Finally a final EIS for Cape Wind

Today the federal Mineral Management Service released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Cape Wind. This is a long awaited breakthrough moment for the 130 turbine wind power project now all but certain to be cleared for construction in Nantucket Sound. The project has been under review for 7 years, has gone through 2 draft EIS (one for the Army Corps and one for MMS), and at the last minute it looked like the Bush administration might punt the FEIS to Obama. (We sent this letter urging MMS to move ahead.)

Here's our official press statement and my quote is at the end of this blog, but let's bask in this moment for a bit. Here almost literally on the eve of a new administration that promises to make clean energy a center piece of economic recovery, we're finally in the home stretch for our first offshore wind project. (The Secretary of the Interior has to wait 30 days before entering a record of decision based on the FEIS meaning that the Obama administration will get to give the project its final blessing.)  This is a major victory for the project, renewable energy, and ultimately the fight to save our planet from fossil fuels.

It's also a victory for citizen action. At every step in the Cape Wind process, there have been efforts to short-circuit the review and kill the project. (See this oldie but goodie from the Daily Show on these efforts.) But these have been beaten back in Massachusetts and in Washington. Look for a group press release on the UCS (now available after 2:30pm EST) for a good sampling of the range of unions and environmental groups that have fought to keep the review process moving.

In an interview reported in the Boston Globe today, MMS Director Randall Luithi says "The impacts appear to be nothing that cannot be mitigated." That was NRDC's conclusion based on the DEIS, and I look forward to reviewing the FEIS to make sure appropriate mitigation measures have been identified. Luithi also points out that Cape Wind could become "a bellwether for many offshore wind projects to come." And I certainly hope so.

But while the process for Cape Wind has been exhaustive, we need future projects to move faster while being planned based on a more comprehensive assessment of our marine ecosystems. We should be doing baseline studies and marine system mapping so that we know where wind projects should go and where they shouldn't. If we build this database now and build consensus around it, we'll get more offshore wind faster.

So with no further ado, here's my official statement on the release of FEIS:

“We are excited to finally see a first-of-its-kind, utility-scale offshore wind project powering American homes and businesses. This facility shows we can repower America, and we can start today. This project opens the door to offshore wind development in the US and is exactly the type of clean energy investment that will jumpstart our economy, create jobs and lead to energy security.

“After more than seven years of state and federal review—much longer than a traditional coal power plant is ever reviewed—Cape Wind has proven that its benefits will far outweigh its impacts. The Cape Wind Project will supply 75 percent of the energy in Cape Cod – and it will all be clean and renewable energy.

“We look forward to reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement in greater detail and working to ensure that any ocean impacts generated as a result of the facility’s construction and operation are minimized.”