In November 2020, the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an Order approving long-term contracts of the 804 MW Mayflower Wind offshore wind farm with the Commonwealth’s Electric Distribution Companies. In March 2021 a bipartisan bill was signed into law authorizing the Commonwealth to procure 2.4 GW more offshore wind power.
All the while Falmouth residents concerned themselves with essential local services and local sustainability challenges as a result of the continuing pandemic. They didn’t know it then, but those pesky status updates about the town’s two wind turbines, coupled with State’s unbridled quest for more offshore wind energy, signaled a new and foreboding wind warning for Falmouth.
In December 2021, Mayflower Wind announced its offshore wind energy project would make landfall at Falmouth Heights. In discussion with Mayflower, the town communicated that it preferred landfall be made at the less populated Surf Drive area. The town only became aware of Mayflower’s Falmouth Heights landfall intention as a result of a state notice informing the town that Mayflower had filed with the state its preferred route and an alternate route, both of which transit under Falmouth Heights. A “good-faith” action by Mayflower to work collaboratively with Falmouth, to ensure transparency and to resolve any outstanding community stakeholder concerns?
The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), according to its website, is responsible for ensuring the state has a “reliable energy supply, with a minimum impact on the environment, at the lowest possible cost.” To that end, the siting board will determine whether the proposed transmission landfall at Falmouth Heights should be constructed and whether Mayflower’s requested local zoning exemptions will be approved.
The question looming largest in Falmouth – Can state government (EFSB) bypass local zoning control with a one-size-fits-all, state-dictated, top-down zoning exemption policy?
Falmouth’s representative Town Meeting has adopted local zoning code to take into account the best interests of their residents. The state has ratified these existing Falmouth zoning bylaws. It’s been long established and fundamentally understood by the legislature that empowering cities and towns with an easier path to shape zoning code at the local level is not just effective, but it efficiently addresses local strategic planning development, coupled with best protecting the safety and welfare of its residents.
First and foremost, a town’s top priority is to make sure that its residents are safe. The state has provided this tool to Commonwealth cities and towns by way of local zoning powers. It’s clear Mayflower’s landfall in Falmouth Heights, transmission pathways through densely populated neighborhoods, and electricity conversion substations will have substantial and specific impacts. Yet, Falmouth’s local zoning control tool stands to be removed from its municipal decision-making tool box.
To meet its climate goals, Massachusetts has set offshore wind energy output deadlines. To accelerate production, the path of least resistance is through a policy blueprint that eliminates local permitting and zoning processes. Said by the developers in the offshore wind industry… local permitting and zoning processes add tens of thousand of dollars to projects and hold-up time-sensitive state energy production mandates.
The pending Energy Facility Siting Board decision to allow Mayflower Wind to make landfall in Falmouth is a matter of major public investment. The pending Energy Facility Siting Board decision is a matter of equal investment to the Falmouth community and its zoning bylaws. For it is they, a second-time wind energy host community, that will have to bear the impacts in, through and under… their backyard again.
Fast-Tracking Offshore Wind In Massachusetts: The Cost – Municipal Decision Making on Local Zoning Control.
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