U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did not wear his trademark cowboy hat Wednesday at the Massachusetts State House when he announced that the Obama administration would give the green light to the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind.
But he did put on his philosopher’s cap. Salazar said he knew that people who want to keep Nantucket Sound the same will be disappointed with his decision. As a rancher from Colorado, he said he knew how powerful personal connections to a place can be.
"But I also know that our relationship with the natural world is very much alive and evolving," Salazar said. "We are still writing our history, and our lands and waters will continue to be a part of that narrative."[sidebar title="Cape Wind Related Links" align="right" width="280"]
- Among Cape Cod Locals, The Reaction Is Mixed
- Listen: Opponents Say Decision Is 'Vulnerable'
- Salazar OKs Wind Farm
- Video: Salazar News Conference
- Poll: Do You Approve?
- Map: The Proposed Site
- Reaction: Mass. Pols, Groups React
- Listen: WBUR's Cape Wind Recap
- Listen: Cape Wind President Applauds Ruling On Here & Now
- WBUR Topics: Full Coverage
Salazar hopes to move the American narrative forward by clearing the way for offshore wind energy. He said he considered all sides. He is confident his decision will stand the test of time.
"This is the final decision of the United States of America," he said.
Barring further delay, 130 wind turbines could be up and spinning and generating electricity on Nantucket Sound in two and a half years.
But Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound said the review process was flawed. Plan on a date in federal court, she said, and not just with her organization.
"There’s 10 parties that have already filed notices of intent to sue. The Aquinnah tribe has stated publicly that they will be willing to sue. There will be additional parties as well. And we will win in the court based on fact, not based on politics," Parker said.
Cape Wind's opponents lost political clout when their long-time ally Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died. Also, Massachusetts helped vote President Obama and a renewable energy agenda into the White House.
Salazar said setting policy was a big factor in his decision. Still, he said the public process was thorough and would hold up to legal challenges.
Stephen Lacey, who analyzes the wind energy sector for renewablenergyworld.com, said Wednesday's action sends a signal to the entire market that offshore wind will happen.
"They can continue to engage in some legal maneuvering," he said of Cape Wind's opponents, "but essentially this is a done deal. I don’t think the importance of the approval of this project could be overstated."
“We are still writing our history, and our lands and waters will continue to be a part of that narrative.”-- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
You could read some of that certainty in Gov. Deval Patrick’s exuberance. The Cape Wind supporter said building the first offshore wind farm in the country will lead the state to a better economic future.
"We are on our way," Patrick said. "And if we get clean energy right, the whole world will be our customer."
Jim Gordon wants to get it right. He is the developer of Cape Wind. He is the one who’s been fighting this thing for nearly a decade. He hopes that now, more people on the Cape and Islands will support him.
"Look, anytime something’s hanging out there for nine years, sometimes it becomes like a broken record. And you need some certainty and resolution," Gordon said. "People need to kind of step back after that final resolution is made, and start to rethink their positions."
Litigation from opponents is probably not Gordon’s biggest challenge anymore. Now, the billion dollar question is whether this developer can secure the financing. Gordon will have to navigate a tight credit market and negotiate a crucial deal with utilities, too.
After nine years at the starting gate, the gun has finally gone off. Now it is up to Cape Wind backers to turn a proposal into an actual wind power plant on Nantucket Sound.
This program aired on April 29, 2010.