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Full commission will have to rule on this aspect; Subcommittee claims insufficient information about the cabling

Members of a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee voted unanimously today to recommend that the full commission turn down Cape Wind's application to bring its transmission cables ashore in Yarmouth to connect with a substation in Barnstable. Today's vote on "procedural grounds without prejudice" was based on insufficient information about the cabling aspect of the project, according to subcommittee members.

BARNSTABLE VILLAGE - Members of a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee voted unanimously today to recommend that the full commission turn down Cape Wind's application to bring its transmission cables ashore in Yarmouth to connect with a substation in Barnstable.

Today's vote on "procedural grounds without prejudice" was based on insufficient information about the cabling aspect of the project, according to subcommittee members.

Assuming the full commission follows the subcommittee's recommendation by an Oct. 21 deadline, a likely scenario, a legal challenge from Cape Wind appears virtually certain. A vote by the full commission could take place on Oct. 18, the date of their last scheduled meeting before the deadline.

Subcommittee members taking part in today's vote were chairwoman Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Hogan, Alan Platt, Chuck Lockhart, Joy Brookshire and John Harris, following a motion for the vote by Platt.

The vote took place at the end of a two-hour meetings in a cramped and crowded hearing room at the commission's offices in Barnstable village, following two previous meetings between subcommittee members, commission planners and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

BARNSTABLE VILLAGE - Members of a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee voted unanimously today to recommend that the full commission turn down Cape Wind's application to bring its transmission cables ashore in Yarmouth to connect with a substation in Barnstable.

Today's vote on "procedural grounds without prejudice" was based on insufficient information about the cabling aspect of the project, according to subcommittee members.

Assuming the full commission follows the subcommittee's recommendation by an Oct. 21 deadline, a likely scenario, a legal challenge from Cape Wind appears virtually certain. A vote by the full commission could take place on Oct. 18, the date of their last scheduled meeting before the deadline.

Subcommittee members taking part in today's vote were chairwoman Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Hogan, Alan Platt, Chuck Lockhart, Joy Brookshire and John Harris, following a motion for the vote by Platt.

The vote took place at the end of a two-hour meetings in a cramped and crowded hearing room at the commission's offices in Barnstable village, following two previous meetings between subcommittee members, commission planners and representatives with Cape Wind in the last two weeks and a public hearing earlier this month that lasted 10 hours across two separate days.

Cape Wind and the commission have been locked in a tug of war for weeks, the commission repeatedly requesting more information about the cable work, Cape Wind responding that it has already complied or the information is not available at this point in the permitting process.

The specific areas of contention to arise today before the subcommittee's vote concerned open space mitigation, effects to eelgrass beds, payment of $30,000 from Cape Wind to monitor their effects of cabling on local ponds and Cape Wind's plan to bring its cables ashore at New Hampshire Avenue in Yarmouth, an area vulnerable to damage from hurricanes.

Cape Wind maintains that the commission is largely overstepping its juridiction authority due to a favorable vote by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board in May 2005 for Cape Wind's plan to connect to the regional grid.

Commission planners released a 29-page report outlining their concerns on Sept. 4 in anticipation of the public hearing opening two days later. Cape Wind's plans for cabling fell short of all but six of 33 "minimum performance standards" required of projects deemed Developments of Regional Impact (DRI).

Craig Olmsted, Cape Wind's vice president for projects, described the company's rationale for turning down the subcommittee's request for an extension of their review, a request made after Cape Wind agreed to a two-week extension on Sept. 11.

"The jurisdictional cable is undergoing an unprecedented level of scrutiny for what is otherwise a routine installation of a cable to provide electricity to the Cape and islands," Olmsted said. "There are multiple agencies at the federal, state and local levels reviewing every aspect of this project. It is imperative to the project and the future of clean energy that permitting continue to progress at all levels.

"Cape Wind believes that the record before the commission is complete and exhaustive and is adequate to base its decision on," Olmsted said. "The information the commission has reviewed has, for the most part, been available for several years and any additional information requested by the commission has been submitted in a timely manner. While we respect the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission, we also understand the timeframes dictated by the Legislature for the commission's review to be important tools to ensure a project is evaluated in a timely and efficient manner."

Olmsted added that "to my knowledge, there is more known about the transmission line and more care taken in mitigation than any project that has preceded it. We don't see any point in prolonging the process when by all standards the record is complete and process can and should move forward. With all due respect, we do not feel that it is fair or necessary to extend the review for this DRI project."

Cape Wind agreed to provide $10.2 million in mitigation funding

Cape Wind agreed to provide $10.2 million in mitigation funding to offset impacts from the project back in March when Ian Bowles, the state's Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, ruled that the project as proposed complied with the state's environmental laws.

But how that mitigation funding would be spent, and whether any would make its way to the commission or town of Yarmouth, were contentious issues at today's meeting.

Phil Dascombe, the commission's lead planner overseeing the review, said the mitigation funds would be controlled by the state office of Coastal Zone Management, with no specific money allocated to the commission or towns of Yarmouth and Barnstable. Cape Wind's underground cable would pass through both towns' waters and land before connecting to an NStar substation in Barnstable.

"It would seem that everyone will be dipping into that money," said subcommittee member Chuck Lockhart.

Yarmouth Selectmen Chairwoman Suzanne McAuliffee said Yarmouth officials were not receiving the information they needed from Cape Wind and had directed town counsel to review the town's agreement as host community where Cape Wind's cables would come ashore.

Charles McLaughlin, an attorney with the town of Barnstable, urged the subcommittee against a recommendation "without findings or prejudice" as leaving the commission vulnerable on appeal. McLaughlin urged members not to vote in the absence of an analysis of whether Cape Wind's benefits outweigh its drawbacks.

Such an analysis was already undertaken by Cape Wind and approved by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, said Cape Wind attorney David Rosenzeig.

McLaughlin added that the town is preparing a legal challenge to the state decision announced by Bowles in March.

Cape Wind's plans to use jet plowing to lay its two cables under the seabed, and whether this in effect constitutes dredging, also remains a bone of contention between the company and commission. Jet plowing would also be used to connect cables from all 130 turbines situated across 24 square miles of Nantucket Sound with a transformer platform. The transformer would be roughly 12 miles from projected landfall at New Hampshire Avenue in Yarmouth.

The absence of an emergency response plan from Cape Wind in catastrophic accidents involving Cape Wind's turbines or its transformer platform, where 40,000 gallons of coolant would be stored, did not sit well with subcommittee members.

Lockhard read from a recent Business Week magazine article describing "thousands" of "mishaps, breakdowns and accidents" involving wind turbines elsewhere in the US and Europe. In one case, according to the article, a turbine blade sheared off and was flung 200 meters away, presumably in Europe.

"You got propellers out there and they are going to come off and go through someone's boat," Lockhart warned.

Not only that, suggested subcommittee member Joy Brookshire, Cape Wind could also become a vulnerable target to terrorists.
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Source: http://www.capecodtoday.com...

SEP 25 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/11185-full-commission-will-have-to-rule-on-this-aspect-subcommittee-claims-insufficient-information-about-the-cabling
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