Alaska Lawmakers Lead Effort to Shut Down Massachusetts' Cape Wind

WASHINGTON (April 7, 2006) -- House and Senate conferees of Coast Guard authorization legislation late last night agreed to a new proposal that attempts to put an end to Cape Wind, the nation's first offshore wind energy farm in Massachusetts' Nantucket Sound, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Ushered through by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the conference report currently includes language giving the governor of any adjacent state veto power over offshore wind energy projects in Nantucket Sound for any reason. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney opposes Cape Wind, despite broad support from citizens and lawmakers in the state, and would be expected to use this authority.

"Ted Stevens and Don Young are at it again," said Karen Wayland, NRDC's legislative director. "Overreaching behind closed doors to slip a controversial attack on the environment that they know couldn't get through the normal legislative process into important national security legislation. Congress should reject this scheme."

The proposed language has not passed either the House or Senate, nor had any public hearings, nor has it even been introduced in either the House or Senate.

This bid to kill Cape Wind has also drawn the opposition of Senators Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, who issued separate statements this week urging conferees to reject the proposal.

When it became apparent that there was not enough support for a broader plan that would have prohibited all offshore renewable energy projects within 1.5 miles of a shipping lane, lawmakers narrowed their scope to the real target, Cape Wind. Even the suggestion of banning renewable energy projects within 1.5 miles of a shipping lane is a stretch as offshore oil rigs can be located only 500 yards from such high-traffic areas.

"This isn't over yet," said Wayland. "We'll keep fighting to make sure that this sneaky strategy is stopped in its tracks. Rather than improving national security as the rest of the bill does, cutting off the most promising offshore wind project in the country would harm it. This won't help America break its addiction to oil and reliance on foreign sources of energy."

As the first offshore wind energy undertaking in the nation, Cape Wind would set a precedent for similar facilities that could improve air quality, public health and global warming emissions. The Cape Wind project would provide 420 megawatts of electricity from 130 emissions-free turbines. That is enough to supply 75 percent of power needed on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

By using clean energy instead of fossil fuel electricity generation, the Cape Wind project will eliminate approximately 360 tons of particulate matter, 2,400 tons of sulfur oxides, 800 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 1,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide for every year of operation. That will reduce respiratory problems and other pollution-related health effects, as well as reducing the carbon pollution that causes global warming.