Who’s behind the Town of Barnstable’s opposition to Cape Wind? It’s a question many ask but few are able to answer. A recent statement by a town attorney points to one source: the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a non-profit organization chaired and funded by coal and oil baron Bill Koch.
According to a statement Barnstable assistant town attorney Charlie McLaughlin made in August to the Cape Cod Times, the Alliance is bankrolling the Town of Barnstable’s ongoing litigation to stop Cape Wind. McLaughlin was the first president of the Alliance, a long-time member of its Board of Directors and a yachting buddy of Koch’s. According to McLaughlin, Barnstable has expended $355,000 of the Alliance’s money to date on lawsuits challenging the Federal Aviation Administration’s decisions that Cape Wind does not present a hazard to air traffic in the area. The town’s most recent lawsuit, challenging the FAA’s 4th Determination of No Hazard in August, was filed on August 23, 2012.
The Town’s coffers were apparently expanded with a “special gift” from the Alliance in 2010 after town residents complained of their hard-earned tax dollars being expended on litigation to stop Cape Wind. At a town council meeting on May 20, 2010, Cape Wind supporters pleaded with town council members to stop wasting taxpayer dollars to obstruct the state- and federally-approved project that would curb air pollution and bring much-needed jobs to the Cape. Later that evening, right before the meeting was adjourned, the council broke from the agenda to take up a surprise late-filed resolution to establish a special account for the express purpose of accepting gifts for special counsel services and related costs. They put the resolution on the agenda for a vote at the next town council meeting on June 3.
Prior to the June 3 meeting, the town made an appeal to citizens to support its Cape Wind litigation. Town attorney Ruth Weil commented in the Yarmouth Register, “We are hoping that citizens that share the town’s viewpoint on this litigation will be willing to give some funds to that purpose.” During the discussion of the resolution at the June 3 meeting, Councilor Norman moved to amend the resolution with language that would “open up the process” as to what was being donated and how the money in the account was being spent. His motion was denied by a vote of 7-6. In the end, the council, egged on by McLaughlin to avoid “cumbersome” language, accepted an amendment proposed by Councilor Farnham to avoid “tying the manager’s hands,” and voted 12-1 to give total authority to the Town Manager to approve the expenditures from the account.
Just two weeks following the Council’s vote, the Town of Barnstable’s appointed outside counsel, Washington, D.C. based Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell, filed a 42-page administrative appeal of the (third) FAA Determination of No Hazard. From the stealth introduction of the resolution to create the account to the speed with which KKR was able to move to file its lengthy appeal, it appears that the Town of Barnstable had a donor waiting in the wings in the form of the Alliance, Koch’s fossil fuel-funded front.
While no accounting of the expenditures from the special account were provided in the Town’s 2013 budget, the budget lists its FAA litigation as a “Major Accomplishment” of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, boasting of the subsequent delay resulting from the Court’s remanding the matter to the FAA “with directions to begin the hazard analysis from scratch.”
In its Administrative section, the 2013 budget makes clear who’s calling the shots with respect to gifts and grants noting that, “All gifts and donations shall be managed and expended according to the wishes and instructions of the donor.”
At the town meeting in May of 2010, Cotuit resident Richard Bartlett spoke passionately about the need to respect the rights of the people of Barnstable on the Cape Wind matter. He asked of the Council, “Why are you such intractable obstructionists?”
Mr. Bartlett, we think we have your answer.