Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Hands Cape Wind Legal Victory

Cape Wind Associates received a favorable ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, granting the wind farm developer a permit for the transmission lines necessary to carry the power created by its turbines.  The 4-2 decision allows Cape Wind to move forward with their project, despite strong objections from members of the community.

The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board’s 2009 ruling approving the transmission lines was appealed by the town of Barnstable, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, and the Cape Cod Commission.  The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound pledged to continue the fight against Cape Wind, claiming that the decision “is an outrageous violation of community rights.”  The Alliance cites high costs that “would bankrupt the Commonwealth,” and explains that local area residents and business owners do not support the project.

The two dissenting justices, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Justice Francis Spina, argued that the ruling creates a dangerous precedent by failing to evaluate the ”in‐state” effects of a project in federal waters.  Chief Justice Marshall protested that a “wind farm today may be a drilling rig or nuclear power plant tomorrow” and compared the possible catastrophic effects to the recent BP oil spill.

Cape Wind, on the other hand, is optimistic and confident that the decision will allow them to begin generating power by the end of 2012.  The ruling finalizes the state permitting process, leaving the federal government as the final hurdle to the project.  The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers still has to grant Cape Wind a permit before construction can begin on the 25-mile plot of land in Nantucket Sound.  The installation of 130 wind turbines will be capable of supplying 75% of the total energy consumed by Cape Cod’s 225,000 residents.

The Court’s decision ends a 10‐year long permitting process.  Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind communications director, believes the decision “brings Cape Wind’s benefits of hundred of new jobs, greater energy independence and a healthier environment that much closer to the people of Massachusetts.”  He added that the court was correct in rejecting the delay tactics employed by pro oil and coal groups to instigate the lawsuit.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also finalized its approval by upholding its Determination of No Hazard on the part of Cape Wind.  The FAA issued a Denial of Petitions for the Discretional Review filed by opponents of Cape Wind.  Navigation reviews have been cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the FAA.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has declared that Cape Wind’s amended long term Power Purchase Agreement with National Grid is in the public interest and has recommended its approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, has also given a favorable Record of Decision for the construction, announcing his support last April.  Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval is a long-time supporter of the Cape Wind project.  Given the Court’s decision and the support of state and federal officials, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon has stated, “We hope to begin construction of Cape Wind before the end of the year.”