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Delegation divided over Cape Wind

The Senate might vote next week on a bill that could doom the wind energy project planned for Nantucket Sound.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Rep. James Langevin say they oppose a bill pending in Congress that would probably kill the Cape Wind offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, however, supports the measure, his office said, and sides with his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, in opposing the Cape Wind project.

Sen. Jack Reed has not taken a position on the legislation or on the wind farm project itself, his office said.

Rhode Island's congressional delegation has been mostly quiet about the massive project that has been proposed by Boston-based Cape Wind Associates.

But the four elected officials are expected to vote on a bill that, if passed, would probably scuttle the $100-million wind farm. The Senate could vote as early as next week.

At issue is a Coast Guard financing bill that, for reasons not entirely clear, singles out the Cape Wind energy project off Cape Cod for extra scrutiny.

An amendment to the bill gives the governor of Massachusetts the power to veto any wind energy project in Nantucket Sound. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been a vocal opponent of the Cape Wind project.

The amendment emerged this month from a House-Senate conference committee, which... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Rep. James Langevin say they oppose a bill pending in Congress that would probably kill the Cape Wind offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, however, supports the measure, his office said, and sides with his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, in opposing the Cape Wind project.

Sen. Jack Reed has not taken a position on the legislation or on the wind farm project itself, his office said.

Rhode Island's congressional delegation has been mostly quiet about the massive project that has been proposed by Boston-based Cape Wind Associates.

But the four elected officials are expected to vote on a bill that, if passed, would probably scuttle the $100-million wind farm. The Senate could vote as early as next week.

At issue is a Coast Guard financing bill that, for reasons not entirely clear, singles out the Cape Wind energy project off Cape Cod for extra scrutiny.

An amendment to the bill gives the governor of Massachusetts the power to veto any wind energy project in Nantucket Sound. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been a vocal opponent of the Cape Wind project.

The amendment emerged this month from a House-Senate conference committee, which was supposed to reconcile differences between two versions of the bill.

The project had been successfully progressing through state and federal regulatory examinations and public hearings since it was first proposed about five years ago. But it has drawn opposition from several powerful legislators, including Senator Kennedy, and a well-funded opposition group, who don't want the waters of Nantucket Sound disturbed by giant wind turbines.

Cape Wind Associates has proposed building a 130-unit wind farm in Nantucket Sound, capable of producing up to 420 megawatts of electricity. Power would be produced by turbines that are, including blades, 417 feet high. The developers have said that average winds would provide enough electricity for the needs of three-quarters of Cape Cod and nearby islands.

Of Rhode Island's four congressional delegates, Chafee has been the most vocal opponent of efforts to include the Cape Wind amendment in the Coast Guard bill.

In an interview yesterday, he criticized the process by which the language was added to the Coast Guard bill.

"It's just not the way we do business," Chafee said. "It bypasses the normal hearing process."

He said that a handful of legislators have raised concerns that the placement of the wind turbines could interfere with shipping. But they have avoided a public airing of those concerns by inserting the Cape Wind amendment in the Coast Guard bill.

"This is a significant accusation that this wind farm would interfere with shipping. Let's have some hearings on that. There've been no hearings. There's just some Congresspeople saying it will, just some conferees who have never been on Nantucket Sound.

"It shouldn't be in the Coast Guard authorization bill," he added. "It should be in an energy bill, any discussion of the Cape Wind project. It is abnormal."

Chafee said he has been talking with some of his Senate colleagues to urge them to vote down the Coast Guard bill. "We'll see if we can get the votes to stop it and send them back to conference and take out this provision," he said.

Rep. James Langevin was also critical of the Cape Wind amendment, according to his press secretary, Joy Fox.

Langevin was not available for an interview yesterday, she said.

"He finds that language to be very unfortunate and only creates new hurdles for the project and any project like it in the future," Fox said.

"He's written to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to voice his opposition to the language that would block offshore wind farm development," she said.

Asked whether that provision would be enough to cause Langevin to vote against the Coast Guard bill, Fox said she didn't know, as he has not seen the final bill.

Representative Kennedy issued a statement yesterday, taking his first public position on the Cape Wind project.

Although he is a "staunch supporter" of alternative energy sources, Kennedy said he has "major concerns" over the proposal by Cape Wind.

"Much like the LNG proposals for Providence and Fall River, I believe there are many unanswered questions including the overall impact on local communities, safety, commerce and environmental and navigational concerns," Kennedy said.

"In a situation such as this, I believe local elected leaders have the best understanding of the impact this has on their communities. For that reason, I do support the governor taking an active role in the approval process. We cannot go about the siting of these facilities in a piecemeal fashion where businesses have the power to run roughshod over the interests of the local communities and consumers."

The Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport on the Cape overlooks Nantucket Sound.

Reed's office had the least to say about Cape Wind or the amendment. His press secretary, Regan Lachapelle, said the senator was not available yesterday for an interview.

"We are waiting to see what happens in the House," Lachapelle said. "I know it's something he's been looking at. He's still examining both sides of the issue."

tbarmann@projo.com / (401) 277-7369



Source: http://www.projo.com/busine...

APR 29 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2356-delegation-divided-over-cape-wind
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