There's one thing the Cape Wind Project and it's nearly hysterical opponents agree on: The approval of nine state and local permits for the 130-turbine offshore wind farm by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board was not unexpected. From there, they diverge rather sharply.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has fought the farm with unbridled hostility and a big pot of money since it was first proposed in 2001, called the board's action "an unprecedented subversion of local authority." The board, said the Alliance, "is unabashedly promoting the flawed Cape Wind project that would raise electric rates and endanger our local environment, economy and public safety." Oh, and it sets "a dangerous precedent," too.
The Alliance isn't done yet; it can appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Although these permits mean that Cape Wind has cleared every state and local regulatory hurdle, it still needs some federal approvals, including a "record of decision" from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (which issued a mostly positive environmental impact statement), and sign-offs from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has said that Cape Wind is a "presumed hazard" to aviation radar, so that issue is still unresolved.
"It was a bad day for the Alliance," says Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind's spokesperson. He estimated that the wind farm could win its remaining approvals including a "Record of Decision" (which comes with a lease) from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar within 60 days.
Cape Wind has had to exhibit the patience of Job. The Siting Board's approval of its electricity connection alone involved 2,900 pages of transcript, 923 exhibits and 50,000 pages of documentary evidence. The wind farm was originally projected to start producing electricity in 2005, but now the construction phase is likely to start in late 2010, with operations commencing in 2012.
The Alliance's appeal is also part of the process. "They've been very litigious, but their legal track record is 0-8," Rodgers said. "Their arguments are, at heart, weak."
The facts can sometimes be malleable when we're talking about Cape Wind. The vehemently anti-project Cape Cod Times says "a solid majority" of Cape Codders oppose the wind farm. But Cape Wind says two independent public opinion polls have shown 86% support.
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