Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was flanked by supporters of the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the proposed massive wind energy project in Nantucket Sound when he announced approval of the nation’s first large-scale wind-power development at an April 19 press conference.
But just as notable was the absence of certain people, said Audra Parker, the executive director of Alliance to Save Nantucket Sound, the non profit umbrella organization for dozens of organizations, elected officials, groups and individuals that oppose the Cape Wind project.
“The Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” Salazar said in his announcement, which he made at the Charlestown Navy Yard overlooking Boston Harbor, the USS Constitution and the city’s skyline. “By signing the Construction and Operations Plan today, we are even closer toward ushering in our nation’s first offshore wind energy facility while creating jobs.”
But Parker begged to differ.
“Secretary Salazar spoke today of a partnership between the government and Cape Wind,” she said. “But more significant was who did not stand with the Secretary today: the Indian Tribes whose rights continue to be trampled by the Obama Administration, the fishermen whose livelihoods continue to be put at risk, the environmental groups whose concerns continue to be ignored, and the utility companies who continue to refuse to purchase the remaining half of Cape Wind’s expensive power.”
The approval was issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), formerly known as the Minerals Management Service. BOEMRE approval is required before construction may begin on the wind turbine energy generation factory planned for Horseshoe Shoal in the shallow waters of Nantucket Sound triangulated by Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
“After a thorough review of environmental impacts, we are confident that this offshore commercial wind project—the first in the nation—can move forward,” said BOEMRE director Michael R. Bromwich. “This will accelerate interest in the renewable energy sector generally and the offshore wind sector specifically, and spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure.”
Several elected officials oppose the project but some of those who support it, including Governor Deval Patrick, attended the press conference with Salazar.
“With today’s announcement by Secretary Salazar, we are one step closer to benefiting from the clean energy, green jobs and long-term economic benefits that will result from creating the nation’s first offshore wind farm,” Patrick said. “States up and down the East Coast are now looking to Massachusetts with envy as we launch this brand new American industry.”
However the project has numerous detractors. Massachusetts businesses have said they would lose thousands of jobs as a result of the higher electric cost burden of Cape Wind, and Massachusetts electric ratepayers have loudly opposed the exorbitant cost of Cape Wind when other renewable energy is available at a fraction of the cost, Parker said.
As the final federal agency action, Interior’s approval “ignites the multiple lawsuits” that have already been filed, Parker said. The project is the subject of 11 separate lawsuits and appeals brought by a coalition of environmental groups, tribal entities, municipalities, commercial fishermen, Massachusetts businesses and others. Four suits at the state level challenge the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ approval of the overpriced contract between Cape Wind and National Grid. Four at the federal level challenge the Department of the Interior, two are directed at the Federal Aviation Administration, and an appeal of the air permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency has been filed and must be settled for Cape Wind to begin construction.