Following CCC Denial, Turbine Proponents Weighing Options

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By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 02/24/12

 New Generation Wind’s proponents are analyzing their options in the wake of last week’s denial of their Bournedale wind turbine project by the Cape Cod Commission.

Last Thursday, the full commission denied the project without prejudice—meaning that the applicant could refile the project if it chose to do so—by a vote of 9-3.

New Generation Wind could let the decision stand, file an appeal or file the same or a modified project.
Turbine project spokesman Gregory O’Brien of the Stony Brook Group said yesterday that they had not, as yet, decided how to proceed.

At the end of last week’s meeting, opponents celebrated their victory. At least one of the project abutters, however, said he realized that their fight might not be over.

Opponents left the room in jubiliation, many stopping to congratulate Westboro attorney Christopher Senie, who had compiled, and filed, a book of photographs and evidence summarizing the opponents’ case. That material was culled from what one commissioner said was 35 pounds of public testimony.

Tudor G. (Jerry) Ingersoll and David Peterson, a member of the Lorusso family, who have been working to permit what started out in the summer of 2010 as a seven-turbine project, accepted last week’s defeat without comment. They had made a technical case that they hoped had met all of the requirements of the commission’s regulations governing developments of regional impact.

The project, which was filed prior to passage of the commission’s wind turbine regulations, had to meet the DRI (development of regional impact) rules, which were crafted for projects such as subdivisions or large retail or industrial projects.

If the project proponents refile, they will need to meet not only the commission’s wind turbine rules, but also to comply with Bourne’s wind energy conversion system bylaw. Voters at a special 2011 Town Meeting approved citizen-proposed amendments to that bylaw that planning board members have described as prohibitive of large-scale wind turbine projects.

Cape Cod Commission members debated from about 3 to 6 PM last week, going carefully through a draft decision recommending denial of the project that had been prepared by the subcommittee that reviewed the project on behalf of the board.

The full commission disagreed with that subcommittee on a few points, finding that New Generation Wind met the standard requiring that the project have economic benefit. They also disagreed with the subcommittee’s determination that the vegetable oil that would be used in the proposed transformers was 100 percent hazardous. Both those decisions were in New Generation’s favor.

The final decision, however, came down to the crucial determination—the requirement that the benefits of the project outweigh the detriments.

Several of the commissioners had commented that the benefits appeared to be quantifiable, while the detriments—such as the possibility that the project would lower property values and cause health effects—appeared speculative, although a majority of the commissioners were convinced by the testimony of members of the Wampanoag tribe who said the turbine would have a negative effect on the practice of their religion, given its proximity to sacred places such as Sacrifice Rock.

When commission Chairman Peter Graham of Harwich first moved that detriments of the downsized four-turbine project outweighed its benefits, his motion failed on a tie vote, 6-6.

However, the failure of that negatively worded motion left the commission with no legal way to move forward, commission counsel said. Mr. Graham then successfully moved for a reconsideration of that vote. He once again moved that the detriments outweighed the benefits, and this time the motion passed, 8-4.

Commissioners then denied the project without prejudice, with one commissioner saying she hoped to see a new project filed that combined smaller turbines with solar.

The commissioners then adopted the subcommittee’s draft decision, as they had amended it.

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