Falmouth residents oppose clean energy project
Credit: Falmouth Residents Oppose Clean Energy Project | By Noelle Annonen | www.capenews.net ~~
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Residents voiced overwhelming opposition to plans by Mayflower Wind to run electric cables from its offshore wind farm though Falmouth at a public hearing held by the select board on Wednesday, June 8.
Some audience members said that the project would cause excessive noise, or that people would not be able to mortgage their homes because of the substation. Several residents said the town overall objects to wind turbines, referring to Wind 1 and Wind 2, which are now slated to be dismantled. Many finished their comments saying that they support clean energy and even the project itself—just not in Falmouth.
Chairwoman Nancy R. Taylor said that it will not be the only public hearing on the subject and that no host community agreements have been made with Mayflower Wind. Ms. Taylor said that the select board will not enter an agreement unless the project and the terms are deemed to be beneficial to the town. Any agreement will be contingent upon approval of Town Meeting.
“The select board has not made a decision on this project,” Dr. Taylor said. “We have been looking to evaluate the benefits and the impacts.”
Mayflower Wind is seeking to run electric cables through Falmouth Heights to a landside substation potentially at the Lawrence-Lynch property on Gifford Street, where a High Voltage Direct Current, or HVDC, converter would transition the energy to above-ground transmission.
The routes for the cables to run underground from the offshore substation to the station in Falmouth have yet to be determined. The routes will be chosen based on surveyed community impact. Options include either a two-mile route or an eight-mile route, running underneath roads, either through Falmouth Harbor to Scranton Avenue, the kite park at Falmouth Heights to Grand Avenue and Falmouth Heights Road, or Little Pond to Spring Bars Road.
Construction in Falmouth would last two to three years, said Daniel L. Hubbard, offshore project counsel for Mayflower Wind. Mayflower Wind would try to make happen during the off-season.
Bill Follett, Mayflower Wind engineering director, said that electromagnetic fields, or EMF, from HVDC transmission systems are similar to the Earth’s magnetic fields that everyone in the world lives in. He said that cables only give off an EMF slightly greater than the world’s and the farther away a person is from the source, the more the field dissipates.
“Our conservative model suggests that we are well below the established international health guidelines,” Mr. Follett said.
Ms. Taylor said the select board was seeking public input on construction impacts, long-term impacts of the underground HVDC equipment and the substation, and the importance of Falmouth’s action on climate change.
Many others stood and spoke, in increments of three to five minutes, about why they do not want Mayflower Wind’s project to run through Falmouth.
Falmouth resident David Leslie said that he supported the project as part of a transition away from fossil fuels. He added that Falmouth has the opportunity to not leave the issue of climate change to their children. Four people in the crowded auditorium got up to voice their support of the project.
“Inaction in the face of the climate crisis is unacceptable in my view,” Mr. Leslie said. “We can no longer kick it down the road.”
He said that Mayflower Wind has answered many of the town’s questions on its website and that residents can learn more from offshore wind development both in Europe and the United States. He voiced his confidence in the select board’s ability to evaluate the plans from a scientific perspective.
“We are not breaking new ground here,” Mr. Leslie said.
Carol Ziemian from Falmouth Heights was against the project because of the impact on homeowners and the community by the large corporation.
“It’s common sense. You do not run a bundle of potentially dangerous, industrial-sized electric cables under a widely used family beach and then through the streets of a heavily populated residential town for miles,” Ms. Ziemian said.
She said that the project is more in the interests of Shell Oil than it is in the interests of the town. Ms. Ziemian also said that there has been no transparency in the discussions between town hall and Mayflower for the last two years. She added that a lack of attention to zoning will negatively impact public recreation. She was also concerned about potential health impacts.
“Any negative health effects, as far as I’m concerned, are unforgivable,” Ms. Ziemian said. “This is not right. This has not been thoughtfully planned. This is surreal and cannot really happen.”
Ms. Ziemian also said that the roads will not be functional and parking lots will be full of construction equipment that people will have to look at.
“I think it’s time to lift the Iron Curtain and show the truth about how this community is really going to be affected in the long run,” Ms. Ziemian said.
David R. Moriarty of East Falmouth said that the project should be moved to Fall River and that he is disappointed in the town government.
“It’s got to end right here and now,” Mr. Moriarty said. “[You’ve been] intentionally torturing my friends and the citizens of Falmouth. It’s time to find a new place for your [Mayflower Wind’s] power supply.”
Geraldine Ryan of Falmouth Heights said that her grandchildren have been able to enjoy summers at Falmouth beaches and she wants for her great-grandchildren to be able to enjoy the beaches as well. She said the project will irreversibly impact the community, hurt marine life, trees, beach enjoyment and cause health issues.
“Let’s not forget they said tobacco, lead paint, and asbestos were safe,” Ms. Ryan said. “I support clean energy development. However, I do not support this being done in such a densely populated area.”
Maura Aldrich of Woods Hole Road said that climate change has hurt Cape Cod already—by sea level rise, decomposition of the dunes and impact on turtles.
“Why would you even want to put a project here?” Ms. Aldrich said. “We might not even be here.” She suggested the project move farther inland.
Peter Laird of Sunfish Lane, East Falmouth, said that the impact on the land and aesthetic of Falmouth would be detrimental. He said that there would be a 22-foot-tall sound barrier built at the station, which would ruin the view.
“I’m a believer in the Boy Scout adage: you always try to leave the campsite a little better than you found it,” Mr. Laird said. “I don’t think this project is leaving Falmouth in a better spot than the way we found it.”
He added that he does not think the town zoning regulations should be suspended for a limited liability corporation. He said that the town’s wind turbine projects were not successful and asked why this project was being considered in that light.
David Buzanoski, president of the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Neighborhood Association, said he was speaking for its 450 members. He said that 87 percent of members surveyed were not opposed to clean energy, but they were opposed to cables running through Falmouth Heights. He said that some of the land Mayflower Wind wanted to run cables through is protected for public use.
“Why is Mayflower seeking a comprehensive zoning exemption? Mr. Buzanoski asked. “Mayflower is seeking relief from Article 97. All our rights, they just want to take away from us.”
Mr. Buzanoski said that people have the right to clean air and water and enjoy natural and historical aesthetics in their town without being bothered by noise.
Rosemarie Gagnon of Sunfish Lane said that her house is 400 feet away from the proposed lot for the substation in Falmouth.
“I get to look at a 20-foot concrete wall,” Ms. Gagnon said. “What about my property rights? It’s not fair. There’s nothing of value for this project going through. It doesn’t benefit anybody, but you,” she said, referring to Mayflower Wind.
Greg Mazmanian of Miami Avenue, Falmouth Heights, said that Exponent Corporation, the independent consultant hired by the select board to evaluate the project, has not concluded that either electromagnetic fields have caused or contributed to any negative health impacts. He said that other studies examined the impact of magnetic fields and that those studies associated the fields with leukemia.
Maura Powers of Thomas B. Landers Road said that her home would be near the station as well.
“One of the things I love about night at my home is that it is dark,” Ms. Powers said. “I can see the stars.”
She said that the station will result in light pollution. She added that she supports renewable energy, but that Shell Oil is only concerned with profits.
“We have to fight and make sure things are done smart,” Ms. Powers said. “This is not smart.”
Alex Khan, owner of Shipwrecked in Falmouth Heights, said that his business offers good paying jobs and does well even during the off-season. He said that, in his experience, people avoid areas with construction because of challenges finding parking or inconvenience.
“I want to learn more about what I need to do to prepare if something like that is going to happen,” Mr. Khan said. “I might have some hard decisions to make.
One audience member said that the project would be better conducted farther up the canal for the ease of power line connections and power transmission. He said that the decision to put the station in Falmouth was likely made between Eversource and Mayflower Wind, with no consideration made for the impact on Falmouth.
A commercial diver, Nick Schulz said that the project will provide necessary jobs for many men and women working in Falmouth. He said that he is hopeful about the project, as it will help him feed his family.
“I am not a retiree. I’m here to speak out for the working men and women of this community,” Mr. Schulz said.
He said that workers on projects frequently support the small businesses around them during construction. Mr. Schulz said that the crew he worked on provided a lot of business for coffee shops in Woods Hole while he was working on construction at the ferry docks there.
“It’s a big help to us,” Mr. Schulz said. “We don’t always get work close to home.”
Seth Adams of Thomas B. Landers Road said that the value of homes in the area is not the primary concern and that he will not be moving away, no matter what.
“My home is worth a billion dollars to me,” Mr. Adams said. “I’ll fight for my home and I’ll fight for my family.”
Mr. Adams said that no one cares about the donations that Mayflower Wind says it will offer to the town. He said that local people support local businesses already.
“Don’t tell me it’s about clean energy,” Mr. Adams said. “Don’t tell me it’s about the environment. It’s about the dollar, and your dollar is no good here.”
Hal Caswell of Thomas B. Landers Road, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said that wind is a great source of clean energy, but the trouble is convincing people to use it. He added that Mayflower Wind will not be able to convince anyone to participate in future wind projects if they put heavy infrastructure into a residential area. He said that Mayflower Wind should consider the long term when planning its projects.
John Densler of North Falmouth said that he has worked as an electrical engineer at a power station. He said that the 20-foot walls are there for a reason. He said that the 15-foot circuit breakers within the stations occasionally will explode, which is why the walls are built so high. He said that solar panels are a better alternative to wind.
“But what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?” Mr. Densler asked. He said that grids in England have failed because of this and that gas infrastructure is needed as a backup to wind power.
Robert B. Dugan of Falmouth Heights said that signs on the beaches will have to be put up when the cables are installed. He said that this will hurt Falmouth’s tourism industry, as families will begin to avoid the area because of the signs.
“This community relies on [Falmouth] being a tourist destination,” Mr. Dugan said.
Eleanor Ling of Carlson Lane said that she supports the project. She said she understands that the residents are concerned about temporary inconveniences in their neighborhoods where they live. She said that, while Falmouth will only be using a small percentage of the power that will be transmitted through the town, that it has been benefiting from bringing in power generated by other towns and cities that use natural gas and coal.
“I think that this is a great opportunity for us as a community to contribute to the overall goal of reaching clean and renewable energy,” Ms. Ling said.
Mr. Hubbard thanked the audience for coming and speaking to the issue, saying that the comments were heard and will be taken into consideration. He added that there will be future forums and meetings with the town.
Ms. Taylor said that the board is taking the comments into consideration as well and emphasized that the select board has made no decisions and that nothing has been signed by the town.
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