Durham Town Council backs resolution supporting offshore wind
DURHAM — Town councilors on Monday endorsed a resolution calling for a focused look at offshore wind development.
The measure, which passed 7-1, urges Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to ask the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to form a task force dedicated to exploring commercial wind power in the Gulf of Maine. Councilor Firoze Katrak opposed the resolution and Councilor Carden Welsh was absent.
“The benefits would be potentially federal grants to researchers (at UNH), investments in the local offshore region by wind energy companies and opportunities in the port of Portsmouth,” said Mary Downes, who sits on Durham’s Energy Committee.
It could lead to “reduced reliability on other forms of energy we have to import and pay a lot of money for,” she continued.
Durham became the first Seacoast community to approve the resolution, which is backed by several alternate energy organizations, including a state affiliate of the climate group 350.org and Durham-based Seacoast Anti-Pollution League.
Doug Bogen, an organizer with the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, said the effort is in its early stages. However, the group hopes to build on recent local successes. Energy commissions in Dover, Durham and Portsmouth already have backed the resolution.
“The climate is changing,” Bogen told Durham councilors Monday, “and we need to act much more (quickly).”
The town council’s approval follows President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the 2016 Paris Agreement aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Power plants that burn fossil fuels are a major producer of greenhouse gases.
“In spite of the change we’ve seen at the federal level,” Downes said, “there is a lot we can do at the state and federal level and this is one concrete action we can do.”
Supporters argue offshore wind would be a boon for the environment and the New England economy. For instance, waters off New Hampshire’s sliver of coastline offers potential to generate to 2,600 mW of electricity — more than enough to power the entire state, according to data from a 2010 federal Dept. of Energy report.
Large scale, commercial wind development also would support hundreds and potentially thousands of jobs, according to data provided by the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League.
Monday’s resolution passed with little debate. Councilor Kenny Rotner pointed out the measure requires no financial commitment from the town.
Katrak likened alternative energy projects that require subsidies to “reverse Robin Hood” measures.
“They take money from poor people and give it to the rich people,” he said, suggesting costs of subsidies are borne by poorer residents.
In other town council news Monday, councilors made clear the town’s consultants will share expert testimony related to the Seacoast Reliability Project transmission line with the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Eversource has proposed building the line.
The town hired The Woods Hole Group and GeoInsight to review Eversource’s conclusions related to the project, and residents have expressed concern such data would not be submitted to the SEC. The SEC will consider approving the project this fall.
Town Administrator Todd Selig recommended the town ask its consultants to submit a report to the SEC, and councilors agreed, voting 8-0. Such a request will cost additional money, but roughly $35,000 is still available from an initial $90,000 allocation approved earlier this year.