Wind farm madness

(Thanks to Adam for allowing me to guest blog here. --- Deirdre Fulton)

For four years, the debate over the nation's first proposed offshore wind farm has ebbed and flowed, so to speak. Last week, as news spread that Alaska's only representative, Congressman Don Young, was quietly trying to kill the project, things once again got heated.

Young, it seems, proposed an amendment to a Coast Guard re-authorization bill, which had already reached a small, closed-door, congressional conference committee. Citing safety concerns, Young's amendment seeks to ban offshore wind projects that lie within 1.5 miles of a navigational channel (which Cape Wind's turbines would). Representatives of Cape Wind, and Clean Power Now, the grassroots organization that supports the project, were scared stiff that after passing several state and federal tests, their wind farm would be killed through a back door maneuver.

There was certainly fishy business going on behind the scenes. Washington lobbyist Guy Martin, for example, has ties both to Young, and to wind-farm opponent organization the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Young refused to meet with Cape Wind. And it remained unclear whether or not anti-wind-farm senator Edward Kennedy (who also opposes the Alaskan oil-drilling proposal that Young supports) was connected in any way to the amendment.

If the amendment passed, "that would send a very bad signal about how the cause of reform is proceeding in Washington, DC," Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rogers said last week.

Clean Power Now urged its supporters to contact key senators Ted Stevens (R-AL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME): "Both have stated support for this project, but we cannot take that for granted. Here is where you can help. We need you to call or fax letters to Senators Snowe and Stevens to urge them to vote against this amendment," Clean Power Now said in an email.

That strategy --- or at least common sense --- may have worked, but not as well as Cape Wind would have hoped.

This afternoon, rumors were circulating that Young and Stevens worked out a compromise, one that would make the amendment apply to the Cape Wind project only. Good news for the future, bad news for right now.

Meanwhile, wind-farm opponent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. withdrew his support for the amendment in a letter to the senators and representatives on the committee, according to the Environment and Energy Daily trade publication.

The site is subscription only, but here's Kennedy's letter, cut and pasted:

Enviro attorney Kennedy opposes Rep. Young's offshore wind amendment

Ben Geman, E&ENews PM senior reporter

Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is urging lawmakers to block Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) plan to place new limits on offshore wind power, despite his personal opposition to the planned 130-turbine Cape Wind development proposed for Nantucket Sound.

Young is attempting to add an amendment to legislation authorizing Coast Guard programs, which is now before a House-Senate conference committee, that would bar wind facilities within 1.5 nautical miles of shipping and ferry lanes. The restriction would capture the Cape Wind project.

Kennedy, in a Feb. 24 letter to House and Senate lawmakers negotiating a final Coast Guard bill, says the amendment would place an "arbitrary limit" on offshore wind projects.

"This provision would foreclose or severely limit the potential for development of appropriate offshore wind facilities in the United States," Kennedy wrote in a letter to the chairmen and ranking Democrats of the House and Senate committees negotiating the $8.7 billion Coast Guard programs bill. Young chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Kennedy also said it is "simply not good government" to try and slip in the provision that was not debated in either chamber. Kennedy has written that he supports offshore wind power but believes the Cape Wind plan is inappropriately sited. Kennedy's uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), is also a key opponent of the project.

An environmentalist applauded the new letter. "We are delighted to see that someone opposed to the Cape Wind project specifically recognizes that the Young amendment is misguided and would be devastating for offshore wind across the board," said Sue Reid, staff attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, a New England-based environmental group that backs the Cape Wind project. Cape Wind could be the nation's first major offshore wind project.

(Adam, thanks again.)

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Talking Politics Archives