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Accord reached on oceans bill

The state would open up ocean sanctuaries to renewable energy development under a legislative agreement that could allow a controversial wind farm in Buzzards Bay to be built under certain conditions. ...Under current law, development can only take place in the state's ocean sanctuaries if it is deemed a "public necessity." The five protected sanctuaries are on the North Shore, Cape Cod Bay, the southern Cape and islands and Buzzards Bay. The new law would allow renewable energy projects, but they would be subject to an ocean management plan to be drawn up by a special commission by Dec. 31, 2009, according to people familiar with the agreement. The commission will decide the specific regulations, including allowable distance from shore, scale and type of technology, community benefits and environmental impact.

The state would open up ocean sanctuaries to renewable energy development under a legislative agreement that could allow a controversial wind farm in Buzzards Bay to be built under certain conditions.

A six-member conference committee of House and Senate members reached consensus on the bill this week, avoiding more drastic House legislation that critics say would have opened up Buzzards Bay and other ocean sanctuaries to unlimited renewable energy development.

The compromise bill will be signed by legislative leaders and made public when it is filed with the Senate clerk next week. It would then go to the full Legislature.

"We felt it was really important to set up a transparent public process that will get the public interest ahead of the private interest," said Sen. Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, who filed the oceans bill and served on the conference committee. "In the same breath, we recognize the need for renewables and offshore renewables and we recognize that we need to move in that direction."

Under current law, development can only take place in the state's ocean sanctuaries if it is deemed a "public necessity." The five protected sanctuaries are on the North... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The state would open up ocean sanctuaries to renewable energy development under a legislative agreement that could allow a controversial wind farm in Buzzards Bay to be built under certain conditions.

A six-member conference committee of House and Senate members reached consensus on the bill this week, avoiding more drastic House legislation that critics say would have opened up Buzzards Bay and other ocean sanctuaries to unlimited renewable energy development.

The compromise bill will be signed by legislative leaders and made public when it is filed with the Senate clerk next week. It would then go to the full Legislature.

"We felt it was really important to set up a transparent public process that will get the public interest ahead of the private interest," said Sen. Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, who filed the oceans bill and served on the conference committee. "In the same breath, we recognize the need for renewables and offshore renewables and we recognize that we need to move in that direction."

Under current law, development can only take place in the state's ocean sanctuaries if it is deemed a "public necessity." The five protected sanctuaries are on the North Shore, Cape Cod Bay, the southern Cape and islands and Buzzards Bay.

The new law would allow renewable energy projects, but they would be subject to an ocean management plan to be drawn up by a special commission by Dec. 31, 2009, according to people familiar with the agreement.

The commission will decide the specific regulations, including allowable distance from shore, scale and type of technology, community benefits and environmental impact.

Until the ocean management plan is in place, the state's current ocean sanctuary protections would remain in place.

How it would affect the Buzzards Bay wind farm might not be known until the ocean management plan is written. Boston developer Jay Cashman has proposed placing up to 120 wind turbines in the bay, a plan that has met opposition from both local officials and environmentalists.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi came under fire in November after House leaders slipped the wider change in ocean sanctuaries into an energy bill with little notice to legislators before the vote.

It would have removed a major obstacle before the approval of the Buzzards Bay project. Rep. DiMasi, who is close friends with Mr. Cashman, denied it was a personal favor. Rep. DiMasi took a boat tour of Buzzards Bay with local legislators last month.

Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, a critic of the process that led to the House bill, feared the compromise could lead to less environmental protection in Buzzards Bay. He had not seen the final language, which won't be released until next week.

"I'm still not satisfied," Rep. Quinn said, based on a description of the agreement. "In my view, this law was changed, even if it is just moderately, for this one special project, without a hearing, without public input and stakeholder input prior to the change in the law."

Mr. Cashman this week dropped a portion of his proposed wind farm off the Fairhaven shoreline, citing the population of endangered roseate terns and the area's high boat traffic. His company, Patriot Renewables, is still proposing to build turbines off Dartmouth and Naushon Island.

"We have not yet seen the legislation, but to the extent that it moves wind power forward in Massachusetts, we are supportive," Liz Isherwood, a spokeswoman for Patriot Renewables, said in a statement. "We look forward to reviewing the bill to see how it may affect our project and other offshore projects in Massachusetts."

The ocean management plan would be written by an advisory commission and a scientific council. The advisory commission would include representatives of government, environmental organizations and commercial and sport fishing.

Ian Bowles, the governor's secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, would have final approval over the ocean management plan following public hearings.

Cape Wind, which is in federal waters in Nantucket Sound, would be grandfathered under the legislation because it is so far along in the permit process.

The oceans act would not take power away from the state Division of Marine Fisheries or impose any new fishing regulations. It also clarifies that the Cape Cod Commission and the Martha's Vineyard Commission have review authority over projects within 3 miles of their coastlines.

Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, supported the oceans bill and said she spoke directly to Rep. DiMasi about it dozens of times.

"This is important for every coastal community," Sen. Murray said. "We've got a really good management plan for coastal waters going forward."

 


Source: http://www.southcoasttoday....

MAY 9 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/14885-accord-reached-on-oceans-bill
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