Association to Preserve Cape Cod announces support for wind energy project, moves on climate
DENNIS — A particularly dire report released two months ago has spurred Cape Cod’s largest environmental group to pivot toward efforts to prevent drastic changes in the climate, a move the organization announced Wednesday with its endorsement of Vineyard Wind.
“We all have concerns about fisheries,” Association to Preserve Cape Cod Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb said during a press conference at the nonprofit group’s office on Route 6A. “We all have concerns about marine mammals. We all have concerns about the preservation of our shoreline. With a project like this, we can manage those impacts to some degree. If we don’t do projects like this, we’re going to lose all those things that we profess to care so much about in the review process.”
The October report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned efforts to avoid the most catastrophic effects of warming temperatures were falling far short of what was needed. A “rapid and far-reaching” change in the world’s energy, transportation and other sectors would be needed to avoid increases in global temperatures of more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, according to the report.
As nearly 1 million acres of federal submerged lands south of the Islands became fully rented in the past week to offshore wind developers, Gottlieb said that with the Vineyard Wind endorsement his organization — which was established 50 years ago to protect the region’s natural resources — wants to show those developers that responsible environmentalism on their part can open a path to “yes.”
Vineyard Wind has chosen to get out in front of potential problems and effects, to meet with stakeholders early, to work to understand concerns and has done a serious job in managing project impacts, Gottlieb said at the event, which was attended by supporters and association staff.
The company is nearing finalization of its contracts with three Massachusetts electricity distributors to sell 800 megawatts of energy from an 84-turbine wind farm to be built south of the Martha’s Vineyard. A critical milestone for construction to begin next year was the completion in early December of a draft environmental impact statement by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the company’s construction and operations plan. The timing of the start of construction by the end of next year will allow the company to take advantage of federal investment tax credits that are a component of its low-priced bid to the Massachusetts electricity distributors.
The company expects a state certification Feb. 1 on its final environmental impact report for the high-voltage cable that will land at a beach in Barnstable and ultimately connect to the regional electricity grid at a new substation off Independence Drive.
With the announcement of the Cape group’s endorsement, Vineyard Wind Chief Development Officer Erich Stephens recalled his earliest meeting with association staff and how he’d barely made it back to his office before emails appeared with detailed questions.
“We appreciate the time that your organization has put into really studying and understanding the proposal,” Stephens said.
In addition to its ongoing project, Vineyard Wind, Equinor Wind U.S. and Mayflower Wind Energy have each bid $135 million for leases on three additional parcels designated for wind energy, the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Management announced last week.
Reports on the effects of climate change are growing more and more dire, Stephens said. In response, the company is working quickly but not glossing over anything, he said.
“It doesn’t mean cutting corners,” Stephens said. “It just means working harder, and that’s what our staff has done. There’s probably somebody working on this project 24 hours a day somewhere in the world.”
In contrast to the association’s 2009 endorsement of the Cape Wind project, which was proposed to be built in the middle of Nantucket Sound but foundered after losing necessary contracts with Eversource and National Grid, Gottlieb said the nonprofit’s current board of directors has reached a general consensus in support of the Vineyard Wind endorsement.
In a dispute about Cape Wind, the then-president of the board, Jack Barnes, resigned in 2008 as he said it was becoming apparent that then-Executive Director Maggie Geist was pushing for an endorsement.
Since that rupture, though, there has been a significant turnover of board members, Gottlieb said.
“As the process continues APCC will continue to monitor the environmental review and the ongoing process,” said association board member Elysse Magnotto-Cleary Wednesday at the nonprofit’s office. “But we can confidently say right now that we strongly support the project and the vision of the project as well.”
The board of directors did not take a vote, Magnotto-Cleary said, but there was general agreement on the endorsement.
— Follow Mary Ann Bragg on Twitter: @maryannbraggCCT.