HEADLINE: Plan for Wind Farm Off Massachusetts Clears State Hurdle
New York Times article by PAM BELLUCK
Published: March 31, 2007BOSTON, March 30 — A proposal to build the country’s first offshore wind farm in the waters off Cape Cod won state environmental approval on Friday, bringing the project a major step closer to being built.
The project, known as Cape Wind, would involve 130 wind turbines in a 25-square-mile area in Nantucket Sound, and would provide as much as 79 percent of the electricity for the cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Opponents of the project, including many residents of the cape and the islands, worry about its potential effects on the fishing industry, tourism, bird habitat, ocean navigation, the marine environment and views from summer homes. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose family has a compound on Cape Cod, is one of the opponents.
On Friday, Ian A. Bowles, the state’s secretary of environmental affairs, said the environmental report for Cape Wind had passed state muster. Because the turbines are planned for federal waters, a federal environmental review must still be completed, a process that is expected to take much of this year.
Mr. Bowles, whose agency was responsible for reviewing the impact of the underwater cables that would connect the turbines to the shore, said the project “provides significant environmental benefits.”
He said that compared with electricity generated by power plants, Cape Wind would offset 802 tons of sulfur dioxide, 497 tons of nitrous oxide and 733,876 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
“This is equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road,” Mr. Bowles said, adding that those benefits, along with a $10 million mitigation package in which Cape Wind agreed to pay $5.6 million over 20 years and restore marine and bird habitat, were enough to outweigh any environmental detriments the project might cause.
Gov. Deval Patrick, a supporter of the project, said in a statement on Friday that it was “an important symbol of our commitment to clean energy.”
Several environmental groups hailed the decision. Philip Warburg, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement that “projects like the Cape Wind offshore wind energy proposal are critically important in our effort to combat climate change and lessen our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.”
But the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound issued a statement calling the decision “wholly unacceptable” and saying it “reflects the current administration’s willingness to sacrifice Nantucket Sound to advance its renewable energy agenda” and “has opened the door to gross developer exploitation of an irreplaceable natural resource.”
The alliance also said the state’s report performed a “substandard review” of alternative sites for the wind turbines, which would extend up to 440 feet above sea level.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kennedy, Melissa Wagoner, suggested that the ball was now in the federal government’s court. “The review of the Cape Wind project rests with the Department of the Interior, the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense, which will release their findings in the months ahead,” Ms. Wagoner said. “Senator Kennedy hopes those agencies will give serious consideration to the safety, maritime, environmental and economic concerns raised by the Cape Wind proposal.”
Jim Gordon, the president of Cape Wind, has said the project will not be as unsightly as critics maintain. “Today’s decision brings a major source of clean renewable energy and the benefits of new jobs, a healthier environment and greater energy security one step closer to this region,” Mr. Gordon said.
He said that if federal approval was granted, the project would take two years to complete, although some of the turbines would begin operating as they were built.
COMMENT: (from my husband David) How ironic: a conservative government could allow wind turbines in Nantucket Sound and send the Kennedy's (and other liberals?) crying and screaming over an environmental issue.