FALMOUTH – As host to five different scientific institutions, Falmouth should be leading the battle against climate change rather than abandoning a significant green initiative like the town-owned wind turbines, according to George Woodwell, a Woods Hole scientist and member of The Green Center.
The town must do whatever it takes to get the turbines whirling again, he said.
“Falmouth is wealthy enough to make agreements with the objectors, like buying their properties, providing some compensation or shutting down the turbines at certain times,” Woodwell said. “All kinds of things are possible. This total intransigence (by opponents) is outrageous.”
The Green Center and a handful of town residents are refusing to accept a judge’s decision to keep the two controversial turbines permanently shut down, and they now plan to take the matter to the Massachusetts Appeals Court for review.
Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty ruled in June that the turbines were a nuisance to neighbors. He ordered Wind 2 shut down. Wind 1 had already ceased operation in 2015, when it was denied a special permit from the zoning board.
Selectmen decided not to appeal Moriarty’s decision.
The Green Center filed a motion to intervene in Barnstable Superior Court during the fall, asking Moriarty to consider alternatives to a full shutdown, but the judge said the group didn’t have the standing to file the motion and had made its move too late.
Woodwell sent out a mass email last week asking for donations to fund further review of Moriarty’s court order, this time in Massachusetts Appeals Court..
“We do indeed have standing,” Woodwell told the Times Monday. “We share in spending all that money for nothing.”
Town Manager Julian Suso has estimated the shutdown of the turbines will cost the town about $10.5 million. That amount includes $4.62 million left in debt on the construction of Wind 1, $2.9 million for the loan on Wind 2, $1.4 million to $1.8 million for electricity to operate the wastewater treatment plant over the next 12 years, and $1.65 million owed to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over the next 15 years in place of renewable energy credits.
Although there is not yet a firm cost estimate for dismantling and removing the two wind machines, Suso recently said it will probably be “in excess of $1 million.”
Woodwell said he expected the group’s attorney, George Boerger of Duxbury, to file a notice of appeal early this week.
“It’s the only legal path that’s open and the only chance of avoiding this enormous cost and getting nothing for it,” he said.
Boerger, who confirmed his plan to file the notice, said the appeal could take up to a year to settle.
Meanwhile, Fire Tower Road resident Mark J. Cool has asked the building commissioner to enforce the town’s wind energy bylaw. The longtime dormancy of Wind I meets the bylaw’s classification for abandonment, which requires that it be dismantled and removed from the site. The building commissioner must provide Cool with a response by Thursday.
“Let them do what they think they have to do,” Cool said of the appeal to state court. “It’s their right to do that. It’s unfortunate they want to continue to divide the community.”
Turbine abutter Barry Funfar expressed frustration that Moriarty’s decision hasn’t settled the seven-year fight over the turbines. “It’s like I’m not allowed a peaceful existence,” Funfar said. “We fought it. We won in the court, but the other side just won’t give up. When is this going to end?”
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