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Controversial Cape Wind project moves forward

Posted: 04/29/10 at 6:45 am    Updated: 04/29/10 at 1:37 pm

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CENTREVILLE, Mass. -- The winds of change blew into the Bay State on Wednesday as the Obama administration moved toward cleaner energy for Massachusetts and the nation.

The 130-turbine wind farm, the first in the country, would be located in Nantucket Sound and cover a 25-mile area off the coast of Cape Cod.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, accompanied by Gov. Deval Patrick, made the announcement Wednesday at a news conference at the State House in Boston.

"Cape Wind will be the United States' first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts while creating good jobs here in America... This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast, which I expect will come online in the years ahead as we build a new energy future for our country," he said. (Watch press conference)

Salazar estimated that the Cape Wind project would produce about 1,000 construction jobs and a maximum amount of 468 megawatts of power, which is the equivalent of a medium-sized coal power plant.  (FACT BOX: Cape Wind farm

VIEWER VOICES: What do you think about the decision to approve the Cape Wind project?

"The carbon dioxide reductions from the energy to be produced from this wind farm are the equivalent of 700,000 tons per year," said Salazar.  

Salazar also estimated that the wind farm would be able to produce enough electricity to power about three-quarters of the Cape Cod and nearby islands.

"Secretary Salazar's decision today to approve Cape Wind has launched the American offshore wind industry. It allows our nation to harness an abundant and inexhaustible clean energy source for greater energy independence, a healthier environment and green jobs," said Cape Wind President Jim Gordon in a released statement.

Gov. Patrick said he expects the wind farm construction will begin in about a year.

"It just think it's time. It will save us a lot in energy and costs," said one local.

Yet the project has been controversial. Opponents say it will tarnish Nantucket Sound's historically beautiful beaches, as well as affect the tourism and fishing industries. In Centreville, for instance, residents would be able to see the wind farm offshore.

"They're going to ruin everything there. I'm worried about the wildlife, and it's just an eyesore," said one woman.

Salazar said the federal government's decision is final. Yet, environmental groups opposed to the project said their fight isn't over, and that they plan to file for an injunction immediately.

"There's threats to the environment. There's threats to the economy. There's threats to public safety, and there's threats to tribal religious rights and the rich history of Nantucket Sound," said Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

Salazar said he is confident the wind farm project will be able to withstand any future legal challenges.

"We will follow on the notices of intent to sue we've already filed, and we will take advantage of the strong legal record that we have built over the last eight years," said Parker.

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, took a different stance.

"This means stabilized rates for ratepayers. This means clean energy. This means more jobs. What's wrong with that?" he wondered.

Breaking ranks with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who opposed the project, Gov. Patrick said the wind farm will move the country toward energy independence.  Gov. Patrick also said he's looking forward to the 1,000 jobs the project is expected to provide.

"America needs offshore wind power, and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation," he said.

Sen. Kerry (D-MA), in a released response, also lent his support to the wind farm:

"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."

The Associated Press reports opponents also argue that the power from the Cape Wind project, estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be extremely expensive.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who is against the project, released a statement following Salazar’s decision that read in part:

“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.”

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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