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Alaska lawmaker joins Cape wind farm fray

WASHINGTON - Inside the Beltway, he's made his name as a champion for tapping oil resources in his own state - and for telling the federal government to butt out.

In fact, during three decades in Washington, U.S. Rep. Don Young has routinely upbraided ''outsiders'' who think they know what's good for Alaska.

But now it's Young who has inserted a backdoor amendment to an $8.7 billion Coast Guard bill that could kill the Nantucket Sound wind farm.

In the coming weeks, a conference committee of House and Senate leaders will negotiate details of the legislation that, according to sources on both sides of the issue, would directly affect Cape Wind Associates' plan to build 130 420-foot turbines on the sound.

Specifically, turbines would be banned within 1 miles of shipping and ferry lanes - a provision supporters say was driven by an analysis done by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom.

Opponents of the Cape wind farm call Young's move a logical public safety policy. Advocates call it misguided and - since it surfaced inside a closed-door conference committee - undemocratic.

But why Young?

''Everyone is calling it the Young amendment, (but) what does he care?'' said Karen Wayland, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. ''He's got to be carrying the water for someone.''

The fact is, the millions of... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
In fact, during three decades in Washington, U.S. Rep. Don Young has routinely upbraided ''outsiders'' who think they know what's good for Alaska.

But now it's Young who has inserted a backdoor amendment to an $8.7 billion Coast Guard bill that could kill the Nantucket Sound wind farm.

In the coming weeks, a conference committee of House and Senate leaders will negotiate details of the legislation that, according to sources on both sides of the issue, would directly affect Cape Wind Associates' plan to build 130 420-foot turbines on the sound.

Specifically, turbines would be banned within 1½ miles of shipping and ferry lanes - a provision supporters say was driven by an analysis done by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom.

Opponents of the Cape wind farm call Young's move a logical public safety policy. Advocates call it misguided and - since it surfaced inside a closed-door conference committee - undemocratic.

But why Young?

''Everyone is calling it the Young amendment, (but) what does he care?'' said Karen Wayland, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. ''He's got to be carrying the water for someone.''

The fact is, the millions of lobbying dollars being spent on both sides of the debate may determine whether the project lives or dies - perhaps inside a Capitol Hill back room.

Young has not stated publicly why he supports the amendment, and he refused numerous requests for an interview.

For wind farm opponents, the Alaska Republican was a logical target to affect legislation that deals with marine navigation.

As chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the 33-year congressman is one of Washington's more influential lawmakers.

Charles Vinick, CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said his group has spent considerable time meeting with the people who have a say in the Cape wind farm's fate: the Coast Guard, the Department of Interior and members of Congress.

He said since Young's committee deals with the Coast Guard, why not call him?

One of the top-paid lobbyists hired by the Alliance is Guy Martin, a former Washington counsel for the state of Alaska who describes himself as a longtime friend of Young's.

Martin, who worked in offshore leasing issues and coastal zoning, also helped win federal support for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline - a project Young calls the ''single most important achievement'' of his career.

Vinick said he called Young last year and asked for a meeting.
''He's not easy to get time with,'' Vinick said. ''He's in high demand.''

In the few moments he got with the Alaskan, Vinick stressed navigational safety. Young, a former tug boat captain, may have been sympathetic.

''He only said,'' Vinick recalled, ''this is an area where he 'knows there are risks.' ''

Capital efforts

In Washington, both sides of the Cape Wind debate are spending time and capital, whether to push the project along or kill it dead.

Through the first half of 2005, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound had paid more than $840,000 to four lobbying firms.

Cape Wind Associates, meanwhile, spent $340,000 on two lobbying shops, including the influential firm Piper Rudnick, which employs former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

For Cape Wind, much of their money has been spent defending against legislative maneuvers like Young's, said spokesman Mark Rodgers.

The developer has also invested time trying to influence the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which, for the first time, created a federal framework for leasing land on the outer continental shelf for wind farms.

For the Alliance, a well-financed group trying to kill the project, the attention has helped spur legislative efforts to hamstring the Nantucket Sound project.

Some powerful D.C. players oppose the project, including U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a Hyannisport homeowner whose office said it knows little about the Young amendment.

There's also U.S. Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican who has family on the Cape and who, in 2004, tried to insert language into a Defense bill that would have shelved the Cape Wind project.

It almost worked. ''I came within a millimeter of getting my statute of a year's moratorium through,'' Warner told a Senate committee last year.

''I won't tell you what happened in the wee hours of the morning. But one individual was able to stop it in (the House)... I'm not complaining. I've done it myself.''

Later, Warner and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and Nantucket property owner, tried to exempt certain wind farms - Cape Wind would have been one - from receiving a crucial federal tax subsidy.

Then, in the fall, Young's committee considered making any offshore wind project subject to review by the commandant of the Coast Guard.

Source: http://www.capecodonline.co...

FEB 19 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1387-alaska-lawmaker-joins-cape-wind-farm-fray
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