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Friday, June 23, 2006

Cape Wind Update: "Poison Pill" Language Removed from Coast Guard Bill

Congressional language described as a "poison pill" by supporters of the Cape Wind offshore wind project will be extracted from a broader legislative package in a new compromise reached by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, (REA) reports.

According to REA, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman said they reached an agreement with Senators Ted Kennedy and Ted Stevens on changes to a provision inserted at conference into H.R. 889, the Coast Guard appropriations bill, related to the controversial 420-megawatt (MW) offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound.

The news was revealed by a jubilant Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, speaking at this week's Renewable Energy Finance Form, held in New York.

The REA article continues:

The four senators have agreed to a concurrent resolution that will replace Section 414 of the conference report, which would have given the Coast Guard and the governor of Massachusetts final approval over the siting of the Nantucket Sound wind farm.

The concurrent resolution drops any reference to the governor of Massachusetts and gives the commandant of the Coast Guard only the authority to spell out the terms and conditions for the wind project that are necessary for navigational safety. Before this change, the legislation would have granted the Massachusetts governor veto power over Cape Wind and future offshore wind projects. Gov. Romney has publicly stated he is against the Cape Wind project, largely due to its location. He was widely expected to veto the project, should that right have been granted to him.

"In this instance, the governor veto is gone and the Coast Guard is only allowed to address navigational safety concerns," said Chairman Domenici. "For all future projects, we will use the siting model we created in the energy bill. That's a sound model. 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."

Senator Bingaman said last year's federal energy bill gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to issue permits for alternative energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, but that it did not diminish the Coast Guard's authority over navigational safety, and it expressly required the Interior Department to consult with the Coast Guard before granting leases for projects like Cape Wind.

"The new language for Sec. 414 confirms the Coast Guard's role for ensuring the navigational safety of the Cape Wind project," Sen. Bingaman said. "This is an appropriate clarification to make and it ensures that Cape Wind's proposal will receive a fair and unbiased consideration on the merits."

Well, that's one more hurdle crossed for Cape Wind. I'm still not sure it will ever be built. Given the significant opposition it has recieved (however selfish, irrational or NIMBY it is), and considering the fallout that has begun to hit the rest of the wind industry due to measures proposed by Cape Wind, I'm sad to say that perhaps we ought to let Cape Wind die and focus our attention on less controversial measures.

Part of me says, bollox to that and wants to forge ahead just to spite the selfish opposition to the wind farm, but the strategic part of me wonders if that is really what is best for the development of wind power in the United States.

What do you think? Should we fight it to the end and make sure Cape Wind is built, or should we refocus our energies elsewhere?


Tom Gray said...

I support the Cape Wind project. The case for it is very strong:

- ISO New England, the company that runs the regional electricity transmission system, supports it as a means of reducing the cost of electricity.

- Global warming, global warming. See comments from Bill McKibben.

- The American Lung Association of Massachusetts supports it as a means of improving air quality.

I don't know of any reason it should not be built, except for the money and influence of the opposition. That seems like a poor reason to "cut and run."

Tom Gray
American Wind Energ, by Association

Jesse Jenkins said...

Tom, I certainly agree that the case against Cape Wind is flimsly, arbitrary and selfish. There is, more or less, no credible case against Cape Wind.

And yet, after many years, and a heck of a lot of effort, the wind project still faces strong obstacles and fallout from the debate over Cape Wind has spilled over to effect other wind projects throughout the country for the worse. [See this previous post].

I'm not necessarily convinced its time to give up on Cape Wind (we may still be able to get the wind farm built without too much more trouble).

I just wanted to raise for discussion the possibility that it may be time (now or in the near future) to lessen or cut the effort, person-power and money spent by many pro-wind groups on fighting the Cape Wind fight and 'redeploy' that effort elsewhere where it can do much more tangible good.

This may also have the extra benefit of avoiding any other unintended negative consequences spill over from the raging Cape Wind debate onto other wind development projects. I want to see Cape Wind built, but not at the expense of stalling thousands of megawatts of other wind projects in the Midwest or elsewhere.

Just something to consider...