Cape Cod Times: “Cape Wind sees its demise after 16-year battle over Nantucket Sound project”
By Mary Ann Bragg, December 31, 2017 –
HYANNIS — As three new offshore wind energy companies began to establish a presence on the Cape and Islands this year, the often-maligned Cape Wind project ended Dec. 1 with the developer relinquishing a federal lease for 46 square miles in Nantucket Sound. The early end to the lease came after a regulatory, legal and political battle that lasted 16 years, effectively blocking the 130 wind turbines Cape Wind Associates envisioned on the horizon off Cape Cod.
“We understand that people had a fear of the unknown, and a few of new things,” said Jim Gordon, president of Energy Management Inc. and Cape Wind Associates LLC. “But what we thought was that the benefits of this project would be so overwhelming.”
As they planned the Cape Wind project, Gordon said he and his team were looking at the environmental wrongs that a commercial wind farm could right, such as air pollution from coal-fired power plants and the impending impacts of climate change with coastal erosion. If Cape Wind had been constructed, the project was to provide 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands.
For opponents, though, an industrial-size wind farm in shallow waters between the Cape and the Islands seemed like a deep wound.
“It was protected by the Cape and Islands, and the winds were strong, so they said, ‘Oh, this is great. We’ll make a lot of money here. It’s going to minimize our costs and maximize our profit,’” said Audra Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a primary opponent to Cape Wind.
The Cape Wind developers didn’t care about fishermen, tribes, ferry operators or any others who might have had a stake in their plan, Parker said.
“It was not environmentally benign,” she said. “It was positioned as ‘green is good’ and ‘wind is free’ so we should embrace this project. Well, the devil was in the details.”
Cape Wind Associates proposed the $2.6 billion project to federal officials in 2001, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a draft environmental impact statement in 2004. In April 2010, the U.S. Department of Interior announced a decision to select Horseshoe Shoal as the preferred alternative in the final environmental impact statement. Later that same year, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease to Cape Wind, and the BOEM would eventually approve a construction and operations plan, an avian and bat monitoring plan and most other planning and design requirements.
At the same time, the opposition to Cape Wind was gaining ground with legal appeals, and local and national support including members of the Kennedy family, which maintains a compound in Hyannisport. In late 2014, Cape Wind Associates told utility companies contracted to buy the wind energy that it still needed to consolidate financing due to unforeseen circumstances. By early 2015, the utility companies had ended their contracts with Cape Wind.
“That project was a boondoggle. I’m glad to see it go,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, in 2015. “It was going to enrich a few people and impoverish many people with its ill winds.”
But Gordon pointed to the “unlimited checkbook” of opponents, which included Alliance board member and Osterville billionaire William Koch, whose wealth is amassed in oil and investments. “They appealed, took out every regulatory decision, every judicial decision that we got, they appealed it,” Gordon said. “Certain permits had a shelf life, some as short as 18 months. We had to litigate the Federal Aviation Administration permit three times and we won it.”
Cape Wind Associates asked the BOEM in 2015 for a two-year suspension of its lease. Around that time, Gordon was hoping that he might be able to bid in the coming few years for offshore wind power contracts required in 2016 state legislation. The company was excluded from that bidding opportunity, Gordon said.
On Dec. 20, under the 2016 state legislation, Revolution Wind, Vineyard Wind and Bay State Wind submitted bids to sell wind energy to the state’s utility companies, to be generated from turbines on leased federal lands 12 to 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
Parker contends the defeat of Cape Wind was not a win for wealthy homeowners or fossil fuel-funded interests. “I get notes from people, an elderly woman who sends $15 and says, ‘I wish I could do more but I’m on a fixed income. I don’t want to leave this earth knowing that Nantucket Sound is desecrated.’”
Reprinted via Cape Cod Times, which is not affiliated with the Alliance.