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Article seeks to nullify wind-farm agreement

Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror|Dean Geddes|November 23, 2023
MassachusettsOffshore Wind

DiSibio, who is also on the board of ACK4Whales, said it was puzzling to her that something like topless beaches was a major topic of public debate, but comparatively the good neighbor agreement happened behind closed doors. “The concessions that Nantucket made for this agreement would certainly be of much more importance than whether or not a handful of people want to go topless on the beach,” she said. “The agreement is pretty clear that Nantucket has to support the project. Anyone involved in town government is never allowed to say anything disparaging about a project that is going to have a major impact on Nantucket.”


Was the “good neighbor agreement” between the town and Vineyard Wind a mistake? Val Oliver and the voters who signed her citizen’s warrant article think so.

And they want participants at the next Town Meeting to vote on whether the contract should be terminated.

The deal, signed in 2020, requires town government to publicly back the Vineyard Wind offshore energy project in exchange for $16 million in payouts over a 10-year period, and a guarantee that Vineyard Wind will paint the turbines a non-reflective white/gray color and install an automatic detection and lighting system to reduce nighttime lighting.

When discussing the good neighbor agreement publicly, Select Board members have repeatedly said that because the project is located in …

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Was the “good neighbor agreement” between the town and Vineyard Wind a mistake? Val Oliver and the voters who signed her citizen’s warrant article think so.

And they want participants at the next Town Meeting to vote on whether the contract should be terminated.

The deal, signed in 2020, requires town government to publicly back the Vineyard Wind offshore energy project in exchange for $16 million in payouts over a 10-year period, and a guarantee that Vineyard Wind will paint the turbines a non-reflective white/gray color and install an automatic detection and lighting system to reduce nighttime lighting.

When discussing the good neighbor agreement publicly, Select Board members have repeatedly said that because the project is located in federal waters there is little that could be done to stop it at the local level. The good neighbor agreement was a way to get something instead of nothing, they have said.

“Yes, it is happening in federal waters but they impact municipalities,” said Amy DiSibio, a member of ACK4Whales, the advocacy group opposed to wind turbine projects in the area. “People have the right to push back, it doesn’t just happen to you and you roll over.”

Oliver is the president of ACK4Whales, which has tried to stop Vineyard Wind in court. Their case was dismissed by a state court in May and is currently being appealed in federal court.

 “(The good neighbor agreement) was signed by a handful of people, and the rest of us knew nothing about it,” Oliver said. “There was not a whole lot of ability to have public input at all. They need to break the agreement so the community can have an open discussion and decide for ourselves whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

The question then becomes, whether the contract can be broken legally through a vote at Town Meeting, especially now that Vineyard Wind has already made its first payment to the town of approximately $2.5 million.

Town manager Libby Gibson said that town officials would not comment on the legality of citizen warrant articles until they have been reviewed by town counsel, a process that should be completed in the next two to three weeks.

DiSibio, who is also on the board of ACK4Whales, said it was puzzling to her that something like topless beaches was a major topic of public debate, but comparatively the good neighbor agreement happened behind closed doors.

“The concessions that Nantucket made for this agreement would certainly be of much more importance than whether or not a handful of people want to go topless on the beach,” she said. “The agreement is pretty clear that Nantucket has to support the project. Anyone involved in town government is never allowed to say anything disparaging about a project that is going to have a major impact on Nantucket.”

The town and Vineyard Wind signed the good neighbor agreement in August 2020. The agreement has Vineyard Wind paying the town $16 million over a period of 10 years. That money will be administered by the Community Foundation for Nantucket and go toward local initiatives like coastal resilience and preservation of Nantucket’s historic and cultural resources. Vineyard Wind made the first payment, $2.53 million, to the Community Foundation this week.

Of the initial $2.53 million provided by Vineyard Wind, $1.25 million is committed to projects by the Town of Nantucket and $600,000 to projects by the Nantucket Preservation Trust. The remaining approximately $600,000 is available for Nantucket community grant applications from nonprofits and other qualified community groups.

Vineyard Wind will make additional payments totaling $12 million in the next six to eight years.

The only clause in the good neighbor agreement that appears to deal with the parameters around one party breaking the agreement seems to imply both parties can sever the deal without consequence. Section 5.5 says, “If Nantucket Parties decline to fulfill their obligations under this Section related to one or more Projects, Vineyard Wind shall have no further obligations under Section 4.1 to contribute funding to the Fund with respect to those Projects. Likewise, if Vineyard Wind declines to fulfill its obligations for one or more projects, the Nantucket Parties shall have no further obligations with respect to those Projects.”

Oliver submitted a second citizen’s article that would require a Town Meeting vote for any future wind farm agreements made by the town. Its point would be to prevent something like the good neighbor agreement from happening again without the input of the public, she said.


Source:https://www.ack.net/stories/a…

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