Opponents of the stalled Cape Wind offshore wind farm continued efforts in April and May to end the company’s federal lease.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, though, has no plans to rescind the lease for 30 acres in Nantucket Sound, agency spokesman Stephen Boutwell said.
“Cape Wind Associates LLC is currently in good standing,” Boutwell said.
In 575 public comments submitted on the draft of a revised environmental impact statement, about a dozen supported the wind farm project. Three-quarters of the comments called for Cape Wind’s long-term lease to be rescinded. More than 25 percent of the 575 comments submitted were preprinted from letters with the title “Urge U.S. Dept. of the Interior to Rescind Cape Wind’s Lease.”
“Until this lease is canceled, the threat of construction in the Sound remains real,” Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound president Audra Parker said.
Cape Wind signed the lease in 2010, but, among other issues, lost two critical power purchase agreements in 2015. In the meantime, three other offshore wind energy companies signed leases with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for much larger areas south of the Islands. Those three companies are expected at the end of the month to bid on power contracts with the state’s three electric distribution companies.
Cape Wind is not seen as “a project that is moving forward,” Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Offshore Wind Director William White said. Still, the project’s 2009 environmental impact statement is being revised because of a 2016 federal court order. In that order, the court found that without adequate geological surveys, the federal government could not ensure the seafloor could support the proposed 130 wind turbines. In light of the court order and Cape Wind’s valid lease and construction plan, the federal government has two alternatives: either affirm or rescind the lease, according to federal records.
The bureau expects to issue the final version of the environmental report this summer, Boutwell said.
Cape Wind officials contend in their May 15 comment that the company has provided information that shows its original foundation designs were appropriate for the site. The company also disputes claims by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound that the project is in financial trouble and using out-of-date technology.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management should “allow the project to move forward with minimum further delay,” Dennis Duffy, vice president of regulatory affairs for Cape Wind Associates LLC, wrote in the comment.
The Alliance, in turn, urged the bureau to sever Cape Wind’s lease or, at a minimum, fully rewrite the environmental report with more up-to-date information.
Cape Wind’s failure to provide assurances of financial responsibility are grounds for the lease to be terminated, either based on federal regulations or the terms of the contract, according to the Alliance’s comment. Cape Wind’s loss of the power purchase agreements impairs its financial position and its ability to meet contractual obligations, and the company is also out of compliance with the federal regulation governing the project’s construction and operations plan, the Alliance said. As one example, Cape Wind has no signed contract for a location for on-shore staging, the group said.
“BOEM should either rescind the Cape Wind lease or dramatically expand the scope of the supplemental environmental impact statement,” Charles McLaughlin Jr., Barnstable assistant town attorney, wrote in the town’s May 15 comment.
Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki also called on the federal government to rescind the lease, in part due to changed county and town bylaws in the past 10 years.
The Cape and Islands’ statehouse delegation urged the Bureau of Ocean Management to “broaden the scope of the (Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) and rescind Cape Wind’s lease.”
In 2015, the bureau granted Cape Wind a two-year suspension of its lease, which ends July 24. In granting the suspension, Director Abigail Ross Hopper described Cape Wind as demonstrating good faith and due diligence and facing extensive legal challenges.
The bureau’s “flexibility” with Cape Wind comes as the country’s nascent offshore wind industry “faces numerous uncertainties and impediments when trying to move forward with project proposals,” Hopper said.
During the two-year suspension, the company continued to pay $88,278 a year in rent.
As of Friday, the company had not requested a further suspension of the lease, Boutwell said.
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