Cape Wind and Much More

Bill Opalka | Apr 28, 2010

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the final approval of the Cape Wind offshore project with as much of an eye on the future as he had in reviewing the record of the past nine years.

"With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future, ushering in America's first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region," he said.

In his news conference announcing the approval of the 130 turbines off Cape Cod, Salazar noted that getting the process wrong would impair offshore wind's future "all up and down the Atlantic coast." To me, that means not just cultural and environmental sensitivity to opposing groups but making sure a coherent process was laid out for this project and those in the future.

My take on Salazar's concerns is whether his decision is "reversible," which would set back offshore wind development up and down the entire East Coast.

The importance of the decision was not lost on other entities with an interest in their own projects. Within hours, the state of Delaware and the Long Island Power Authority , both entities that have been trying to develop offshore wind resources for years, issued their own statements lauding the decision.

According to the Interior Department, projects along the northeast coast in several states are positioned to tap some of the 1 million megawatts of offshore Atlantic wind energy potential.

Project opponents had delayed, but failed to stop the project. And even the objections by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which were taken seriously by the historic review commissions and had the potential to upset the whole project, always seemed to have a "late to the party" feel to them.

As Cape Wind founder Jim Gordon pointed out, the nine-year process involved 17 state and federal agencies and countless hearings, so it's hard to see how the project approval was rushed.

It's hard for me to imagine that a process can take that long, and with well-heeled and implacable adversaries, including a former governor, could show that somehow "the fix was in" all along. I'm sure some will disagree.

A promised court fight is looming, with the final resolution months or years away.

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