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The Cape Wind Offshore Wind Farm Will Protect Nantucket Sound

Kit Kennedy

Posted October 12, 2012

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Because of its many environmental benefits, the Cape Wind offshore wind power project in Nantucket Sound has won NRDC’s and many other national, regional and local environmental groups’ longstanding support. That project is cleared for take off and can create 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, jumpstarting the country’s nascent offshore wind industry.

But the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a single-issue Cape Wind opposition group that has filed some 13 obstructionist lawsuits against the project over the last 11 years is trying, through its press releases, to claim the green mantle now. The Alliance announced recently that it had filed a brief in one of its long-pending federal lawsuits to stop the project.

Usually, filing a brief is not news. But perhaps in response to a new website detailing the Alliance’s strong ties to the dirty energy industry, the Alliance this week decided to spin their two-year-old case as an “eco-lawsuit.”

There’s a rich irony there. In fact, if you’re interested in protecting Nantucket Sound, you should join NRDC, and many of our national, regional and Massachusetts allies in supporting Cape Wind. So sure are we about these clean air and public health benefits that NRDC, New England’s Conservation Law Foundation, and Mass Audubon, the Massachusetts group dedicated protecting birds and wildlife, applied for and were granted “friend of the court” status in the litigation so that we can defend Cape Wind. We’ll be filing our own brief in December.

Let’s be clear about the project’s many environmental highlights. The most important is this: the Cape Wind project can meet 75 percent of electricity demand for Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with clean, renewable power, cutting more than 130,000 cars-worth of air- and global-warming pollution. That pollution contributes not only to increasingly extreme weather in New England and the rest of the country, but also to problems such as ocean acidification and rising sea levels. These put at risk the Cape’s many birds, land animals, and ocean creatures. As Mass Audubon has written in support of Cape Wind: “Rising sea levels and severe coastal storms related to the earth’s warming flood low-lying barrier beaches and islands that serve as critical habitat for coastal birds including the federally endangered roseate tern and the federally threatened piping plover.”

Those concerned about the health of Nantucket Sound and its animal and marine inhabitants should know that the project has been held to the highest environmental standards. NRDC has participated in the federal environmental review of Cape Wind, analyzing documents and submitting extensive comments. (We’re no slouches in the wildlife protection department.) Moreover, the project has passed with flying colors environmental reviews from a host of government agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board.

Here’s another of the project’s environmental benefits, one that doubles as a jobs program: Cape Wind can ignite the nation’s expectant offshore wind industry. That industry can provide emissions-free energy, stable prices and good-paying jobs. (Cape Wind alone is projected to create between 600 and 1000 construction jobs and 150 permanent positions.) 

We respect the right of others to hold different positions on this issue but all parties need to be forthright about their motivations. We also agree with the Alliance that Nantucket Sound is a national treasure worthy of our protection. Indeed, that’s the very reason why NRDC and Massachusetts environmental groups support Cape Wind. It will help protect Nantucket Sound from the disaster of global warming.

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Marshall KeysOct 12 2012 02:58 PM

I share your distrust/dislike of the Alliance, but there are three things you need to take into acccount: .

1. The developer of Cape Wind is also simultaneously developing "dirty" power plants. He is a power plant developer, not an environmentalist.

2. This power will not be reserved for Cape and Island residents, Electricity doesn't work that way. It will be sold into the national power pool, though Cape and Island residents will bear the entire environmental burden and most of the economic burden.

3. This project can only go forward if Cape and Island residents pay substantially more than market rate for the power it generates. We already have among the most expensive electricity in the country. Since power is an open market, it is not clear to me why everyone would not choose a new power provider and pay National Grid only for delivery.

4. I believe that in Europe, the disposal costs of a project like this are built into its cost/price from the the beginning, the way the Germans do with automobiles and televisions. Who is going to pay to remove or replace the towers when their useful life (~25 years) is over?

5, Finally, owing to quirks in Massachusetts law probably dating back to before a cable connected Nantucket to the mainland, the electric company is not obliged to buy power from island windmills and solar. We cannot "spin the meter backwards" the way people in other parts of the country do, making local solar and wind uneconomical. I would think this might be a fruitful topic for your organization.

Carl BorchertOct 16 2012 07:32 PM

In response to Mr. Keys: 1) To the best of my knowledge Energy Management is not currently developing any other power plants. 2) 77.5% of Cape Wind's power has been sold into power purchase agreements with National Grid and NSTAR. The power does not go into the national power pool. It will be used here. 3) I am a National Grid customer who uses about 100-250kwh of electricity per month. My increase from Cape Wind will be about average of 35 cents more per month. The average household that uses 500kwh per month should see an increase of about $1.56 per month. This is less than a cup of coffee. 4) I don't mind bearing the environmental or visual brunt of Cape Wind. We are talking about an industry up and down the East Coast that could employ 40-50,000 people and more in the supply chain. And perhaps more importantly we don't have to go to Nigeria, Iraq or Saudi Arabia to get wind. It is here and it is abundant. I believe we should not delay any more and tap it immediately. Eleven years of this epic battle is enough. Let's build this project and start enjoying all it's benefits.

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