Fed report says Cape Wind turbine farm is OK for environment
MMS says nation's first offshore project would pose no major problems
By Walter Brooks
"The report is a milestone... the impacts appear to be nothing that cannot be mitigated... Cape Wind will be a bellweather for many offshore wind projects to come."
- MMS Director Randall Luithi
T he federal agency maindated with examining the Cape Wind project has given environmental approval to the proposed wind farm to be sited in federal waters on Nantucket Sound 5.6 milesoff Cape Cod.
Today's final 2,800-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) gives an enormous boost to the project which has been at the center of a bitter public fight for over seven and a half years.
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) report released Friday said plans by developer Cape Wind Associates to build the nation's first offshore wind farm would pose no major environmental problems.
Calling his agency’s report “ a milestone,” Minerals ManagementService Director Randall Luithi said at a 10 a.m. news conference thistoday that Cape Wind could become "a bellweather for many offshorewind projects to come."
"The impacts appear to be nothing that cannot be mitigated," Luthisaid of the project's plan to put 130 turbines on Horesshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. While theenvironmental review is not a final ruling, officials expect it tostrongly influence the US secretary of the Interior’s decision to awardCape Wind a lease for the project.
"That's where I sail."
- Ted Kennedy
"The nation's first offshore wind energy project reached a key milestone today that will help spark the clean energy revolution in America," said Sue Reid, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.
The law requires that at least 30days pass before the new Secretary of the Interior enters a decision on the project in the federal registry. That normal waiting period will put the formal approval of Cape Wind into the Barack Obamaadministration which has been very supportive of renewable project generally and wind farms specifically.
“This has been a long, hard road,” Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind, said in a news conference held at his at his Boston offices this afternoon. “Wethink this wind farm is going to be embraced by the Cape Cod community,it’s going to be embraced by the nation and, most important, it hasalready encouraged other states to look at developing their own coastalwind resources.”
“This has been a long, hard road.”
- Jim Gordon, Cape Wind
The Obama administration must wait 30 days beforeissuing a decision whether to proceed with Cape Wind. If, as expected, it decidesto proceed, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) agency will lease the designated sectionof Nantucket Sound in federal waters to Mr. Gordon’s company.
Cape Wind has long been staunchly opposed by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who has cited navigational concerns. Mr. Kennedy's family compound in Hyannis Port would also be able to see turbines about the size of one-inch high toothpicks on the horizon. He has also been quoted as saying, "That's where I sail."
The country worries about survival,
Kennedy worries about his view
The Nantucket Sound offshore wind farm will still require other federal,state permits according to Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind, but he added that he expects most of those could be secured "thiswinter," except for a Federal Aviation Administration permit that hesaid could take until at least the spring to secure.
Mark Rodgers added that Cape Wind hoped to start construction of the wind farm early in 2010, with operations beginning in 2011.
"The significance of the report coming out today is that it’s thecapstone of an eight-year effort and permitting review," said Rodgersin an interview before he had read the final environmental review orheard whether its content was favorable.
In a statement released this afternoon, Kennedy said, “I do not believethat this action by the Interior Department will be sustained. The CapeWind Project, among others, is currently under investigation by theInspector General of the Department of the Interior. The FAA continuesto review the project and still lists it as a hazard to aviation. Therules governing offshore wind development, with which Cape Wind and allother offshore wind projects must comply, have not even beenpromulgated yet. By taking this action, the Interior Department hasvirtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentiouslitigation.”
Senator Kennedy's statement flies in the faces of obvious truth thattourism has been helped, rather than hindered, every where a wind farmgrew. Kennedy also know better than most that Horseshoe Shoals is nowplace to sail a boat since he has gound aground there often himself.
Significance of today's date
There was some doubt that the MMS’s final report could be issued beforePresident George Bush left office, and thus before opponents like Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman William Delahunt could continue to torpedo the project.
The Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with evaluatingthe impact of the project on wildlife, aviation, ship navigation,tourism, and a range of other concerns, received 42,000 public commentsover the past year, which it responded to in its final review.
The Alliance to Protect NantucketSound, a fossil fuel-funded group which has raised over $20 million to fight the project, suggested that the Bushadministration had unscrupulously rushed to approve it beforePresident-elect Barack Obama takes office next Tuesday.