Huffing and Puffing over Nuffing
Especially given the fact the Commission has no power offshore
By Chris Stimpson
Well, the wind's blowing again, and much of was circulating around the Mattacheese School auditorium on Monday night, as the Cape Cod Commission held a practically nugatory public hearing on Cape Wind's Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), filed on February 15 with the State Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA).
Despite the organizers displaying a slide throughout the proceedings admonishing speakers to speak only about the FEIR, and despite the Commission's jurisdiction not reaching more than 3 miles offshore, Monday was a night for trotting out all the old reliables: private use of public (federal) land, experimental technology, the state of fishing in (federal) waters, air and surface navigation over (federal) waters, on and on. With most speakers, it was difficult to identify a time when they were on topic. The single best moment of the evening came when a speaker proposed that the Cape Cod Commission be given authority over the entire project, and the Commission members on stage took on that "deer in the headlights" look of sheer horror.
Despite all the tangential rhetoric, there are a couple of issues that need clarifying in more detail than the two-minute allotment at the microphone allowed.
Firstly, since it's being claimed by opponents not only that Cape Wind has abandoned what was meant to be a joint Federal-State-Local process, but also that the 30-day public comment period (ending March 22) established by the EOEA is inadequate, it's appropriate to examine just how the EOEA and the FEIR fit in the overall permitting process. In a word, the entire process is complex, and readers should beware of those who over-simplify it in an attempt to imply that Cape Wind is attempting to subvert it. Some background is in order:
And that's about as simply as I can describe the process. Still with me?
Secondly, when opponents are not huffing about Cape Wind short-circuiting the process, they're puffing about the inadequacy of the standard 30-day public comment period imposed by the EOEA for all such reports. But, besides the fact that there is no provision in an FEIR process to extend the comment period (so why expend our breath in huffing and puffing over nuffing?), let's not forget:
That there were four public hearings and an extended comment period following the ACoE's Draft EIS/EIR in 2004.
That after MMS took up the baton, there were more scoping sessions and comment opportunities in 2006.
That the imminent Draft EIS will trigger yet another round of hearings and a further comment period, as will their Final EIS at the end of 2007.
That the EOEA's comment period is about nothing more than whether Cape Wind has been following the stipulated process, not whether turbines will hypnotize plovers or cause cancer in roseate terns.
Chris Stimpson of Bourne is Secretary of Clean Power Now, a grassroots group providing information and education on renewable energy. Chris has worked in local media since moving here. Chris Stimpson, a 25+ year resident of the Cape and former RAF aviator, has worked in the media and communications field since 1982. As secretary of Clean Power Now, he has been in the forefront of renewable energy issues for nearly four years. Read Chris' other OP-Ed pieces below;