The energy bill being pushed by House Speaker Sal Dimasi has passed the House, but an amendment that passed and is now part of the bill is creating some angst amongst environmentalists. The amendment would make wind farms a by right use in areas currently protected by the Ocean Sanctuaries Act. From the Boston Globe:
As the House late Thursday night unanimously adopted a wide-ranging energy bill backed by Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, one of dozens of amendments voted through would make renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and hydroelectric turbines “a permitted use” in almost all areas now protected by the state Ocean Sanctuaries Act, except the Provincetown-Chatham coast of outer Cape Cod.
The political objections are being raised by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Conservation Law Foundation. And what are the objections?
“We are very, very concerned about blasting open the Ocean Sanctuaries Act to allow large-scale renewable energy,” said Priscilla Brooks of the Conservation Law Foundation. While the foundation backs offshore wind, including the 130-turbine Cape Wind plan in Nantucket Sound, Brooks said, “we think it’s got to be done in the context of a comprehensive ocean management plan.”
Jack Clarke of Mass. Audubon said the group backs “small-scale renewable energy” offshore that won’t threaten birds and fish. “We have some very serious reservations about repealing” the current restrictions, he added.
The Speaker is supporting the change, pointing out that ambiguity in existing law may permit conventionally fueled facilities in these very areas, and that the amendment simply puts “green energy” facilities on an even footing. A Dimasi spokesperson hit the opposition where it is likely to hurt, the hypocrisy charge.
Guarino added: “It is a little confusing and disingenuous to say you support wind projects in the Commonwealth but not support them in some areas of the Commonwealth.”
The Governor appears supportive, but is speaking positively about the change being contained within an overall ocean management plan.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles , said he was still reviewing the amendment but tentatively concluded it was “a positive step.”
“Taken together with comprehensive ocean-management planning, this proposal will allow for the use of state waters for renewable energy in a manner that protects the environment and the interests of our fishing community, and also offers clean energy choices for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Bowles said.
Back to more wind battles. If Conservation Law is not satisfied with the overall result then I think we can anticipate a lawsuit to prevent the change. More gridlock, and years of fighting while the energy needs of the state go unmet. This is an important bill, and the Speaker and Governor should be commended for addressing some important issues. As I mentioned in an earlier post we will keep track of the bill and highlight key provisions as much as possible.