Town Wind Attorney Speaks Out On Good Neighbor Agreement

Will Cook •

To the editor: I write to update the Nantucket Current about the status of Vineyard Northeast, affirm the continued benefits achieved by the Town of Nantucket’s Good Neighbor Agreement with Vineyard Wind, and describe the ongoing efforts to protect Nantucket’s interests for all offshore wind projects.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently sent a consulting party invitation to the Town and related entities concerning whether the Town will consult on the Section 106 process for Vineyard Northeast required by the National Historic Preservation Act. BOEM also hosted what is known as a public “scoping” meeting to identify issues that BOEM should consider in preparing the project’s Environmental Impact Statement required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

At the invitation of the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC), I spoke at its meeting on April 29th to answer questions about Vineyard Northeast and appreciated the opportunity. Vineyard Northeast will be sited 30.5 miles from Nantucket, and although taller turbines are planned, we understand from an independent expert who assists us in understanding visual impacts that Vineyard Northeast’s turbines should appear nearly 39 percent shorter than Vineyard Wind’s turbines due to their distance, curvature of the earth, and perspective. The Town is well informed about Vineyard Northeast’s Construction and Operations Plan and all aspects of the plan that could affect the Nantucket Historic District.

In addition, I addressed BOEM’s consulting party request and whether the NP&EDC needs to participate as a consulting party in Vineyard Northeast’s permitting review. As I explained, because BOEM’s broken permitting process provided nothing meaningful to the Town by way of minimization or mitigation measures, the Town negotiated directly with Vineyard Wind to reach a global settlement to help offset adverse visual effects to the Nantucket Historic District. The agreement covers all of Vineyard Wind’s projects, provides contractual guarantees to the Town so that it can enforce those measures, and allows the Town direct access to the developer and an open line of communication that doesn’t exist with BOEM. This allows the Town and Vineyard Wind to hold each other accountable, and they do. Participating as a consulting party in Vineyard Northeast’s review would therefore serve no useful purpose because the Town already negotiated a better outcome with Vineyard Wind than any consultation process could ever provide.

Contrary to statements made during the public comment session, neither Town officials nor members of the public have been “gagged” from sharing their concerns with BOEM or Vineyard Wind. The Town engages in regular communication with BOEM and Vineyard Wind. Town officials and their legal counsel spend hours reviewing offshore wind development plans, answering questions, and verifying that Vineyard Wind continues to live up to its word. In fact, the Town and Vineyard Wind are working together to plan and host a public information session on Nantucket to answer questions and address concerns about Vineyard Wind’s current and future projects, a level of community interaction that BOEM would never require, and that Vineyard Wind agreed to do.

Moreover, the Good Neighbor Agreement enhances Nantucket’s rights because it provides contractual guarantees that the BOEM process will never provide but that the Town can enforce, including Vineyard Wind’s promise never to build future projects closer than Vineyard Wind and to minimize adverse visual effects on historic properties.

Every single resident, property owner, or organization with a legal or economic interest in the offshore wind projects has the right to participate in BOEM meetings and to lobby state and federal officials who—unlike local governments—have the power to strengthen our environmental laws and the application of those laws, including those related to endangered species that the Town does not have jurisdiction to enforce. A link to their contact information is available on Town’s website as part of its offshore wind information page: Currently, because of different permitting timelines, the Town is or will be a consulting party in SouthCoast Wind, Beacon Wind, and Bay State Wind, different offshore wind projects by different developers, which offer additional opportunities for public participation. Updates on these projects can be found on the Town’s offshore wind information page, too.

No other local government in the United States has done more than Nantucket to secure as much protection and compensation as possible for adverse visual effects that cannot be avoided. We look forward to continuing to work with the Town on offshore wind projects that have the potential to harm Nantucket’s historic context, and to do everything possible to find ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate harm from offshore wind farms taking into consideration everything we have learned.

Will Cook
Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC

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