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Cape Cod oyster farm: Legislature’s slippery move

Who knew that oyster aquaculture troubled some state legislators so much? A state representative recently slipped a provision into a budget bill that would effectively prevent an entrepreneur from opening a planned oyster farm off Mashpee. Instead, lawmakers voted to protect that precise area as a “marine sanctuary.” But lawmakers’ tears for the oysters seem a bit insincere, and if the provision makes it out of the reconciliation process, Governor Patrick should veto it.

The oyster plan, which has been approved by local authorities, calls for a 2-acre farm in Popponesset Bay. That’s approximately 100 miles from the Newburyport district of the amendment’s sponsor, Michael A. Costello, who acted at the behest of Beacon Hill lobbyists. Neither of the two lawmakers who actually represent Mashpee knew anything about the amendment beforehand, and both have raised objections.

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So what gives? Costello, who is retiring at the end of this session and won’t have to answer to voters in Newburyport, much less Mashpee, insists his amendment is good policy. So good, it seems, that airing it in public beforehand was unnecessary.

But the oyster farm does threaten to impinge on the views of wealthy landowners nearby, including investment banker Chuck Clough, on whose behalf the lobbying company ML Strategies approached Costello. The Legislature has no business short-circuiting individual projects, especially amid so little public debate, and the provision should never become law.

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