THE STATE HOUSE — As U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound Wednesday — calling it “the final decision of the United States of America” — project supporters hailed the decision as a milestone in state and national renewable energy efforts, but critics of the project vowed legal battles to stop it from taking shape.
The announcement touched off a political firestorm and statements poured in after:
Sen. John Kerry: “This day was a long time in coming, but I believe the future of wind power in the Massachusetts and the United States will be stronger knowing that the process was exhaustive, and that it was allowed to work and wind its way through the vetting at all levels with public input. I have always advocated wind energy in Massachusetts and I accept and support Secretary Salazar’s judgment today that Cape Wind should go forward. This is jobs and clean energy for Massachusetts.
“Throughout this process, I’ve met and spoken with Secretary Salazar, Coast Guard officials, EPA officials, Governor Patrick and environmental leaders here in the state – and they believe Cape Wind is vetted and appropriately sited. They’ve listened carefully to all the stakeholders and I have faith in the process. The process matters immensely. This is the first siting of an offshore wind farm anywhere in the country and the first project of its size. No detail was too small to be considered, and I think it’s a benefit to know that every argument, every criticism, every worry was answered.”
Sen. Scott Brown: “I am strongly opposed to the administration’s misguided decision to move forward with Cape Wind. While I support the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy, Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization. With unemployment hovering near ten percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape’s economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area. I am also skeptical about the cost-savings and job number predictions we have heard from proponents of the project. Instead of forging a coalition and building consensus, this administration has created a deep division that will lead to fewer Massachusetts jobs and more expensive court battles. I am proud to stand with Congressman Bill Delahunt and leaders on both sides of the political aisle who share my concerns with this ill-advised plan.”
The National Resources Defense Council said the approval marked the federal government’s first for a “utility-scale U.S. offshore wind energy facility” and said the decision “paves the way for other facilities to get off the ground nationwide.” In a statement, council president Frances Beinecke said, “Cape Wind represents a significant clean energy first for America. It shows us we can repower our country, we can do it the right way, and we can start today. Renewable energy projects like these not only help fight climate change, they can create jobs and play a central role in our economic recovery.”
Massachusetts Republican Party officials released excerpts from media reports regarding campaign contributions from National Grid executives made around the same time that the company’s rate hike was approved by the state and it signed a contract with Cape Wind. “Today political convenience has trumped environmental conservation. It’s no surprise that Governor Deval Patrick would support such an imprudent decision on Cape Wind from his buddy President Obama. Instead of preserving the environmental sanctuary of the Cape Cod shoreline, Governor Patrick chose to line his campaign coffers and pay back National Grid and Cape Wind for their sweetheart deal. Governor Patrick should immediately return donations from National Grid executives,” party chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said in a statement.
The American Wind Energy Association said: “The U.S. offshore wind industry will build on the success and the lessons learned from the nearly twenty years of experience in Europe to provide clean, pollution-free, electricity along the coasts and in the Great Lakes. In fact, American manufacturers have announced plans to build factories in Europe to service the robust offshore wind industry there. With policy support in the America we can incent that new manufacturing sector to build here.”
The Conservation Law Foundation, Mass Audubon, and the Union of Concerned Scientists applauded the decision in a joint statement. The groups said the project’s nine-year review was “much longer than is typical for a traditional coal power plant” and predicted Cape Wind “could meet as much as 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands.” John Kassel, president of Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement: “Today is a turning point for New England in which we can start to turn smokestacks into wind turbines. It is fitting that Massachusetts, which has no coal or oil of its own to burn, should be first in the water with offshore wind, a carbon-free energy source which we have in abundance.”
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey: “With this historic decision, the answer to America’s energy future is blowing in the wind. The same winds that delivered the Mayflower to Massachusetts and created the Perfect Storm will now deliver a clean energy future to Massachusetts and create new jobs.”
Senate President Therese Murray: “This has been a heated debate on both sides of the issue. What became clear during this process is the Commonwealth needed a way to properly manage the state’s territorial waters and ensure a public voice and state oversight of future development projects. That is why I worked with Senator O’Leary to pass the Oceans Management Act which includes the development of an ocean management plan to enforce environmental laws and provide safeguards for the treatment of fisheries.”
LCV President Gene Karpinski and Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters Executive Director Lora Wondolowski said: “We applaud Secretary Salazar’s approval of the Cape Wind Project, an important step towards transitioning our nation to cleaner, more secure sources of energy. We have sat idle while countries in Europe have continued to reap the benefits of offshore wind development and now it is time to take advantage of clean energy sources in our own backyard, which will help make America more energy independent and curb dangerous carbon pollution. After a long process that took an exhaustive look at the environmental impacts of the Cape Wind Project, we are pleased that Secretary Salazar came to the right decision in granting its approval. Cape Wind represents a tremendous opportunity for renewable energy in the Commonwealth and will help make Massachusetts a leader in the nation as we transition to a clean energy economy.”