreciate your passion, but now is not the proper place to argue it,” said Livingston, who then adjourned the meeting before discussing the next agenda item.
Deepwater Wind’s attorney Robin Main argued that input from the applicants, along with everyone else, should be limited to public comment.
“They [the applicants] raise issues that aren’t before you. They raise issues that are covered by federal law,” she said. “They also raise issues that are generalized to the public and not specific to them.”
Main referenced a 2012 R.I. Supreme Court case, Watson v. Fox, which ruled that in order to become a legal intervenor that person’s argument must be “particularized” and the intervenor must “demonstrate that he has a stake in the outcome that distinguishes his claims from the claims of the general public.”
Attorney Tierney represented seven applicants: Michael Beauregard, John Lyons, Katie Homans, Jon Ives, Rosemarie Ives and Michael and Maggie Delia. A separate applicant, Tina Jackson, president of the American Alliance for Fisherman, was not represented by an attorney.
Tierney listed reasons for the citizens’ requests to intervene, which included the wind farm’s potential impact on property value, viewshed, natural lighting, air quality, birds, whales and fish.
“People come to Block Island – one of the last great places, they say – for these qualities of life,” said Tierney. “Right now, it is totally dark on the south shore except for the lighthouse at night. All the lights associated with the five turbines will light the night sky.”
Most applicants own properties on Block Island that overlook the southeast side of Block Island and the proposed location of the Block Island Wind Farm would be in their viewshed.