Markey Lets Cape Wind Out of the Bottle

November 10th, 2009 - posted by Daniel Coffin

As you may have noticed, since Obama’s visit to Martha’s Vineyard at the end of the summer, Cape Wind has been hitting the national press a couple times a week. Even as the heat of the historic Congressional battle over healthcare is cranking up, Cape Wind is making it onto the New York Times editorial page and eliciting pointed British rhetoric in the Economist. Most of the recent attention is focused on the appeal from the local Wampanoag tribes to make Nantucket Sound a historic sanctuary, which would effectively stop the project and likely create a host of other commercial restrictions for the water body. The tribes have largely been sidelined in the permitting process and certainly deserve fair consideration, but I doubt that alone is the cause of all the recent press for Cape Wind.

I think what we’re seeing is a rapid ratcheting up of the emerging environmental/energy lobby, which has long pointed to Cape Wind as a bellwether for the offshore wind industry in America. In our own experiences at conferences held by offshore wind industry groups we’ve heard Cape Wind described as everything from a red herring to the holy grail, but this is a new meme – the national press corps hanging Cape Wind around the neck of climate change legislation. It’s been about a month now, and things are starting to get shook up.

The last we heard about the climate change bill was back in June when the House passed the Markey-Waxman bill by seven votes under duress from Speaker Pelosi to get the bill out of the House before the even more contentious healthcare debate was on their plates. The bill certainly has its flaws, the most glaring of which is the carbon trading portion, which is already being blamed for the next great financial bubble, but the real work is to be done at the end of this year in the Senate.

A couple of weeks ago President Obama stopped by MIT to start hitting the talking points, and many took his choice of location – MIT is a frequent battlefield for Cape Wind – as an indication he was finally going to tip his hand on the issue. No such luck, but it did raise the spectre of Cape Wind (intentional or not), as it’s the only issue all of us locals could talk about in the context of renewable energy, aside from the wicked smaht researchers at MIT doing crazy things with algae and batteries.

Following the President’s visit, with Cape Wind lurking in the subtext, and perhaps unfettered by the ghost of Ted Kennedy, Rep. Markey surprised us all yesterday when it was revealed he wrote a letter to Secretary Salazar pushing for approval of Cape Wind over the complaints of the Wampanoags. How is it surprising that Markey, author of the House climate change bill, supports Cape Wind, you ask? Markey has been a fun character in the Cape Wind saga for years now, and has been cited as the most stubborn waffler on the issue. He was the target of petitions, protests and radio ads, but he never waivered in his non-position, despite his key role in shaping this great country’s energy future. To put it another way, there may have been some champagne uncorked over at Clean Power Now and the IBEW.

We’ll have to wait see what happens next, but don’t hold your breath – this could still take awhile to unravel.

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