A court order will lead to further environmental analysis of the moribund Cape Wind project.
But a key opponent to the proposed 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound says the original analysis is outdated and needs to be scuttled―not supplemented.
“The environmental impact statement is obsolete,” said Audra Parker, president of Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. “It’s over eight years old. The project no longer has state permits. It no longer has a valid permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. It no longer has contracts to sell their power.”
The Alliance was one of several plaintiffs in a federal appeals court case that resulted last year in Cape Wind’s 2009 final environmental impact statement being vacated. The court ordered the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to supplement the environmental statement with geological surveys to ensure the seafloor would be able to support the turbines.
The court order also involved issues regarding endangered species, Barnstable Assistant Town Attorney Charles McLaughlin said. The town was a plaintiff in the federal appeals court case.
The draft version of the supplemental environmental impact statement was issued Thursday for public comment.
The court ruling did not require the project to halt or redo the regulatory approval process.
Parker called the order “inappropriately narrow in scope” and one the Alliance would challenge. Likewise, another plaintiff in the case, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, worries too that the draft supplement will not address that group’s concerns about the dangers wind turbines pose to birds, especially rare species like piping plovers and roseate terns.
“We wanted them to do some mitigation measures,” said Kyla Bennett of the group’s New England office.
The Cape Wind turbines are “right in the Atlantic flyway where millions of birds migrate,” she said.
The group still needs to fully read and assess the draft supplement before commenting further, Bennett said.
McLaughlin, too, said the town of Barnstable needed time to assess the draft.
Cape Wind president James Gordon and vice president of regulatory affairs Dennis Duffy didn’t return requests for comment.
Despite the renewed effort to fix the environmental impact statement, the 16-year-old project’s fate remains in question if not outright decided, even among those who previously supported it.
“It is not on our radar,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Offshore Wind Director William White. “We do not believe that Cape Wind is a project that is moving forward.”
Based on stipulations about leasing and distance from the shoreline in recent legislation, the state is focusing on waters south of Martha’s Vineyard for wind energy, White said. On June 30, the state’s three electric distribution companies – Eversource, National Grid and Unitil – are expected to release a request for proposals, soliciting bids from wind power companies that want to sell their energy under the state’s guidelines. The companies expected to compete are those with federally-issued commercial wind leases south of Martha’s Vineyard: DONG Energy, which is also known as Bay State Wind in its alliance with Eversource; a collaboration of Vineyard Power and OffshoreMW; and Deepwater Wind.
None of the three companies have begun construction, though. Deepwater Wind has submitted a site assessment plan, which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is reviewing for completeness. Vineyard Power/OffshoreMW and Bay State Wind are expected to submit their site assessment plans by Saturday.
Two other companies will compete for leases in two areas south of Martha’s Vineyard that have not been spoken for yet.
Signs of life remain in the 30-acre Cape Wind project, though, despite the loss in 2015 of Eversource and National Grid as customers and the denial about a year ago by the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board of Cape Wind’s request to extend its bundle of state and local permits that were granted in 2009.
Cape Wind is currently in good standing and made its annual rent payment of $88,278, a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesman said.
“As long as Cape Wind holds a lease, we consider Nantucket Sound vulnerable to development,” Parker said.
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