Alliance loses Siting Board decision

State agency turns down another delaying tactic by opponents

By Walter Brooks

T

he Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) released a 15-page Ruling yesterday that denied a motion filed by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound that sought to re-open the EFSB hearing to include the Draft Environmental Impact Report.

The board is charged with approving the Cape Wind project's underground transmission lines as they run under three miles of state water between the wind farm on Nantucket Sound and the connecting point on shore in Yarmouth.

"I find that the alliance has not established good cause"
- M. Kathryn Sedor

Said M. Kathryn Sedor, presiding officer of the Siting Board in a press statement released late yesterday, "I find that the alliance has not established good cause to reopen the hearing in this proceeding and thus has not met the standard for reopening for the purpose of receiving new evidence."

The board was previously scheduled in November to vote on Cape Wind's application for two 18-mile transmission lines following a positive report by the board's own staff investigators.

"The state Energy Facilities Siting Board is taking an inordinate amount of time to render its judgment on one small part of the proposal"
- Boston Globe

But after a three-hour hearing marked by some board member literally reading a script presumably from Governor Romney's office, the board agreed to delay a vote while the agency considered whether to reopen its review to include all or part of a 3,000 page draft environmental impact statement on the wind farm by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The nine-member board must still meet and vote on whether to approve Cape Wind's request.

Jim Gordon, President of Cape Wind, hailed the decision yesterday saying " At a time of record high energy costs and increasing dependence on foreign energy, we are pleased that the Energy Facility Siting Board staff issued another positive ruling for this important renewable energy project. We are hopeful that the Siting Board will convene to vote and adopt the Staff's Tentative Decision so that citizens can reap the benefits of cleaner air, lower energy costs, new jobs and greater energy independence."

The EFSB issued a Tentative Decision to approve Cape Windâ??s electric transmission cable in July, 2004, finding that, â??the power from the wind farm is needed on reliability and economic grounds, and to meet the requirements of Massachusetts and regional renewable portfolio standards.â? This followed a 22-month adjudicatory process that included 2,900 pages of transcripts and 932 exhibits. The EFSB Tentative Decision stated environmental benefits that Cape Wind would create, â??Overall, the Siting Board concludes that the air quality benefits of the wind farm are significant, and important for Massachusetts and New England.â? The EFSB Tentative Decision also found consumer benefits from Cape Wind, â??The Siting Board finds that operation of the wind farm would provide average annual savings of $25 million per year for New England customers during the first five years of operationâ?

The Boston Globe Editorial

The lead editorial about this same subject in Monday's Boston Globe read, "Opponents of big transportation or energy projects can stop them by showing that they do not justify the cost or environmental harm they would cause. Or, as is often the case, they can drag out the regulatory process so the builder of the project simply runs out of money. The plan to construct the nation's first big offshore wind energy project in Nantucket Sound could face such a risk. While the main permitting authority, the Army Corps of Engineers, came up with its largely positive report on the project late last year, the state Energy Facilities Siting Board is taking an inordinate amount of time to render its judgment on one small part of the proposal...

"...Because Cape Wind plans to locate all its turbines in federal waters, the role of the state siting board is only to rule up or down on the twin 18-mile underground transmission cables that would connect the turbine field with a utility switching station in Barnstable. In July of last year - eight months ago - the staff of the siting board approved the lines. The siting board itself was then supposed to make its decision after a 60-day public comment period but failed to do so. On Nov. 30, the board granted a request from opponents that it delay the decision while it considers the opponents' plea that the board first examine the Army Corps report to see if material in it is relevant to the cables decision."

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