TODAY'S EDITORIAL - July 5, 2006
New Mexico's senators, Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman, have shown how bipartisan leadership can produce real results as America begins to confront its myriad energy challenges, especially those relating to increasing dependence on hydrocarbons. Two recent developments confirm their bipartisan success.
First, in embracing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's recent license for the construction and operation of the New Mexico-based National Enrichment Facility, Messrs. Bingaman and Domenici cashed a major nuclear-power policy dividend from the 2005 Energy Policy Act that they shepherded through Congress. Second, using their power and influence as chairman (Mr. Domenici) and ranking minority member (Mr. Bingaman) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, they succeeded in killing an ill-advised amendment attached to the Coast Guard reauthorization proposal; in doing so, they removed a major hurdle confronting America's premier offshore renewable-energy project.
Having already proceeded through nearly five years of Massachusetts and federal regulatory processes, Cape Wind, if ultimately approved, would construct 130 wind turbines in a 24-square-mile area of Nantucket Sound. The project could supply 75 percent of the electricity needs for Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. In addition to being backed by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Cape Wind project is supported by more than 80 percent of Massachusetts residents, according to a recent poll of 600 respondents.
However, by giving Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, an avowed opponent, veto power over Cape Wind, the controversial amendment would have effectively destroyed the project. The negotiated settlement provides for the commandant of the Coast Guard to "specify the reasonable terms and conditions [he] determines to be necessary to provide for navigational safety" in the Cape Wind area.
Threatening a filibuster, Messrs. Domenici and Bingaman were determined to enforce the siting and other regulatory provisions that they had meticulously developed in last year's Energy Policy Act. Making the case that the act's siting model was "sound," Mr. Domenici argued that it "gives the Coast Guard and other federal agencies a voice; it gives local and state governments a voice; but it prevents local special interests from torpedoing a reasonable and much-needed energy project in federal waters." Mr. Bingaman said that the agreement "ensures that Cape Wind's proposal will receive a fair and unbiased consideration on the merits," which is all that Cape Wind has wanted from the beginning. Thanks to the bipartisanship of New Mexico's senators, that apparently will now happen.
This originally appeared in The Washington Times on 7/5/06 here. Comment below.