How the Right uses environmental law to kill American jobs

No, that was not the title of the recent New York Times article about the Cape Wind offshore wind project. But it should have been.
U.S. lacks a robust, mature offshore wind industry.

"Conservative groups use environmental litigation to kill American jobs. "

By Lew Milford , President of Clean Energy Group.

No, that was not the title of the recent New York Times article about the Cape Wind offshore wind project. But it should have been.

The article detailed the unfortunate story of how a local contractor, Mass Tank, lost out on a big welding job for the Cape Wind project to European offshore contractors.

Why? Because the European bids were cheaper.

And why is that? Because the U.S. lacks a robust and mature offshore wind industry. It has not had the opportunity to build up to scale to compete against the Europeans who have been building projects for two decades.

But why is that? That is where the litigation against the Cape Wind project should have a played a bigger part in the story.

Things don't go better with Koch

For the last decade, Bill Koch, the infamous billionaire, has funded litigation to stop the Cape Wind project, because he doesn't want to see it from his Cape Cod mansion. Whether he also wants to kill off renewable power because his wealth comes from fossil fuels is almost beside the point.

And what kind of litigation strategies is the conservative Mr. Koch pursuing? Just the kind of legal strategies that the conservative right complains about when environmentalists use them to protect the environment.

In Koch's latest failed effort to use environmental law to block the project, the federal appeals court in Washington rejected his attempts to sue the FAA, which concluded the project would not interfere with airport radar. The case relied in part on using NEPA, the nation's major environmental review law, to try to overturn the federal approval.

There is a connection here between the loss of American jobs and the conservatives' use of environmental litigation to serve clearly private, not public, interests.

What if...

If the Cape Wind offshore wind project had not been held up for a decade by fruitless litigation, more companies like Mass Tank would have had a chance to gain competence, reduce costs, and compete against their European counterparts for Cape Wind and other offshore wind projects. There might be an emerging offshore wind industry with competitive U.S. suppliers winning bids rather than losing them.

The endless litigation is not the only reason for that shortcoming, but it has to take some of the blame.

So the next time someone on the right falsely decries environmentalists for killing American jobs through lawsuits, ask them to explain why their friends in Massachusetts are doing the same thing.

This article is reprinted with the author's permission. It also appeared in the Huffington Post.

Clean Energy Group is a leading nonprofit advocacy organization working in the U.S. and internationally on innovative clean energy technology, finance, and policy programs.

Founded in 1998, CEG is headquartered in Montpelier, Vermont, with staff based in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. In 2002, CEG created and now manages a separate, national nonprofit alliance of state-based, U.S. public clean energy funds- Clean Energy States Alliance. CEG has previously serverd as the Secretariat for the UNEP Sustainable Energy Finance Alliance, the only convening body in the international system for public finance agencies in the clean energy sector.

Clean Energy Group is supported by major foundations, as well as state, federal and international energy agencies.

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