Siting Board Grants State, Local Permits to Cape Wind
First offshore wind farm in country gets green light from state
The Siting Board voted 7-0 on Thursday, May 21, to grant the Certificate, with minor modifications. Undersecretary for Energy Ann Berwick, who serves as Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles's designee as chair of the Siting Board, signed the revised Certificate today. The Certificate, or composite permit, brings to completion more than seven years of environmental review and permitting for Cape Wind at the state and local level.
"Massachusetts has done its job to give this project a long and thorough review on the merits, and the federal review process is winding to a close," said Governor Deval Patrick. "The time has come to see the first offshore wind farm in America rise off the Massachusetts coast, a powerful symbol of our commitment to a clean energy future."
"With impacts and benefits analyzed, mitigation commitments in hand and permitting complete, this project is ready to move forward," said Secretary Bowles. "Soon, the Commonwealth will cement its position as the natural hub for the American offshore wind industry."
Cape Wind Associates filed an Initial Petition for a Certificate, or composite permit, from the Energy Facilities Siting Board on November 21, 2007, followed by an Application for a Certificate on December 28, 2007, after being denied a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) permit by the Cape Cod Commission for the transmission cables connecting the Cape Wind wind farm, which would be located in federal waters, with the electricity grid on the mainland.
State law allows developers of energy facilities to petition the Siting Board for a comprehensive permit if the company is prevented or hindered by an adverse permitting decision or undue delay by a state or local agency. Cape Wind sought, and the Siting Board has granted, the equivalent of the DRI approval for the transmission cable, plus eight additional state and local permits required for construction of the cable.
Following a year-long process of discovery, trial-type hearings held in November 2008, and briefs submitted in December 2008 and January 2009, the Siting Board directed staff to prepare a Tentative Decision granting the Certificate, including all nine state and local permits. The Siting Board further directed Cape Wind and the towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth to discuss conditions to be included in the composite permit. Local permits, such as wetlands Orders of Conditions and street openings, had not been issued previously because the Cape Cod Commission's denial prevented towns from granting permits. Following issuance of the Tentative Decision on May 11, 2009, Cape Wind and the Town of Barnstable agreed upon conditions for the road opening permit, and those conditions were incorporated into the Siting Board Certificate. The Siting Board also left in place a prior agreement between Cape Wind and the Town of Yarmouth that provides for local input into the construction of the cable.
In accordance with the standard of review established for such matters, the Siting Board found that:
- The transmission project is needed, in order to connect the wind farm, in federal waters, to the mainland power grid;
- Granting a composite permit is compatible with considerations of environmental protection, public health and safety;
- It is reasonable to exempt the project from the Cape Cod Commission jurisdiction; and
- Issuing such a Certificate would serve the public interest and convenience.
"This proceeding has developed an unparalleled evidentiary record, and the Siting Board has made an authoritative ruling based upon that record," said Undersecretary Berwick. "I thank the members and staff of the Siting Board for their thoughtful review of this renewable energy project and its implications for the Commonwealth."
Decisions of the Energy Facilities Siting Board are appealable directly to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.