Article

Appealing to sanity

Now that the Cape Cod Commission is appealing the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board's approval of the proposed wind farm on Nantucket Sound to the state's highest court, it's important to consider the stakes involved. This is not about the merits or demerits of the project. The appeal is about the ability of a state board, made up of nine gubernatorial appointees, to overrule a regional authority simply because the project developer submitted an application to the Cape Cod Commission.

Now that the Cape Cod Commission is appealing the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board's approval of the proposed wind farm on Nantucket Sound to the state's highest court, it's important to consider the stakes involved.

This is not about the merits or demerits of the project. The appeal is about the ability of a state board, made up of nine gubernatorial appointees, to overrule a regional authority simply because the project developer submitted an application to the Cape Cod Commission.

In October 2007, the commission rejected the application by Cape Wind Associates to build the wind farm, citing a lack of information necessary to approve the project.

Despite that ruling, the state siting board approved in May a so-called "super permit" for the project that overrides the regional agency's authority as well as the town of Barnstable's.

In announcing the appeal, Paul Niedzwiecki, executive director of the commission, said the siting board was created in 1973 to approve projects unduly burdened by local permitting processes. "It was designed to prevail over unreasonable burdens masquerading as local interests, not to side step local interests entirely,"... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Now that the Cape Cod Commission is appealing the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board's approval of the proposed wind farm on Nantucket Sound to the state's highest court, it's important to consider the stakes involved.

This is not about the merits or demerits of the project. The appeal is about the ability of a state board, made up of nine gubernatorial appointees, to overrule a regional authority simply because the project developer submitted an application to the Cape Cod Commission.

In October 2007, the commission rejected the application by Cape Wind Associates to build the wind farm, citing a lack of information necessary to approve the project.

Despite that ruling, the state siting board approved in May a so-called "super permit" for the project that overrides the regional agency's authority as well as the town of Barnstable's.

In announcing the appeal, Paul Niedzwiecki, executive director of the commission, said the siting board was created in 1973 to approve projects unduly burdened by local permitting processes. "It was designed to prevail over unreasonable burdens masquerading as local interests, not to side step local interests entirely," he said.

By overruling the Cape Cod Commission, the siting board has "attempted to expand its jurisdiction to the point where a 'good faith' effort at complying with local permitting is evidenced by simply filing an application," Niedzwiecki said. "Allowing this process to stand would allow any type of future utility project to avoid local review in evaluating and mitigating local impacts, providing an outcome that favors certainty over fairness."

Beyond the legal and technical aspects of the appeal, Niedzwiecki sought to dismiss claims that the appeal is an attempt to delay progress in the development of renewable energy projects. He acknowledged that "quick action" is necessary in public policy and public initiatives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

But he said the commission and Barnstable County agencies provide "a synergy for renewable energy progress unmatched in the commonwealth," including a new regional policy plan with one of the most progressive energy requirements for new commercial construction in the country, mapping with local towns for expedited permitting of land-based renewable projects, and zoning the ocean for offshore renewable projects.

Despite this progress, Niedzwiecki said the Cape Wind project "has been a popular subject of discussion for some time and in a sense a worst-case outcome has already happened: polarization. Much good work on local and regional renewable energy projects and conservation efforts is often prejudiced by the nature of an organization's interaction with this one project. 'Absolutist' critics on both sides have created a situation where labels replace the merits of their respective positions. This division threatens to slow the pace of regional progress for renewable energy and hampers real efforts at expedited permitting."

Nevertheless, the commission wants to resolve its conflict with the siting board as soon as possible, Niedzwiecki said. "We do this with the understanding that as a nation we are behind the curve in addressing the environmental and economic realities of global warming... . We are also tempered by the history of well-intentioned government action that bends too much in the direction of one industry."


Source: http://www.capecodonline.co...

JUN 18 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20704-appealing-to-sanity
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