Paul's Remarks at the Special Barnstable Town Council Meeting/Open Meeting of the Voters on Off-shore Wind
More than 500 people joined the Barnstable Town Council at Barnstable High School on October 23, 2023, to provide public feedback about the transmission of electricity from off-shore wind projects.
Watch Paul's remarks at the meeting or scroll down for a transcript!
Transcript of Paul's remarks:
"We have dug into the important details tonight in a healthy and transparent way. But I would like it if we expanded the aperture a bit more to look at the whole picture.
I think we should be saying to ourselves, this is our wind. And then asking ourselves, what do we want to do with it. We should be determining our own path forward as much as possible, and thereby reducing the spaces in which terms are dictated to us.
This entire experience has felt predicated on a sense of lost control. This event tonight represents a re-taking of some control lost by our citizens. And it’s a big step in the right direction to restore some sense of trust that your elected officials and town staff are working in your best interests.
Up until now, the tenor of this conversation has been that unwelcome things are being done to us. And this kind of experience can lend itself to a victimhood narrative in which information appears contradictory, and everyone appears to have a self-interested agenda and our citizens feel like things are way outside of their control. We need to reverse that with better communications and greater transparency. No one likes the feeling of lost control.
So let’s talk about that – control. Presently, our Town is in healthy financial shape. But the Town is also trying to insure against various potential downsides. Those downsides include the future high financing costs of sewering. It also includes the Town potentially being forced by the Commonwealth to accept these wind power landings without any additional protections beyond those captured in the permitting process.
True, Vineyard Wind might now turn out to be the only project seen through to completion around here. Possibly. And that might then turn out OK for us. But it could be a huge lost opportunity – like when the Cape refused federal dollars for sewering the whole Cape back in the 1970s.
We should stop nibbling around the edges of this conversation. Not only would I want us to get more environmental protections and more financial support out of these projects, but if we are going to be forced to take some of this, we should be getting a better deal on our rates – the wind is blowing here and the infrastructure is being proposed for here - so we should be studying the feasibility of bulk energy purchases to reduce our local electricity rates – especially for our seniors living on fixed incomes.
We should come together and set regional goals about potentially one day procuring renewable energy directly at reduced rates. We could stop arguing over the crumbs and leverage the whole loaf for better environmental and financial outcomes for our citizens.
I think it is an economic good for Barnstable that we have availability at our local substation. It is not a curse. It’s an advantage. I believe we should seize this advantage.
Former Council President Jimmy Crocker may or may not have had a soft spot for renewable energy a few years back when he initiated these conversations with the wind companies. But he did aggressively push for smart business decisions by the town to keep our taxes low and our services high and efficient.
On top of that, I am no economic nationalist, but I think it is fair to ask where the American companies are in this conversation. GE makes some of the equipment but all the financing and much of the support services are coming from N. Europe. Where are the American companies in this?
Opposition to these projects have borne positive results – about potential LLC exposures, the Dowses causeway vulnerability, about the unplanned approach to landings and even the scheduling of this event tonight. The Town Council has been listening and adapting to new information and trends.
But a simple ‘NO’ repeatedly frequently does not make for good public policy. To get us over this hump, we should also re-establish the water resources advisory committee from our recent past. This committee of citizens and councilors can help us make sure that we accomplish what we were setting out to do originally – which is to make sure that our homeowners aren’t left shouldering the financial burden of rebuilding of our wastewater infrastructure alone.
Together we can get lower rates on electricity and faster, less expensive sewering. We can take control over this conversation and not feel manipulated by it. With sound coastal management practices and shrewd financial choices, we can leave this place better off than we found it. And that’s a big part of what all of your Town Councilors are trying to do. Thanks."
Letter to Editor of The Cape Cod Times
From Steve Waller of Centerville
October 29, 2023
Climate change-fueled beach erosion drew no response at Barnstable wind energy meeting
As I sat in the audience at Barnstable Town Council’s special meeting at Barnstable High School on Monday, I was struck by the Orwellian contrast between many of the comments and the nominal goal of the group who petitioned for this event. “Protect our Beaches” must include slowing climate change and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Yet the loudest applause in the sparse audience was for anti-progress comments, such as the current financial challenges the wind company is facing.
When there was an audience comment about climate change and the outsize role that a marine wind farm can have on it, the beach protectors kept their arms folded. Mr. Orwell would recognize this behavior.
I was also surprised by the many empty seats in the auditorium after their petition seemed to indicate such a groundswell of voter sentiment. Clearly, the petitioners are a vocal minority. But they may confuse the majority, who don’t have the wealth and discretionary time to worry about a year or two of road or beach parking lot construction. Or maybe they’ve been to Covell’s Beach, which is better now than it was before the cable came ashore there.
Native Americans came to the Cape 400 generations ago. What will we today leave for those who wish to come here 400 generations hence? We have repeatedly missed opportunities to act appropriately on environmental issues. We failed to install sewers in the 1990s when most of the costs would have been borne by federal dollars. We failed to get the first wind farm that was proposed because it might have been visible from the Kennedy compound. We must not miss this opportunity to mitigate climate change with offshore wind, for our children and those who come to the Cape 400 generations from today. Protect our beaches.
Steve Waller, Centerville
There is no approval to bring offshore wind power to land at Dowses Beach in Osterville. There never has been. On October 5, the Barnstable Town Council formally cancelled authorization to negotiate a host agreement for Dowses Beach. The Council also voted to postpone indefinitely signing off on additional Park City Wind issues in Centerville.
Economic reality, the community, and the Town Council have provided us with a good opportunity to reframe our discussion.