Local Officials Oppose Mass. Wind Farm

Published November 1, 2006

After the release of a 23-page report criticizing plans for a proposed industrial wind farm off the shore of Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts, state and local officials are lining up in opposition to the project.

According to the report, released August 9 by Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs Stephen Pritchard, the proposed wind farm would threaten endangered species and violate the state’s Ocean Sanctuaries Act.

The act specifically protects Buzzards Bay, which is just south of Cape Cod, from the “building of any structure on the seabed or under the subsoil” as well as “the construction or operation of offshore or floating electric generating stations.”

“The project as proposed is not [permitted] under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act,” Pritchard wrote in his report.

Of particular concern to groups such as the Massachusetts Audubon Society and state wildlife officials is the dependence of endangered roseate terns on the bay for breeding, nesting, and foraging.

Renewables Champion Opposes

In releasing his report, Pritchard took great pains to emphasize he supports expanding the use of renewable power sources.

“Like my predecessors, I firmly believe that an ambitious program of renewable energy development, including wind power, is in the interest of the people of Massachusetts,” Pritchard wrote.

Wind farms such as the Buzzards Bay proposal, however, threaten to pose a net environmental harm on the region, Pritchard noted.

“It is uncertain whether avian mortality and habitat impact could be adequately mitigated” by the developers of the wind farm, Pritchard wrote.

Environmentalists Concerned

Environmentalists expressed great concern over the project. “Buzzards Bay is among the most unique estuarine resources in the nation and has been recognized as such by Congress in 1985 by earning the designation as an Estuary of National Significance. It has also been honored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an Area of Special Interest and Ocean Sanctuary,” noted the environmentalist group Coalition for Buzzards Bay in a July 31 letter to Pritchard.

“The designations highlight the unique and diverse ecology present in the Bay, including geographically sensitive salt marshes, tidal wetlands, eelgrass beds, tidal flats, barrier beaches, rocky shores, and tidal rivers and streams,” the letter noted.

“Buzzards Bay’s unique geographic position between the Atlantic Ocean, Vineyard Sound, and Cape Cod Bay provides ideal marine habitats for a variety of productive fisheries,” the letter added.

“The roseate tern is cited on the U.S. Endangered Species list as endangered,” observed the Massachusetts Audubon Society on a Web page dedicated to the wind power issue. “Buzzards Bay is home to 99% of the state population and 45% of the North American population of this species.”

Local Democrats Lead

New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang (D) has been one of many local leaders in the fight against the proposed project off his town’s shore.

“If you saw the largesse of this proposal … well, I haven’t met too many people who looked at it and said it makes any sense in the area we’re talking about,” Lang told the Boston Globe for an August 20 article.

State Sen. Mark Monigny (D-New Bedford), another critic of the proposed wind farm, called the Environmental Affairs secretary’s report “music to my ears” because the project would likely need the approval of the state legislature–which it is unlikely to get–to move forward.

“I’m more confident that the developer will be forced through a number of hurdles, which will get us to a more positive, balanced development,” Montigny told the Globe.

Analysts Critical

“Wind power is neither a safe nor effective means of supplying power,” said Tom Tanton, vice president and senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research. “Wind developments are, as noted by Secretary Pritchard, harmful to wildlife and vistas and really do not provide any measurable emission offsets or fuel savings.”

“It is quite telling that wherever wind farms are proposed, local environmentalists are the first ones to oppose them,” added Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

“The national groups often favor industrial wind farms because they are not the ones that have to live with them. Local environmentalists are the ones who are stuck with all the environmental damage,” said Burnett.

James Hoare ([email protected]) is an attorney practicing in Syracuse, New York.

For more information …

Letter to Stephen Pritchard, Coalition for Buzzards Bay, July 31, 2006, http://www.savebuzzardsbay.org/pdf/07-31-06-ENF-Comments.pdf