Feds Keep Stiff Upper Lip, Approve Cape Wind

April 28th, 2010 - posted by Daniel Coffin

Nine years, 8000+ pages of study, some $70 million dollars spent, two wars, and a remarkably profitable Al Gore documentary later, the Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Cape Wind project today. On the heels of possibly the largest and costliest oil spill disaster in American history, those who’ve been working for Cape Wind’s approval found double-vindication. For them issue is clear: there’s two ways to produce energy offshore, one that causes visual pollution with minimal environmental impacts and one with the potential to devastate our oceans, air and ionosphere.

According to opponents of Cape Wind, however, the decision was politically driven. The feds have been paying plenty of lip service to the various opponents for years (fishermen, business owners, two local tribes, town representatives, bird enthusiasts and beyond), holding hearings and stakeholder meetings, promising they would weigh all of the impacts and assuring everyone’s interest would be considered. But when the final environmental impact statement was released in January 2009, they stood united in disgust, aghast that the findings of the Interior Department seemed to simply ignore their claims.

Over the last year, the Interior Department has been hard at work convincing the press and the public that they did indeed consider everything, they performed a rigorous scientific impact study, and they stand by their decision. The culmination of this recent posturing, which you can read and watch here, was when Sec. Ken Salazar made a much-ballyhooed trip to Cape Cod to meet with the two local Wampanoag tribes of Mashpee and Aquinah and also to tour the project site, binoculars and all. Of course, there will be mitigation in the form of payments to affected parties and minor alterations to the project itself, but looking at Record of Decision released today, it’s hard not to define clear winners and losers.

The past several weeks getting to this point have been harrying for the production team. Anytime Salazar spoke about Cape Wind’s pending decision we would walk away more confused than before. He went out of his way to meet with all the stakeholders and even participated in sacred tribal rituals. Then, he spoke of the profound spiritual importance of Nantucket Sound, while in the same sentence explaining the importance of offshore wind for national security. In retrospect, when the Interior Secretary invokes national security, we should’ve known his decision, but leading up to today, we had no idea. His press secretary was tight-lipped, and with each “leak” we found – first expecting an Earth Day announcement (which meant approval), then thinking it would be a late Friday press release (meaning disapproval) – we found ourselves more anxious and less certain, arguing amongst ourselves in a black box.

Well it’s all over now…just kidding! Cape Wind has plenty of hurdles left, and we hear from Audra Parker of the Alliance that there’s at least ten groups, including towns and the tribes, which are preparing to file federal lawsuits seeking an injunction to prevent construction, which the state, feds and Cape Wind all say could begin by the end of the year. We’ve heard arguments on both sides that are equally dismissive or assured of the legal challenge, so all we can do is keep the cameras rolling, which we’re doing.

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