Cape Wind gets permission to come ashore

Cable through state waters to NStar is approved by Siting Board Alliance promises yet another appeal to Supreme Judicial Court

By Jack Coleman

Marking a major milestone in the Cape Wind permitting process, the seven member Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the agency charged with ensuring a reliable energy supply at the least cost and environmental impact, voted 5 to 2 today to approve the interconnection of Cape Windâ??s buried electric cables to the electric transmission system in Massachusetts.

Cape Wind President Jim Gordon was pleased with the EFSB ruling saying â??at a time of record high energy costs and increasing dependence on foreign energy, we are pleased that the Energy Facility Siting Board has approved Cape Windâ??s petition. This is a significant milestone in moving the project forward and in providing significant renewable energy benefits to the region,â?

"The merits of the project carried the day," Gordon added.

Voting in favor of Cape Wind's application were board chairman Paul G. Afonso, chairman of the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy; David L. O'Connor, commissioner of the state's Division of Energy Resources; James Sturgis of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, representing EOEA Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder; Robert Keating, Commissioner of the Department of Technology and Energy.; and citizen board member Louis Mandarini Jr. of Malden.

Voting against the permit were Judith Judson of the Department of Telecommunications and Energy and Deborah Shufrin of the Department of Business and Technology.

"Given that the (DEIS) document is far more comprehensive than anything that has been presented to (the siting board), it needs to be included ... so the ruling, however it goes, is as fully informed as it can be." - Alliance spokesman Ernie Corrigan said after the meeting last December.

That was then this is now

Five months ago the same siting board postponed a decision to permit the cable carrying power from the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound to connect to transmission lines on land until after the project's draft environmental impact statement which had been released a month prior on November 7 before could be "studied more closely". The board's own staff had approved the request last July, and reversing their staff was something the siting board wasn't in the habit of doing.

At that time reporters at the December meeting sensed the strong arm of Governor Romney affecting the board's decision. After that meeting where the board voted 5 to 1 to delay it's decision, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound spoke man Ernie Corrigan said, "given that the document is far more comprehensive than anything that has been presented to (the siting board), it needs to be included ... so the ruling, however it goes, is as fully informed as it can be."

It seems Mr. Corrigan got his wish.

His group released a statement which is in the box on the right.

Alliance statement;
"This is not a victory for Cape Wind. It's half of a permit," the Alliance responded.
   "Although this is a decision only on the cable and not the whole project, we are disappointed that any group of Massachusetts officials would give away our public coastal resources without at least first fully examining the impacts to our fishing community, our commonwealth's environment or getting something in return for our state treasury and taxpayers."
   "Cape Wind still has many hurdles ahead including several additional cable permits from DTE and other local and state agencies and a federal permit for the overall project," the statement read.
"Cape Wind must also remove any turbines planned for state waters as they are prohibited in ocean sanctuaries like Nantucket Sound." Back in March, the Alliance was dealt a setback when its request to further delay the siting board's review of Cape Wind's application was rejected. The Alliance sought the delay for the siting board to include the draft environmental impact report of the Cape Wind project in its review.

Cape Wind's application is for two 18-mile transmission lines to Yarmouth through state waters from the proposed 130-turbine wind farm. Once ashore the transmission lines run underground to the NStar switching station in Barnstable and enter the regional electric grid.

Since electricity follows the path of least resistance, most if not all of the output from the turbines will go to Cape Cod businesses and homes.

Last week during the nor'easter Cape Wind reported that enough power would have been produced to satisfy the need of every NStar customer on Cape Cod as well as Plymouth and much of the South Shore.

32 months, 2,900 pages & 932 exhibits later
Alliance to appeal to Supreme Judicial Court

The board's tentative decision states that, â??the power from the wind farm is needed on reliability and economic grounds, and to meet the requirements of Massachusetts and regional renewable portfolio standards.â?

Tuesday's vote finalized that decision, said Tim Shevlin, executive director of the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy.

Promising  an appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court, Alliance Executive Director Susan Nickerson is quoted in today's Boston Globe as saying, ''we're disappointed a group of state officials voted to give away public coastal resources without at least first fully examining the impacts to our fishing community our commonwealth's environment".

Todayâ??s vote follows a 32-month adjudicatory process that included 2,900 pages of transcripts and 932 exhibits.

NH to build mountaintop wind farm

In a related story today, a private company announced in the Union Leader that it will build a wind farm along the Lempster Mountain ridge along Route 10 in southern New Hampshire. The 20 turbines will supply power for 15,000 homes. See story here.

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