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Salazar vows decision on Cape Wind

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged yesterday that he would decide whether to approve the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm within three months. After a series of meetings on the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound, Salazar said he would issue a decision by April if the project developer and opponents of the wind farm could not reach a compromise before March 1.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged yesterday that he would decide whether to approve the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm within three months.

After a series of meetings on the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound, Salazar said he would issue a decision by April if the project developer and opponents of the wind farm could not reach a compromise before March 1.

"That will be the final decision for the department with respect to the Cape Wind application," he said during a press conference after the meetings.

Calling the nearly decade-long review of Cape Wind a "bad process" for everyone involved, Salazar said certainty was now required. U.S. Minerals Management Service - a division of the Interior Department - is the lead federal agency to review Cape Wind, leaving the final decision on permitting the project in Salazar's hands.

In his decision, Salazar said he would balance "two fundamental national priorities:" the need to move forward quickly on the development of renewable energy and the need to preserve America's history.

Tribes voice concerns

The meetings, hosted by Salazar at the federal agency's Washington, D.C.,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged yesterday that he would decide whether to approve the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm within three months.

After a series of meetings on the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound, Salazar said he would issue a decision by April if the project developer and opponents of the wind farm could not reach a compromise before March 1.

"That will be the final decision for the department with respect to the Cape Wind application," he said during a press conference after the meetings.

Calling the nearly decade-long review of Cape Wind a "bad process" for everyone involved, Salazar said certainty was now required. U.S. Minerals Management Service - a division of the Interior Department - is the lead federal agency to review Cape Wind, leaving the final decision on permitting the project in Salazar's hands.

In his decision, Salazar said he would balance "two fundamental national priorities:" the need to move forward quickly on the development of renewable energy and the need to preserve America's history.

Tribes voice concerns

The meetings, hosted by Salazar at the federal agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters, spurred a flurry of spin on both sides of the heated debate but no sign of an agreement that Salazar said would be one way to conclude a review of the project's effects on historic sites and local Indian tribes.

Salazar and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk first met with members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). The tribes have argued that the Sound contains important archeological sites and is crucial to their religious practices. That contention is bolstered by the recent finding of the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Park Service that the Sound is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Following the meeting with the tribes, Salazar met with more than two dozen representatives from local and state governments, regional planners, and opponents and proponents of Cape Wind. During the closed-door meeting, which lasted about 1½ hours, more than a dozen people spoke.

Cape Wind, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and Minerals Management Service met briefly in the afternoon as the signatories of the so-called "Section 106" review of the project's impacts on historic and archeological resources. A public comment period on the Section 106 process will remain open until Feb. 12, Salazar said.

Salazar's meetings with the tribes went well, the Aquinnah tribe's chairwoman, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, said afterward.

Although she was concerned about being excluded from the Section 106 meeting, Andrews-Maltais said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the federal government would do a better job of consulting with Indian tribes as President Barack Obama promised last year.

During his press conference Salazar said that a memorandum of understanding drafted last year might act as a leaping off point for an agreement on the historic issues. But the tribes and the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said they would not agree to any plan that kept the wind farm in the Sound.

Alliance president and CEO Audra Parker suggested an alternative site for the wind farm south of Tuckernuck Island that was already part of the federal government's review of the wind farm. Salazar said such a move would require the permitting process to begin all over again.

"He is wrong about that," Parker countered, adding that if that site was truly reviewed as an alternative it should not require starting from scratch.

Public-private partnership

If the project was moved to the Tuckernuck location, Cape towns would be interested in a public-private partnership between a regional electric cooperative and Cape Wind, said Charles McLaughlin, an attorney for the town of Barnstable.

The proposal, which would entail Cape Wind selling its power to Massachusetts towns, could save municipalities $1 billion over the 20-year lifespan of the project and would provide Cape Wind with access to lower interest loans through federal programs, McLaughlin said after the meeting.

"All the towns that were present spoke up in favor of (the partnership) and in favor of the alternative site," he said.

The Aquinnah tribe would need to study the site south of Tuckernuck more thoroughly before they could commit to supporting it but that did not mean it might not be a better site than the Sound, tribal historic preservation officer Bettina Washington said.

"I'm looking at the actual site and I do my research," she said. "That's when I make my decision."

Cape Wind and its supporters have said that Nantucket Sound is the best location for the wind farm and moving it is not an option. The site south of Tuckernuck is not economically feasible and more damaging to the environment, Cape Wind proponents argued.

After the meetings Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon said the company had already proposed a series of actions to mitigate the effects of the wind farm, including decreasing the number of turbines, changes to the footprint of the wind farm and changes to paint color on the turbines.

The opposition has not responded to the mitigation package presented last year, Gordon said, although he would not specify the differences between those proposals and the measures Cape Wind had already agreed to undertake.

"This was not a meeting to talk about specific mitigation measures," he said, adding that he expected to do so with the project's opponents in the near future.


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

JAN 14 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24135-salazar-vows-decision-on-cape-wind
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