EDITOR'S NOTE: Last week's edition of the Vineyard Gazette carried a front page story both in print and online stating that the Cape Wind project alone received special consideration under the most recent energy bill passed by Congress. Cape Wind was not contacted before the story ran and, after the story was published, sent the following op-ed to The Gazette. We reprint it here because unlike the inaccurate and biased story, this op-ed piece did not appear in the Gazette online this week, unlike the story that prompted it.
Cape Wind's response to the Vineyard Gazette
Last week’s Vineyard Gazette contained a front page news article written by Editor Julia Wells, entitled, “Wind Farm Is Favored in Bill - Special Interest Language Was Quietly Placed in Energy Act That Exempts Cape Wind From Public Bidding”.
The primary source for this article about Cape Wind was an unnamed, anonymous party.
Cape Wind was not contacted by anyone at the Vineyard Gazette and was not given any opportunity to respond to the information provided to the Gazette by their anonymous source for this article.
This column seeks to convey to Ms. Wells, the Vineyard Gazette, and the readers of this newspaper, what information Cape Wind would have provided.
First, the article is factually incorrect when it states “It was well known at the time that Cape Wind was the only project that met the criteria in the savings provision”. In fact, the language also applied to the wind farm proposed offshore Long Island by the Long Island Power Authority.
The “savings provision” of Section 388(d) of the Energy Policy Act would ensure that the country’s two active proposals for offshore wind at that time not be penalized by requiring the permitting process start over again from the beginning. Evidently the Senate Energy Committee determined that it would be unfair to require the Cape Wind or Long Island projects to have to re-file forms or be subjected to competitive bidding.
The Gazette article correctly noted that offshore oil and gas drilling site applications are normally preceded by competitive bidding. Yet the article neglected to mention that the offshore oil and gas competitive bidding takes place before any party has spent millions of dollars in an environmental impact review putting site specific data into the public domain, as was the case with Cape Wind at the time the Energy Bill was being debated.
The Gazette attaches great significance to the fact that the savings provision that included the competitive bidding language was made part of the Senate Energy Committee Bill, and was not contained in the Energy Bill previously approved by the House of Representatives.
The Gazette article neglects to mention, however, that the House version of the Bill did not require competitive bidding for offshore wind proposals whereas the Senate version did, thereby raising the question of how existing project proposals would be treated in this regard.
The Gazette article speculates about how the savings provision made it into the Senate Energy Bill, suggesting it was done in some backroom fashion.
I can only speak for Cape Wind. We put our perspectives on the Energy Bill in writing, and on our letterhead, that we submitted to the Senate Energy Committee in an open and transparent manner.
Cape Wind was not alone in contacting the Senate Energy Committee on these issues. The American Wind Energy Association and several leading national environmental organizations conveyed their concerns that existing offshore wind project proposals not be penalized or excessively delayed in receiving a fair, thorough but timely review by government agencies.
It is also known that opponents to Cape Wind were very active in making their viewpoints on Energy Bill provisions known to the House and Senate Energy Committees. The lobbying disclosure reports available on the Senate website clearly indicate the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has consistently outspent Cape Wind by a 2 to 1 margin on lobbying expenditures.
Assuming Cape Wind is allowed to proceed through the seventeen federal and state agency review process begun in 2001, Cape Wind will only become a reality if the project is found to be in the public interest.
Cape Wind will be required to pay whatever lease the Minerals Management Service chooses to apply. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also requires the federal government give 28% of the lease revenues they receive from an offshore wind project to the neighboring state.
There is no fair comparison between the actions of the Energy Committee, in its open and multi-year consideration and development of an Energy Bill based upon extensive public input, and the subsequent adoption, in a Coast Guard Authorization Conference Committee, of provisions that are contrary to the Energy Bill and that were not previously considered by any process in either body of the Congress.
Cape Wind, Yarmouth Port