Wind Farm No Threat to Cape Cod, Report Says

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 17, 2009

A plan to build a $1.2 billion, privately run wind farm off the Cape Cod shore cleared a major hurdle yesterday when the Interior Department deemed it environmentally safe.

The 800-page report by Interior's Minerals Management Service said the 24 square-mile wind farm in Nantucket Sound would pose little or no threat to wildlife and fish. Barring any further objections from lawmakers, a final "record of decision" for the project will be issued in 30 days.

An elated Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, the project's developer, said Massachusetts was "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."

Randall B. Luthi, the director of Interior's Minerals Management Service, said the final decision would come from President-elect Barack Obama's administration. "It is up to them to decide," he said.

The project, which has been the subject of a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, could present Obama with a sticky political problem early on.

Obama has made alternative energy a cornerstone of his plan to revive the economy, and he reiterated that stance yesterday with a visit to an Ohio factory that makes parts for wind turbines. But one of his closest friends in Congress, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Cape Wind project.

"I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained," Kennedy said in a statement. "By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation."

Another Obama political ally, Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D), has strongly supported the project, and Cape Wind officials said they were "very encouraged" by comments that Obama made yesterday about wind energy.

Cape Wind has drawn fierce debate since it was proposed in 2001.

The 130-turbine facility would be built on Horseshoe Shoal, about nine miles from Martha's Vineyard. Connected to the Northeast power grid by cables buried under the ocean floor, the facility would produce as much as 468 megawatts, or about 75 percent of the electricity demand for all of Cape Cod, the Vineyard and Nantucket.

Environmentalists have been split on the plan, enticed by the prospect of green energy but wary of a firm profiting from a commercial enterprise built in public waters.

Glenn Wattley, head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said federal officials were rushing the approval. "It's like they're cramming this thing in before the Bush administration leaves town, before all of these issues are appropriately looked at," he said.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company