By Matthew Palmer and Jack Coleman, guest columnists in today's MetroWest Daily News
In his op-ed on the Cape Wind project, Sen. Edward Kennedy made several claims that cannot withstand scrutiny ("Why I oppose Cape Wind," April 30).
Among the most glaring was his assertion that the anti-Cape Wind provision in a Coast Guard funding bill "will give the Coast Guard commandant and the governor of Massachusetts -- not the developer -- the final decision" over whether the wind farm is built.
The wording of the Stevens Amendment shows this is inaccurate. Veto power over Cape Wind is given if -- "(A) the Governor of an adjacent state makes a written determination to the Commandant (of the Coast Guard) that the governor opposes the site chosen for the facility; or (B) the Commandant determines that the facility creates a hazard to navigation."
But if the commandant deems Cape Wind no threat to navigation, the governor can still veto the project -- unilaterally and without stating why. It would allow a governor with no expertise in maritime safety (nor can any of the candidates running for governor claim such expertise) to reject a determination on maritime safety from the very agency we have entrusted to make those decisions.
Sen. Kennedy was also incorrect in claiming that under last year's federal energy act, "the proposed Cape Wind site in Nantucket Sound is categorically exempted from the competitive bidding policy that will apply to all future proposed sites."
The "savings provision" in Section 388 of the energy act cites two proposals, not one, for which "(1) an offshore test facility has been constructed," referring to Cape Wind, "or (2) a request for a proposal has been issued for a public authority," a reference to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) project.
Both Cape Wind and LIPA were well along in the permitting pipeline when the energy bill became law last summer. LIPA's application was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers 16 months before Congress passed the energy bill; Cape Wind's application was submitted nearly four years earlier, in November 2001.
Sen. Kennedy's assertion about competitive bidding also implies that Cape Wind was granted exclusive rights to Horseshoe Shoal. There is nothing in the law preventing any other entrepreneur from proposing an offshore wind farm on the same site -- except perhaps the fear of facing an endless series of capricious regulatory hurdles.
Sen. Kennedy wrote that the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense are investigating whether wind turbines interfere with civilian and military radar -- yet he wants to derail a path-breaking offshore project before those investigations are complete.
His assertion that the state lacks a voice in the process is also not borne out by the facts. In May 2005, after a 32-month long review, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board voted to allow Cape Wind to connect to the regional grid.
Cape Wind must also comply with the state's Coastal Zone Management Act and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. The proposal is supported by the chairs of the House and Senate energy committees in the Legislature, and by an overwhelming majority of citizens across the state, as shown in polling by the State House News Service and a recent survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts and University of Massachusetts.
Thousands of Bay State residents have submitted oral and written comments since the review process began in 2001, and attended a dozen public hearings -- with more hearings still to come.
Sen. Kennedy deserves our respect for his admirable work in the Senate extending back more than four decades. But he risks squandering that legacy by making questionable claims about a renewable energy project he would heartily endorse -- elsewhere.
Matthew Palmer is executive director and Jack Coleman is media adviser of Clean Power Now.