Rhetoric over Cape Wind project gains momentum

By Mark Micheli, Journal Staff, Oct. 14, 2002

There is no shortage of words between supporters and opponents of a proposed windmill farm off the Hyannis coast of Cape Cod. Both groups have sponsored polls that claim a slight majority of state residents support their side.

However, there are two people both sides wish would speak up on their behalf: U.S. senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry.

Although both have endorsed legislation that would require energy companies to increase their use of renewable energy, neither one has publicly embraced the Cape Cod project, which would be the country’s first offshore windmill farm. Some critics say this is inconsistent and possibly motivated by their desire not to offend their wealthy constituents who have homes in fashionable areas of Cape Cod and the Islands.

Kennedy, Kerry deny they don’t want to offend wealthy

Kennedy spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter dismisses this speculation, saying the senator is merely waiting to see the results of an environmental review before making a decision on the proposal by Cape Wind Associates LLC to place 170 aerodynamic windmills in Nantucket Sound.

“If you look at the scope of this project … you have to look at what’s important economically, environmentally, and also look at the regulatory structure that’s in place,” Cutter says. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”

Kerry spokesman Kyle Sullivan says the senator also is waiting for the environmental review to be completed, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months. “This is the first project of its kind in the U.S. There are a lot of questions remaining,” Sullivan says.

One group calls them hypocritical

However, one group that opposes renewable-energy mandates is charging Kennedy, Kerry and 10 other senators from New England and New York with being hypocritical for supporting renewable-energy mandates but not supporting renewable-energy projects in their own backyard.

“Cape Cod and this area is an extremely wealthy area in the U.S. and it’s also been determined to have very good wind resources,” says Paul Georgia, an environmental analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). “If we’re going to have mandates for renewable energy, then rich people should have to put up with windmills like everyone else. These are Sen. Kennedy’s constituents. It’s where he gets his campaign contributions.”

Supporters of the project say America needs to follow Europe’s lead in building offshore wind farms. Opponents contend that the windmill farm will be harmful to birds and fish, will look ugly and that a private company should not be allowed to profit by using pristine public resources like Nantucket Sound.

So far, Cape Wind Associates has been working with the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers and has spent about $6 million doing preliminary work to clear the way for the project. But some are calling for the federal government to take more regulatory oversight of offshore windmill farms, and legislation is being proposed that could slow or possibly even kill this project.

“If I had my druthers, yes, I wish they’d support this publicly, but I can understand we’re in the midst of an environmental-review process and they want to wait,” says Jim Gordon, the former owner of seven New England power plants and the current president of Cape Wind Associates.

Isaac Rosen, executive director of the Alliance for the Protection of Nantucket Sound, a group fighting this project, says it’s too easy to charge that the senators are remaining quiet on this proposal simply because it’s in their backyard.

“I think that they have to do what they have to do,” he says.