With ongoing court battles neutering the ability of selectmen to operate Falmouth’s twin wind turbines at the desired levels, the turbine debate will carry over into 2014 both inside Falmouth Town Hall and at the voting booth.
Opponents of the turbines at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road scored two recent victories.
First, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse limited their operation to 12 hours a day, with total shutdowns on Sundays and holidays, while a legal challenge to a Zoning Board of Appeals ruling continues. In a separate ZBA matter, the board voted that the turbines created a nuisance to West Falmouth resident Barry Funfar. The town was ordered to take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate the nuisance.
The decisions hamper a September vote by the Board of Selectmen to increase the turbines’ operation from 12 hours a day to 16 in an effort to financially balance the cost to operate the devices with their expected revenue.
In May, two of the town’s selectmen – Brent Putnam, currently serving as chairman, and Kevin Murphy – will be up for re-election.
If they run, their decisions regarding the turbines are likely to be a topic of conversation among voters.
Both men voted in favor of increasing the turbines’ operation.
SEAN F. DRISCOLL
County government has become a hotbed of controversy as opponents of the projects and policies of two regional energy agencies have gained traction in calls for more transparency.
In 2013 the criticisms of the Cape Light Compact and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative spilled over into the county’s legislative and executive branches, leading to a split that remains unresolved.
While the three-member executive board of county commissioners has supported the use of compact funds to pay the cooperative’s bills, the 15-member Assembly of Delegates voted Dec. 4 to ask state officials for help in understanding how the two organizations work.
The commissioners responded by claiming the right to override that vote and did so on Dec. 11. The assembly, according to the commissioners, must pass the measure again, this time by a two-thirds supermajority vote.
Assembly Speaker Ronald Bergstrom, however, said he wouldn’t put the matter on the assembly’s agenda again and that the letter to the state attorney general and inspector general was already in the mail.
County officials in 2014 also will continue to discuss proposed changes to the regional government’s charter and structure.
The debate over the compact (formed in 1997 to buy power in bulk, provide energy efficiency programs and advocate for electricity customers on the Cape and Vineyard) and the cooperative (formed in 2007 to pursue renewable energy projects) will undoubtedly continue in 2014. So, too, will the debate over county government.
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