Should the Fox Guard the Hen House?
Will Mass Audubon benefit from Cape Wind project?
The Cape Wind project is proposed for an ecosystem and aviary corridor with documented endangered species, and that is under current and conflicting use as an essential fish habitat. "Clean, green, renewable" is not benign when it represents an industrial-scale wind facility comparable in scale to a land area the size of Manhattan Island proposed to be introduced into this ecosystem.
The magnitude of the Cape Wind project, along with the fact that this is nascent technology, merits deep consideration.
One consideration that must be evaluated is the objectivity of any agency involved in the permit review process. If, as example, Mass Audubon has a financial stake, for whatever reason, in the outcome of any inquiry, such as the process of accounting for any wildlife mortality that stems from a major power plant such as Cape Wind, then that is a prima facie reason to question the objectivity of the subsequent analysis. That Mass Audubon, or any of its members, would profit from a project it was reviewing, should clue any reasonable observer that the results might be tainted. Mass Audubon's "preliminary approval" of Cape Wind is taken at face value: "no harm to birds."
Mass Audubon's "Challenge" states: "We also propose adoption of an Adaptive Management Plan that includes a rigorous monitoring program beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction, mitigation measures in the event that the project results in significant adverse environmental impacts..."
The condition Mass Audubon has imposed on its preliminary approval of Cape Wind is a monitoring contract worth multimillions of dollars. This monitoring contract language is the most strongly stated condition of Mass Audubon's preliminary approval of Cape Wind in its "Challenge."
The president of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted these comments on the Cape Wind draft environmental impact study on Feb. 23, 2005, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
"By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year."
However, Taber Allison of Mass Audubon, in his Aug. 3, 2006, letter to SouthCoast Today, has stated, "Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds, or any number of birds, would be killed if this project is permitted."
Mass Audubon must disclose any potential financial benefit it might have in the outcome of the Cape Wind proposal if it is to be considered an objective and unbiased reviewing agency. Mass Audubon must declare if it or its affiliations are to become the monitoring agency, or will bid on this contract, or accept this contract that it imposes as a condition of its "preliminary approval" by its "Challenge" so that we can all "get this right."
Time is of the essence.
Barbara Durkin Northboro, MA