Kilowatt for Kilowatt
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following statement was read into the record by a West Tisbury selectman at the public hearing on Wednesday night:
The West Tisbury board of selectmen, representing 2,600 residents, 2,218 voters and many more seasonal residents, is greatly concerned, indeed alarmed, at the visual, environmental and economic impact of major industrial wind installations within three miles of this Island. Our town borders both Vineyard Sound on the north and the Atlantic on the south. The scenic vistas across water are an integral part of the history, culture, and economy of this town, and the town through its own zoning process, and through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, has moved to protect the shore areas from unreasonable, inappropriate, and intrusive development. All of this is jeopardized by the draft Oceans Management Plan, as currently proposed.
The possible construction of 166, 450-foot high turbines, equivalent to 45-story buildings, on our west, and another 130 to the east of the same dimensions from the Cape Wind project, burdens our Island with a disproportionate share of the offshore wind development goal adopted by the commonwealth. This level of intense industrial development seriously threatens the character of the entire Island, not only West Tisbury.
While many of our voters and residents strongly support alternate, non-fossil-based, energy sources, including wind power, and so does this board of selectmen, it seems entirely unreasonable and wrong for the Island of Martha’s Vineyard to bear the significant impact of fully two-thirds of the offshore wind power development goal of the commonwealth. Other offshore areas of the commonwealth must share the impact of such industrial development. Additionally wind power development in federal waters, beyond the three-mile boundary, must be factored into the plan.
Moreover, Martha’s Vineyard has retained a unique character quite separate from the mainland largely because of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, enabled through Chapter 831 of the Massachusetts General laws decades ago. The MVC has successfully controlled the kinds of intrusive and inappropriate development that has homogenized and suburbanized so much of the mainland. People come here to live, full-time or part-time, and to vacation because of our uniqueness. The legislation which empowers the Energy Facilities Siting Board to overrule both the MVC’s jurisdiction and local zoning undermines the stated purposes of its enabling legislation in Chapter 831, which is precisely to protect the uniqueness that makes us so attractive to the millions who visit every year. This override power is totally unacceptable in its current form, and must be revised. The Island of Martha’s Vineyard must retain control of its own destiny not only to survive, but to preserve the “unique natural, historical, scientific, cultural and other values” that underlie “a regional and statewide interest in preserving and enhancing these values.” That language comes directly from Chapter 831, and it is no less true now than it was 35 years ago when it was written.
Lastly, we would think the goals of energy related legislation is to reduce our carbon footprint, and help moderate global climate change; and beyond that important goal, to encourage the acceptance of new technologies despite their concurrent impacts. However, with respect to these worthy goals the Oceans Plan is flawed in two major respects:
• There is no coupling between the increased use of solar power, which includes wind turbines, and a reduction of fossil-fuel-based electrical energy production. Simply stated, for every kilowatt of electricity produced by wind turbines, a corresponding kilowatt produced by burning coal, gas or oil, should be retired. This is not the case.
• It is unreasonable to expect coastal areas such as the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard to embrace the impacts of industrialized electrical energy production in their offshore waters, or on land, without any direct economic gains to the region. Residents of West Tisbury and the Island pay approximately 22 cents for a kilowatt-hour of electricity, which is at least 25 to 50 per cent greater than mainland cost. It is unreasonable, indeed unconscionable, to expect any support for these proposed detrimental changes to the Island environment and experience when no direct economic benefit, at the very least in the form of reduced electrical costs, accrues to the Islanders themselves. Some portion of the offshore power production must be dedicated to the areas most impacted by the presence of those installations.
Therefore it is our position that if the oceans plan is to move forward, it must be revised to reflect the following:
• The size and number of turbines near the Island must be reduced.
• The location of turbines should be moved as far offshore as possible, preferably into federal waters.
• The jurisdiction of the MVC and local zoning must not be compromised.
• West Tisbury and the Island must receive direct economic benefits.
• Wind turbines should reduce fossil-fuel-based electrical production on a kilowatt-for-kilowatt basis.
Thank you for your attention, and we respectfully urge you to factor our concerns into your revision of the proposed plan.
Richard Knabel, Diane Powers and Jeffrey Manter
Restore Vineyard Control
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
We are responding to the commentary by Robert Keough, assistant secretary at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, published in the Gazette on Sept. 18. One of us is town counsel to five of the Vineyard towns and the other serves as counsel to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Cape Cod Commission. Perhaps because of our experience, our perspective differs from Mr. Keough’s on the Oceans Act, the Oceans Plan and the Energy Facilities Siting Board.
Without addressing the merits of any offshore proposal, we wish to respond to Mr. Keough’s commentary on the following points:
• The Oceans Act of 2008 changed the law governing energy projects in state waters in two ways.
First, prior to August 26, 2008, “ . . . the building of any structure on the seabed . . .; the construction or operation of offshore . . . electric generating stations . . .” were prohibited within ocean sanctuaries. The Oceans Act created an exception to this blanket prohibition. It allows the construction or operation of offshore electric generating stations, “. . . for appropriate-scale renewable energy facilities, as defined by an ocean management plan . . .”
Second, it further provided that, “. . . in regions where regional planning agencies have regulatory authority, . . . the applicant may seek review pursuant to the authority of the Energy Facilities Siting Board . . . ” G.L. Chapter 132A, § 15(2).
Thus, the statutory prohibition on any structures in ocean sanctuaries was repealed and the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) was expressly given authority to override the decisions of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) and the Cape Cod Commission (CCC).
In the current statutory framework, the Oceans Plan will determine where utility scale offshore electric generating plants may be located. The powers of towns and counties, whose boundaries by statute extend to the marine boundary of the commonwealth, can now be overridden by the EFSB regarding whatever the Oceans Plan decides are “appropriately” scaled offshore renewable energy facilities.
• The extensive consultation process which the state has undertaken for the Oceans Plan is helpful, but the statutes give the EFSB the power to override local and regional decisions at the behest of a complaining developer. That is the legal process that has been established and we should anticipate that it will be used.
• The EFSB is a political, not a judicial body. Every member of the EFSB is directly or indirectly appointed by the governor and serves at the governor’s pleasure or for a term co-terminus with that of the governor. (General Laws Chapter 164, § 69H). Not surprisingly, the EFSB board members seem to be responsive to the governor’s wishes. Moreover, with one recent and minor exception, since its formation in 1973, the EFSB has reportedly granted a license for every electric generating station which has applied for one. For a utility or an electric power developer, this is the permitting body of your dreams.
• We take no position on the merits of any particular wind energy proposal or of the draft Oceans Plan. Our point is simply this: the effect of the Oceans Act is twofold: it removes the absolute protection formerly given to Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries; and it gives an offshore wind energy developer unhappy with regional or local permit denials a political tool to override those denials instead of an appeal to an impartial court.
Speaking for ourselves, we believe that decisions which will affect the way people live on Martha’s Vineyard should be made on Martha’s Vineyard; they should not be subject to a political override on Beacon Hill. Whether any particular offshore wind energy proposal is good or bad is a decision that should be made by the Island towns and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, albeit in consultation with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The Oceans Plan should restore to the Vineyard the control over energy projects in its coastal waters that the Oceans Act and the EFSB threaten to destroy.
Ronald H. Rappaport and Eric W. Wodlinger
Chilmark and Cambridge
Who’s NIMBY Now?
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The new Oceans Management Plan and the Cape Wind proposal are threatening our irreplaceable natural resources, especially our vistas. I am alarmed by what could happen here if either plan is allowed to move any further forward. We the people of Martha’s Vineyard, through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, have been wise stewards of the Island. Please, people of the Vineyard, visitors, residents and representatives alike, do not let our power be usurped through inaction any longer.
Why are 100 per cent of the proposed wind farms for coastal waters of Massachusetts all clustered around Martha’s Vineyard and not near the Dorchester Yacht Club’s marina, or Marblehead? Could this be because no one up in the state house wants them to be built in their backyard? No small irony that we here on the Vineyard have the very least representation of any constituency on Beacon Hill.
Need I remind you of Halliburton? The Big Dig? Huge generators filled with PCBs, gravel mining for our waterways and beaches. Erosion is a huge threat. How about the fishermen? And the tribe? And what about our birds? What about the incessant pounding of huge pile drivers and jet plowing of cables as they build, maintain and then decommission these monstrosities? Imagine hundreds of strobe lights on the windmills flashing in the night when you go out to view the stars. Remember that Nantucket Sound was a designated Marine Ocean Sanctuary before Cape Wind and the Oceans Management Plan were thrust upon us. Industrial wind farms in our waters amount to experimental technology built at huge expense and with a severely detrimental green footprint for the benefit of a private utility. Did you know that the very windmills proposed to clutter up Nantucket Sound are not being built by GE any longer because they are neither reliable nor economically viable? Did you know that the wind turbines proposed for Nantucket Sound will not even turn for 223 days of each year due to lack of wind? I encourage our state lawmakers to rethink allowing the industrialization of our best asset, our pristine waters.
Wake up, people. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) must be able to freely exercise its authority under Chapter 831. Martha’s Vineyard’s waters must be designated as a district of critical planning concern (DCPC), and all Islanders and our representatives need to support the MVC.
We are not going to save money on our electric bills by allowing industrial parks sold as eco-friendly ways to save the world. If this is meant for the good of all mankind, then make the utility public. Do not repeat history with Cape Wind and the Oceans Management Plan. Let the MVC do its job as it has for 35 years and make our oceans a DCPC. Any ocean management plan, state or federal, must give deference to our local and regional planning agencies.
Listen to the people and prosper; fail to do so and we suffer the consequences.
Protect Our Rights
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I finally get it. There are going to be wind turbines in our waters no matter how offensive I think they are. But shouldn’t our Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Dukes County Commission and our local selectmen have the final say as to where they will be built, how many will be built, who will build them and how we can benefit from them? As representatives of the Island, these bodies understand the sensitive nature of our Island’s natural habitats, local tourist industry, local lifestyles and local needs, as the state does not. The MVC was put into place to protect this beautiful and sensitive place. This plan ignores the need and our right to local review and local final approval or rejection of decisions.
The state has designated two areas off the Gay Head Cliffs to start putting up wind turbines. In five years or less they will assess the project and at that point may put up many more. The plan does not give a limit to how many might be placed in these areas. These areas will also be open to mining of sand and gravel, and aquaculture under this plan.
Navigational hazards, huge amounts of light pollution (we may lose our starry skies), the noise both from fog horns and buoys I believe will change the peace and quiet of the Vineyard forever. If Cape Wind goes forward, as it seems it will, we may soon be sandwiched between two large power plants. Don’t forget deep water wind technology does exist but is not put forward in this plan.
As I read this very innocuous sounding executive summary of the Massachusetts Oceans Management Plan, I thought of our forefathers who fashioned our constitution and fought for our freedom from what they felt was a foreign government. Right now I believe I feel the way they must have felt.
Democracy and our constitution give us the right and the responsibility to say no, not in my back yard. My backyard is too dear and too special to me. Don’t let this Oceans Plan take away our power and our rights here on Martha’s Vineyard.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In response to the story in last week’s Gazette about the Wind Energy DCPC, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission would like to clarify its position.
The MVC has not and does not oppose the Oceans Management Plan or large-scale wind development.
The headline said that the DCPC is a “Direct Challenge to Oceans Plan” and the first paragraph speaks about a front to “oppose state plans to permit huge commercial wind-farming operations in Vineyard waters.” This is not the intention of the proposed DCPC. The article reflects the very same incorrect leap of logic — assuming that local control equates with NIMBY and no turbines — that apparently is making the commonwealth feel the need to override local control.
The point made repeatedly at the all-Island selectmen’s meeting and discussed when the commission received the DCPC nomination was that most Vineyarders and the MVC are in favor of wind and other forms of renewable energy. They just want decisions about how it will be implemented made in cooperation with the people of the Island, considering the unique resources of the Vineyard outlined in the MVC act.
Since the MVC act requires that a moratorium go into effect for up to 12 months when creating a DCPC, we notified all towns that the commission will consider this at its Oct. 1 meeting.
A DCPC could allow the Vineyard to manage the development of renewable energy in a way that respects the Vineyard’s distinct character and environment. It would be a complement to, not in opposition to, the Oceans Plan. Focusing on collaboration rather than confrontation should allow both the commonwealth and the people of the Vineyard to achieve their legitimate goals.
The commission has outlined several concerns about the Oceans Plan and we are confident that they will be resolved. The commission has not taken, and will not take, any position on any specific proposals, in that it may have to review them as developments of regional impact in the future.
Christina Brown and Mark London
Edgartown and Chilmark
Ms. Brown is chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission; Mr. London is executive director.
Forging a Strategy
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission:
The Vineyard Conservation Society is a local, nonprofit environmental organization working to protect land and natural resources on Martha’s Vineyard. For more than 40 years, we have worked to promote the broadest possible definition of conservation, including conservation of habitat, recycling of materials, preservation of community character and conservation of energy.
For VCS, conservation of energy means not just replacing light bulbs and making personal decisions to drive less or use less electricity. It also means improving efficiency at a much larger scale in our buildings and appliances and transportation. The draft Oceans Act Management Plan offers an important opportunity to do that, if the Vineyard can speak in unison at this critical juncture in time.
As of May, 2008, the provisions of the Massachusetts Oceans Act became law. Island citizenry and leadership must now focus on envisioning what we want the final management plan to be. We must together forge a coordinated strategy in advance of the Nov. 23 testimony deadline, organized under the mantle of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, to articulate a united, and therefore more effective voice. VCS is prepared to participate in that process.
For our part, VCS supports alternative energy development that minimizes impacts on environment and Island character, and maximizes benefits to the host community. In the case of the draft management plan, a powerful way to maximize community benefit is to ensure that there is linkage between any offshore development permitted under the Oceans Act and tangible energy efficiency benefits to the Cape and Islands region. This can take many forms, including earmarking dollars generated by wind projects for insulating homes, replacing windows and appliances, and for non-polluting transportation.
The stakes are very high, and the need for this kind of linkage is critical. Evidence continues to mount that carbon dioxide and other gases from fossil fuel burning are changing the climate in dangerous ways. The state and federal governments are putting into place financial incentives to make profitable the deployment of renewable energy systems like wind turbines to try to address the climate change crisis. The other side of the equation, which must also be addressed, is reduction of demand and more efficient use of all energy generated.
Regardless of what one thinks about the relative contribution of wind turbines, we know that energy efficiency will be one of the key climate change solutions. It is cheap and can be deployed immediately. Estimates are that nearly 40 per cent of the reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 can come from energy efficiency. That’s why it makes sense to make efficiency a priority in any discussion of community benefits derived from offshore development under the Massachusetts Oceans Act.
Brendan O’Neill is executive director of the Vineyard Conservation Society.
Avoid Revenue Sharing
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I attended last night’s public forum on the state’s draft oceans plan. If the format had provided the opportunity to ask a question and receive an answer from the presiding state officials, the compelling question should have been, why would the state even consider permitting construction of wind turbines in state waters three miles or closer to shore, when the technology exists (and is rapidly improving) to build these turbines in equally favorable federal waters much further offshore, where 95 per cent of the objections of residents, town boards and hopefully native tribes would disappear?
As a seasonal Island resident entering this debate somewhat late, it would seem that only two explanations are logical: the pride that comes from Massachusetts being the first state to implement a plan, or anticipated revenue at the state level, which might be greater from state versus federal waters. After all, any state green energy goal can be just as easily achieved by locating commercial wind farms in federal waters.
Neither of the above reasons should be driving these projects. I believe Island officials and the MVC should be very careful in bringing up the subject of revenue sharing of royalties with the state, in order to not get trapped into a trade off of location for a share of revenue. The sole focus of our efforts should be on forcing the location of these installations as far offshore as possible, and in the absolute final jurisdiction of the MVC.
Bringing revenue sharing into the discussion at this stage should be avoided. There is adequate precedent for the sharing of royalties between states and the feds from offshore oil and natural gas production, for example (up to 50-50). Local revenue sharing can and should be addressed as a separate issue.
Robert E. Landreth
Vineyard Haven and Midland, Tex.