Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Politics of Cape Wind - Part 2

The proposal by entrepreneur/businessman Jim Gordon to construct 130 wind turbines in federal waters off the coast of Cape Cod has turned into one of the fiercest political battles Massachusetts has ever witnessed. Cape Wind, proposed at a time when the state had just restructured its electric utility industry and was searching for new sources of electricity to meet growing demand, has been opposed at its inception by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, Congressman William Delahunt, Governor Mitt Romney and Attorney General Tom Riley. The Cape Cod Times, the Cape's daily newspaper, has taken an editorial stance against the project. Their opposition has been relentless resulting in close to 100 articles, editorials, and "occasional pieces" railing against the project and supporting the efforts of the organized opposition. Unfortunately, the opposition's broadsides have, on occasion, been carelessly misleading not only about Cape Wind, but wind energy in general.

Thus far, the project has survived its formidable political and editorial assaults. It also emerged favorably from one of the most thorough environmental reviews any project proposed in the Commonwealth has ever received (the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers weighed in at over 4,000 pages). Cape Wind has also enjoyed strong support from environmental organizations, grassroots groups (both on and off Cape Cod) and newspapers like the Boston Globe and Providence Journal who view the proposed wind farm as an important demonstration of how we can simultaneously meet our energy needs and address the most serious problem humanity has ever faced: climate change.

Enter Deval Patrick. Last Tuesday Patrick became Massachusetts' first African American governor (and only the second elected governor in the history of the U.S.) Patrick is a strong supporter of the Cape Wind project. In fact, it was a center point of his campaign. His victory in last Tuesday's election was resounding.

Nationally, the Democrats won control of the House and Senate last Tuesday and that will clearly translate into increased political leverage for Senator Kennedy and Congressman Delahunt, who continue to oppose Cape Wind. Thus the stage is set upon which an interesting, high-stakes political drama will continue to unfold. Meanwhile, the Minerals Management Service of the U.S Department of Interior is working to wrap-up the federal review of the Cape Wind proposal.

Next spring, be on the lookout for
"Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for America's Energy Future on Nantucket Sound" by Wendy Williams and Bob Whitcomb. I assure you it is an account of the Cape Wind battle you will definitely want to read. (GW)

Wind farm stance didn't hurt Patrick

By David Schoetz
Cape Cod Times
November 12, 2006

HYANNIS - Throughout the campaign, Gov.-elect Deval Patrick was a friend to Cape Wind.

Patrick told Bay State voters he looked out at Nantucket Sound from Craigville Beach. He assured them that he listened to experts on all sides of the issue before taking what some called a political risk.

He said he studied the project's 4,000-page draft environmental impact statement and chided Republican opponent Kerry Healey for parroting Gov. Mitt Romney's opposition, which he called politics as usual.

To Patrick, the 130-turbine offshore wind farm symbolized exactly the type of economy he wanted to build if elected. Last Tuesday, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly gave him his shot.

While it's unclear how much Patrick's support for Cape Wind may have helped his candidacy, it certainly didn't hurt. Even in some of the more conservative Cape towns facing the Sound, Patrick lost by slim margins. On the islands, he cleaned up.

A Patrick spokesman Friday said the governor-elect stands by his position on the offshore project, and ''will weigh in with appropriate authorities'' when necessary. But a Patrick win doesn't assure the turbines will spin any time soon.

Before Healey even conceded on election night, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound - the well-funded group trying to kill the project - was circulating a press release titled ''A Victory in Massachusetts for Deval Patrick Does Not Mean a Victory for Cape Wind.''

It was a not-so-subtle reminder that though state leaders play a role in the project's multi-agency permitting process, the project would be sited in federal waters with the U.S. Department of Interior leading the review.

Patrick that night received a rousing introduction from fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, the most high-profile Cape Wind opponent.

In the newly-Democratic controlled House and Senate, Kennedy, a Hyannisport resident, along with fellow wind farm opponent U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., will likely be better positioned to block the project than they were before.

Patrick, who has met with and received campaign contributions from Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon, distinguished his opinion from Kennedy's along the trail.

''Where we differ is that he thinks we should have a regulatory framework in place before any projects proceed,'' Patrick said in February. ''I think that we have, in fact, built that regulatory framework over the course of review of this project.''

At an October meeting with the Cape Cod Times editorial board, Kennedy reaffirmed his opposition to the project and said he would talk to Patrick about Cape Wind after the election.

''I give him enough credit that he made a decision and he's going to maintain that position during the course of the campaign,'' Kennedy said. ''I think the question is whether afterward, when you have some time to go over it and spend time going through this kind of thing in detail.''

The next week, appearing with Kennedy in Hyannis, Patrick stuck by his wind farm position and the political heavyweight campaigning for him. ''We both believe in a politics that says you don't have to agree on everything before you can work together on anything,'' Patrick said.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound met with Patrick early in his campaign. Obviously, the group's pitch didn't stick. But Charles Vinick, the Alliance president, said he's eager to meet with Patrick again.

''Clearly, we must bring before his administration the concerns we've raised for public safety, the concerns that fishermen have raised,'' Vinick said, adding that in his mind, a caveat to Patrick's support has always been that the state must get the wind farm ''right.'' To the Alliance, that's an impossibility.

But Gordon and other Cape Wind supporters were in Boston Tuesday night to celebrate the Patrick victory.

Romney repeatedly said that he would do anything in his power to stop Cape Wind. He lobbied against the project in Washington, and when an amendment tucked into federal legislation nearly gave him veto power over the proposal, Romney said he was ready to use it.

While Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers acknowledged the state's limited role in the review, he said that under Romney's leadership, state officials working on the project had to be careful of the decisions they made. Under Patrick's leadership, he said, that won't be the case.

''The professionals in the state agencies will not have to fear for retribution if they make a decision that would move the project closer to approval,'' Rodgers said.

As for Kennedy trying to dissuade Patrick, Rodgers said Cape Wind wasn't concerned.

''With all due respect to the senior senator, I think Deval Patrick has heard that pitch before,'' Rodgers said. ''I think he respects where the senior senator comes from on this and they happen to disagree.''

Click here to read the entire Cape Cod Times article.


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