Both supporters and opponents of Vineyard Wind’s plan to bring its offshore wind farm cable to land on Cape Cod have emerged in two state decision-making arenas. But at least one well-known advocacy group is remaining noncommittal but watchful.
“We’re not taking a position against the project,” Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound President Audra Parker said. “We’re preserving our right to participate.”
The alliance, which worked to defeat the never-built Cape Wind project in the Sound, is one of five groups that have been granted intervenor status before the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, along with seven individuals who have limited participation status. The intervenor and limited participation statuses allow groups or individuals to participate in the siting board proceedings beyond simply submitting public comments.
Despite participating in and supporting the designation of federal offshore wind energy areas south of the Islands, where Vineyard Wind plans 50 or more turbines, the alliance remains concerned that some other project could connect to that company’s new cable, leading to new development in the Sound, Parker said.
“We are watching closely,” she said.
The towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth, a resident of Rhode Island and Eversource Energy Service Company are the other intervenors. Among the limited participants are four West Yarmouth residents, a Yarmouth Port resident, one from Barnstable, and Vineyard Wind competitor Bay State Wind.
Representing a 110-residential property association in West Yarmouth, limited participant and full-time resident David Bernstein said members of the group are not against wind power per se, but oppose the landfall of the Vineyard Wind cable through Lewis Bay and at New Hampshire Avenue, and then along the streets of their neighborhood. Their concerns are about the environment, commercial shellfishing, tourism and quality of life, Bernstein said. The town is being tempted by the company’s promise of property taxes, he said.
Vineyard Wind has said it intends to bring its energy export cable to land at either its preferred route of New Hampshire Avenue in West Yarmouth or at Covell Beach in Centerville.
“The questions we have about the effect of all the digging and all the other problems later like leakage haven’t been answered,” Bernstein said. He wants Vineyard Wind to bring its cable ashore at Covell Beach, or at a closed coal-burning power plant in Somerset as two Vineyard Wind competitors had planned.
On May 23, Vineyard Wind was awarded the right to negotiate the sale of 800 megawatts of wind energy to three electric distribution companies in Massachusetts, the first such award in the state. Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind also bid on the contract. Deepwater Wind has been chosen to move forward with offshore wind energy contracts in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Along with the siting board analysis, Vineyard Wind’s cable-laying proposal from 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard is under review through the state’s environmental policy act. For the draft environmental impact report, where public comments were due June 8, about 30 individuals and organizations weighed in with outright support, according to scanned records of the correspondence provided by state officials.
Among the supporters were the 1,326-member Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and Cape Cod Community College. Another 20 or so letter-writers weighed in with outright opposition to the cable-laying, with many mentioning concerns about Lewis Bay. One letter of opposition was from eight civic associations including Bernstein’s, representing about 900 homeowners, according to the scanned records.
“There is a critical need to replace our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy from a variety of technology sources,” Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, said in his June 6 letter to Matthew Beaton, secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
With several caveats, Gottlieb said the association views both the Lewis Bay and the Covell Beach landings “as potentially viable locations.” For Lewis Bay, in particular, the association wants Vineyard Wind to consider using horizontal directional drilling as the company has said is needed at Covell Beach as a “less-intrusive method,” compared with open trenching, given neighbor concerns about disruption and impacts on Lewis Bay, Gottlieb wrote.
The siting board will begin evidentiary hearings in September on the cable-laying proposal, and a final decision would likely come in the spring, said siting presiding officer M. Kathryn Sedor.
State officials are expected to issue information Monday about the next steps with the Vineyard Wind draft environmental impact statement.
While the two state regulatory reviews currently are focused only on the cable laying, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has begun its regulatory review of the entire construction and operations plan submitted by Vineyard Wind. A public comment period on the federal agency’s notice of intent to prepare its environmental impact statement ended April 30. In addition to holding five public meetings in April in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, there were 148 public comments submitted, according to federal records.