Reporter's Notebook: Tracking Bennett’s position on Cape wind farm brouhaha

Ask the average Bay State voter – or, at the very least, one who paid attention to last year’s gubernatorial contest – about a controversial wind farm located out in the ocean, and their thoughts are likely to turn to Cape Wind.

Gov. Deval Patrick came under fire from his opponents for supporting the 130-turbine wind farm on Nantucket Sound that has been reviewed by agency after agency and cleared a high number of regulatory hurdles. Over the last ten years it has been praised by proponents as a clean energy landmark and panned by local opponents as a pie-in-the-sky project that will drive up energy costs for ratepayers.

So voters can be forgiven of thinking of Cape Wind when District 3 candidate Doug Bennett, a former Nantucket selectman, talks about crafting a “compromise” to build the first ocean-based wind farm in the country without mentioning the project by name. Indeed, the Allston-Brighton Tab, in a reference to the compromise during a 2009 profile of Bennett during his unsuccessful City Council At-Large run, directly tied the compromise to Cape Wind, with no objection from Bennett.

In a list of accomplishments similar to a statement on his campaign website that Bennett provided to the Reporter in answering its candidate questionnaire, he writes, “I was able to collaborate with a number of different groups on a controversial, but important energy issue related to implementing alternative energy sources. I helped create a compromise solution between United States Senator Kennedy, other Massachusetts Congressmen, and the residents of Cape Cod to build the first ocean-based wind farm in the country.”

Asked about Bennett’s statement, a top Cape Wind spokesman called it false and misleading, noting that Bennett had joined a group opposed to Cape Wind. The group called for the project to be moved to a site known as “South of Tuckernuck.”

Bennett’s suggestion went nowhere and was “fundamentally flawed,” said Mark Rodgers, the spokesman. “Under the federal permitting laws being used to review Cape Wind, alternative sites were considered only as a basis of comparison, to help determine whether the applicant’s project (an offshore wind farm to be built on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound) should be approved or rejected, not to move the project – there would be no mechanism to do so, the permitting process is entirely site-specific.”

A second flaw in his suggestion was that the alternative site Bennett and others were pushing was found in an analysis to be “inferior” because it would be more expensive and have greater negative effects on fish and birds, Rodgers added.

In early 2010, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “expressly and publicly stated that this suggestion was ‘off the table’ and not one being considered by his agency,” Rodgers wrote in an e-mail to the Reporter.

Bennett says he wasn’t referring to Cape Wind in his original statement and e-mailed a revised statement. “This plan should not be interpreted as the Cape Wind Project,” he wrote.

Bennett said he supported Cape Wind from the beginning, but at the time he was a selectman in 2007, it was in stalemate. “My plan was to offer an alternative site in effort to push towards a compromise,” he said. He added that the Nantucket and Edgartown boards of selectmen endorsed the plan, but acknowledged that it did not go farther than that.

Bennett, who moved to Boston in 2007 and ran for City Council At-Large, said he still hoped that a wind farm could still eventually be built on the “South of Tuckernuck” site, despite what Salazar said.

But the headline of a article he claims backs up his contention that he wasn’t talking about Cape Wind states, “Nantucket Selectman Doug Bennet Proposes Alternate Site for Windfarm.” The sub-headline beneath it reads, “Proposal viewed as a way to end stalemate between Cape Wind and the federal and state government.”

Endorsement Corner: District 3’s Tuitt gets boost from seven state reps

District 3 candidate Marydith Tuitt has released a list of State House lawmakers backing her campaign to replace City Councillor Feeney. Tuitt, who is chief of staff to Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), has the support of her boss and six others, she said in an e-mail to the Reporter.

They include Jamaica Plain Rep. Elizabeth Malia, Mental Health Committee chair whose district includes a part of Dorchester; Cambridge Rep. Alice Wolf, chair of the Elder Affairs Committee; Amherst Rep. Ellen Story; Rep. Denise Andrews of Orange; Lawrence Rep. Marcos Devers; and Springfield Rep. Benjamin Swan. All are Democrats.

The Caribbean American Political Action Council also backs her run. The 43-year-old Tuitt was born in Montserrat in the British West Indies and is a former US Navy machinist. She has lived in District 3 for 25 years.

Brian Wallace indicted; campaign finance issues

Former state Rep. Brian Wallace, a South Boston Democrat, was indicted last Thursday on charges of campaign finance violations, the state attorney general announced. His campaign treasurer, Timothy Duross, was also indicted.

They were charged by a Suffolk County grand jury for failing to report $6,345 in campaign contributions in 2008, or 17 percent of the former state representative’s haul. In 2009, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance opened an investigation that was eventually referred to Attorney General Martha Coakley.

According to Coakley’s office, Wallace and Duross were unable to provide backup documentation about reported campaign donations and expenditures when asked. Candidates and treasurers are required to maintain records for campaign expenditures for six years after an election.

Wallace, 61, declined to run for another term last year. He had served in the South Boston-based seat since 2003. Duross, 50, had been his treasurer since 2001.

Wallace’s attorney, Bill McDermott, said in an e-mailed statement that Wallace “restates his innocence of any criminal acts alleged by the Attorney General and restates his contention that this charge should be settled in a civil disposition with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. He looks forward to his opportunity to clear his good name.”

Wallace’s former district includes a piece of Uphams Corner and Harbor Point in Dorchester.

When he decided to step down last year, Wallace noted that he had worked on legislation dealing with substance abuse prevention, film tax credits, and naming a courthouse in South Boston after Judge Joseph Feeney. “I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish,” he told the Reporter in March 2010.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Material from State House News Service was used in this report.