SJC approves Cape Wind siting process

SJC approves Cape Wind siting process

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The wind farm slated for Nantucket Sound cleared a key legal hurdle Tuesday, when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-2 that the state can authorize local construction permits for the project.

The high court’s majority rejected arguments by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound concerning the environmental impacts of the project, the authority and jurisdiction of the Energy Facilities Siting Board and of DEP.

Justice Margot Botsford said state law provided “an express legislative directive to the siting board to stand in the shoes of any and all state and local agencies with permitting authority over a proposed ‘facility’.”

Disagreeing with the overall approval of the permitting process were Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Justice Francis Spina. Marshall said the decision that the state Energy Facilities Siting Board’s project certification “was proper is contrary to existing law and seriously undermines the public trust doctrine, which for centuries has protected the rights of the people of Massachusetts in Commonwealth tidelands.”

The decision is important, because opponents had sought to kill it in part by disbursing the series of permits to local governing bodies likely to throw up additional delays.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound slammed Tuesday’s Supreme Judicial Court decision that smoothed Cape Wind’s construction as an “outrageous violation of community rights,” and said popular opinion had swung against the project because of its anticipated cost.

The Alliance said Bay State consumers would pay close to $4.5 billion to a private developer under a 15-year contract between Cape Wind and National Grid.

The Alliance, the Cape Cod Commission, and the town of Barnstable had asked the SJC to overturn the siting board’s decision to issue blanket permission for the 130-turbine farm, which itself came after Cape Wind had appealed the Cape Cod Commission’s 2007 denial of a permit.