New Bedford Pols Call for More Transparency With Test Turbine
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — Local legislators are not pleased with the way they and residents found out about a research project in New Bedford’s Clark Cove that features the installation of a temporary scale model of a floating offshore wind turbine.
“The energy bubbles up from the constituency, especially when they’re pissed off, and this one bubbled up with us organically on our own, but exactly what I would have predicted (is what) happened,” Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) said in an appearance on WBSM’s SouthCoast Now Tuesday morning.
“There is no excuse for it," he said.
Montigny is referring to the rumors that began Monday morning regarding what was being installed in Clark’s Cove. Some believed it was going to be a 300-foot-plus full-sized wind turbine, and potentially the first of many that were being erected without any public hearing.
However, it turns out it is only a 27-foot “demonstration project” from T-Omega Wind that is going to be in the water for roughly 60 days to test how the wind and waves affect the structure, part of the company’s testing process for its innovative floating turbine design.
The research project is being supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, with grants totaling just south of $800,000 from organizations such as the National Science Foundation.
“The thing for all intents and purposes looks harmless, but how can I say with a straight face to my constituency, who is concerned, that it is harmless?” Montigny said. “The CEC gave them a grant. That puts a burden on the company. The minute you take state or federal or local money, you owe a public vetting process – beforehand, not after.”
T-Omega Wind received permitting from the New Bedford Port Authority for the mooring to which the model turbine, which is 1/16th of a full-sized one, is anchored. Blair Bailey, General Counsel for the Port Authority, told WBSM on Monday that the mooring permit was “literally the only thing they needed” for the project to be placed in the water.
Montigny said the Port Authority, which he called “essentially a City entity,” was equally at fault for not informing the public about the project ahead of time.
“I don’t blame it just on the company, we also have public entities that should have communicated it,” Montigny said. “But if you're big enough to receive major research grants...then you know darn well you better deal with the local politicians who are the most connected to the local people.”
Montigny noted that the company did offer to meet with him, Representative Antonio Cabral and Ward 6 City Councilor Ryan Pereira this past Sunday, the day before the project was set to launch.
“I’m not going to feed into any conspiracy theories, except to say the best way to eliminate conspiracy is to communicate and be transparent,” Montigny said. “I would have met with them a week ago, I would have liked to see what they were going to do.”
At the urging of Rep. Cabral, there will be a neighborhood meeting with T-Omega Wind to discuss the project on Thursday, December 7 at 6 p.m. at the wastewater treatment facility in the South End.
Pereira told WBSM Tuesday that he too would rather see those types of information sessions happen before the projects are launched.
“I'm glad and appreciative that Rep. Cabral has organized a meeting collaborating with myself, the Port Authority, and other parties,” Pereira told WBSM. “I would like to set a precedent that public meetings and outreach be done on projects that utilize taxpayer-funded grants.”
“The fact remains that T-Omega Wind received the only permit they were required to obtain,” Pereira said. “I look forward to hearing from the company and the port authority and the residents at the December 7th meeting.”
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