It came as a surprise to some that the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership took out full page newspaper ads last week slamming Cape Wind as ‘bad for business’ in Massachusetts. While most people had not even heard of this group, they have heard of its members, a ‘who’s who’ of Bay State business big-wigs. The group includes:
They formed in 2010 and were compared in a news article to the old Boston Vault which was a secretive and elite group of Boston business leaders that wielded considerable behind the scenes political influence for decades.
For those paying close attention, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership had been making noises about projects like Cape Wind hurting competitiveness since the group was founded. But in taking out these full page ads they have given their opposition a much higher profile.
Why them and why now?
On the face of it, it’s hard to take too seriously this group of uber-wealthy losing much sleep about the forecast that Cape Wind will raise electric bills between 1% and 2%. Even a big electricity user like Raytheon is used to swings in electricity prices much larger than that and this will be at most a rounding error on their balance sheet.
If the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership took a closer look they would see that regions of the world that pay a little more for clean energy more than make up for that in lower wholesale electricity prices (renewables suppress prices in wholesale markets), having a more diverse energy mix, greater economic development, a cleaner environment and a better quality of life.
And this doesn't begin to take in the savings in a nation's health costs with cleaner air.
What binds these uber-rich together?
It turns out there is another connection that binds several of the members of this elite business group: summer homes that form a ring around Nantucket Sound and the prospect of sometimes seeing an offshore wind farm.
For some it will be traveling to their vacation home, others will be able to see Cape Wind on the horizon from their homes and still others from their boats. Though their summer homes were not mentioned in their ad, this does suggest a more plausible motivation. It usually only takes a few members on a board to feel strongly about an issue to get the others who don’t care or feel less strongly to agree to go along, which appears to be the case here.
An $11 million compound in Oyster Harbors, the exclusive gated community in Osterville
John Fish, Chairman of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and CEO of Suffolk Construction, owns an $11 million compound in Oyster Harbors, the exclusive gated community in Osterville where Bill Koch also lives. Bill Koch is the largest funder of the opposition group to Cape Wind and also serves as their Chairman and is a coal and petroleum coke billionaire, and a proud member of the infamous ‘Koch Brothers’.
Pictured above, parts of it behind the trees, is John Fish’s main house, he also owns a second, neighboring house that is about the same size:
John Fish’s compound is behind the guardhouse in Oyster Harbors so you can’t drive by, but the great unwashed can glimpse his lovely manse from across the bay.
Although Fish’s Suffolk Construction prides itself on being “passionate about minimizing our carbon footprint”, that passion takes a back seat for its owner in opposing a wind farm that will provide 75% of the Cape and Islands electricity while reducing 770,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Apparently some of the privileged folks on Oyster Harbors do not want to be able to see offshore wind turbines when they bring their boats out of their Three Bays and venture into Nantucket Sound for some real cruising.
A flap about a $50 million salary
Also in Osterville, and with a $4 million summer home overlooking Nantucket Sound, is Massachusetts Competitive Partnership Member Ed Kelly, who recently stepped down from his perch at Liberty Mutual over a flap about his $50 million salary some thought excessive.
Further along the Cape’s Nantucket Sound coast are Robert Kraft’s vacation home in New Seabury and Joseph Tucci’s home in West Yarmouth. Tucci’s frequent use of EMC’s corporate jet to fly him to his vacation home on Cape Cod was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article a few years back. Yet EMC insists it, too, is green. Tucci’s EMC claims to eventually want to purchase 40% of its electricity from renewable sources but Tucci helped push the ad against Cape Wind.
And let’s not forget the Islands on the other side of Nantucket Sound where other Massachusetts Competitive Partnership Members have their multi-million dollar summer homes. Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson has a summer home on Nantucket she purchased for $9 Million, her ‘Johnson Family Foundation’ has donated to the opposition group to Cape Wind. Staples CEO Ronald Sargent has a summer home in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Sargent identifies “becoming a sustainable leader in the global community” as a “priority” for Staples but he too approved the ad to oppose Cape Wind.
Business competitiveness’ is just fronting for NIMBYism
It is starting to look as if ‘business competitiveness’ is just fronting for NIMBY and that these companies are just being used as the public face of a privileged lifestyle behind gated summer communities.
The ‘why now’ question is harder to answer. Cape Wind has passed its many hurdles and is wrapping up its last commercial transactions to proceed to construction. Surely this opposition could have had a greater impact earlier in the process? Yet this may be the very reason, the drumbeat of articles about Cape Wind moving forward must be confronting for plutocrats who can’t accept they might have to mix in some sights of clean energy with their summer sails or between nips of gin and tonic.
Suddenly, these newspaper ads make a little more sense.
What makes less sense to this longtime newspaperman is why their ad features an idyllic natural waterfront Cape-looking scene with tire marks prominently scorched through the sensitive beach grass in the foreground of a picture in which you would otherwise expect to see a ‘no motorized vehicles’ or a ‘keep off the dunes’ sign posted.
Yet this is actually the perfect, if inadvertent, visual symbol for this group’s opposition to Cape Wind. Let’s keep the beauty of this natural treasure preserved, except for my McMansion, my yacht, and my Land Rover.