Cape Wind supporters claim victory

The site of Cape Wind's 130-turbine wind farm is several miles northeast of Chappaquiddick.

The developers and supporters of a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound claimed victory Friday, following the release of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) by the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS).

MMS said the 130-turbine wind farm planned for Horseshoe Shoal would pose little threat to the environment. The average anticipated production from the proposed wind facility could provide approximately 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands, said MMS.

Now that the final statement has been issued, there is a mandatory 30-day waiting period before MMS may issue its final “record of decision” that would open the way for a lease.

Leaders of groups opposed to the wind farm called on their supporters to take to the political ramparts and contact elected officials.

In a press release, Save our Sound said MMS has “prematurely released an inadequate and misleading final report, or Final Environmental Impact Statement, for the Cape Wind industrial wind plant proposed for Nantucket Sound. MMS has released this final report at the 11th hour of the Bush Administration despite an ongoing investigation by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General regarding potential misconduct in MMS’s review of Cape Wind and despite radar interference issues, incomplete tribal and historic consultation, and lack of regulations for offshore renewable energy.”

Save Our Sound said Cape Wind must still secure approximately 20 federal state and local permits, and promised to keep up its fight against the development. Its spokesmen urged supporters to declare their opposition to Cape Wind and their support “for responsibly-sited, cost-effective renewable energy.”

For Cape Wind developers, the decision provided a glimpse of light at the end of a tunnel they entered in 2001. “This report validates the project will create new jobs, increase energy independence and fight global warming while being a good neighbor to the ecosystem of Nantucket Sound,” said the project’s developer, Jim Gordon, in a press release. “Massachusetts is one major step closer to becoming home to America’s first offshore wind farm and becoming a global leader in the production of offshore renewable energy.”

Cape Wind officials said they expect to complete the permitting process by March 2009.

Cape Wind’s progress may well hinge on the support it receives from the new administration of President Barack Obama. Although President Obama has made alternative energy a cornerstone of his plan to revive the economy, support for Cape Wind would put him at odds with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Cape Wind project and one of his earliest supporters.

Senator Kennedy told the Washington Post in a report published January 17, “I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained. By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation.”

According to the MMS fact sheet on Cape Wind:

  • The proposal consists of 130, 3.6 megawatt wind turbine generators with the capacity to produce about 468 megawatts. The average anticipated production from the proposed wind facility could provide approximately 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts.
  • Analysis finds impacts are expected to be mostly negligible or minor; some moderate impacts were found.
  • The Final EIS addresses all concerns relating to navigation, transportation, and aviation traffic and facilities. The U.S. Coast Guard is a cooperating agency with regard to maritime navigation and safety, and the Final EIS includes the Coast Guard’s terms and conditions to ensure safe vessel operations in and around the wind facility.
  • MMS received over 42,000 comments throughout the public comment period on the draft EIS. MMS fully considered all oral and written comments received when preparing the final EIS and incorporated responses to comments into the final EIS document.
  • By law, once a final EIS is issued, there is a mandatory 30-day waiting period before an agency may issue its Record of Decision (ROD) on a proposed action. When the MMS issues its ROD, there will be a clearly stated decision to either issue a lease or not issue a lease for the proposed project. If a lease is issued, it will include all mandatory stipulations, mitigations, and terms and conditions to ensure that all construction, operation, and eventual decommissioning activities occur in an environmentally and humanly safe manner.