Saturday, April 08, 2006

Committee Acts to Doom New England Wind Farm

The New York Times
Committee Acts to Doom New England Wind Farm

A Senate-House conference committee has approved a measure that would effectively kill a proposal for the first large offshore wind farm in the United States, in Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod, Mass.

The measure, an amendment to a Coast Guard budget bill, gives the governor of "the adjacent state," Massachusetts, veto power over any wind farm in the sound. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, opposes the wind farm, and most of the candidates running to replace him in the election for governor this fall have also come out against it, as have most of the state's prominent politicians.

The budget bill now goes to the full Congress, and members are expected to consider it after their recess.

Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, the private company that proposed the wind farm, said the language that would kill it was inserted into the measure, without hearings or other public discussion, in an "egregious abuse" of the legislative process.

"By arbitrarily legislating a new barrier on a single project, solely because of local opposition, this provision will impede the development of offshore renewable energy throughout the country," Mr. Gordon said in a statement.

But Charles Vinick, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization formed to fight the project, said that the part of the sound chosen for the installation was unique in that it is federal water surrounded by state waters.

The language inserted in the bill may look "political," Mr. Vinick said, but "people were paying attention to the fact that Nantucket Sound has some unique features."

The installation would comprise 130 turbines in a grid that would occupy 24 square miles of the sound. Each tower, with its turbines and blades, would rise 420 feet above the water. Cape Wind said the project would produce three-quarters of the electricity now used on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

The proposal won the support of many environmental groups and lawmakers.

But many Massachusetts politicians of both parties have long objected to the proposal, saying Nantucket Sound, a major attraction for the region's tourism-based economy, is a poor site for so large an industrial installation. Others argued that nothing so elaborate should be built in federal waters until the government had established a way to regulate them.