The Cape Wind project in Massachusetts cleared its biggest hurdle to date on Friday when the U.S. Minerals Management Service gave final environmental approval to the 450 megawatt offshore wind farm.
The eight year-old battle for what would be the country’s first offshore wind farm may finally be nearing an end as the long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement reported negligible to minor impacts across all but one of the 27 resource areas studied. The impact on marine birds was the only one judged to have anything above negligible to minor environmental impacts. Taken in full, MMS found the project would have no significant environmental impacts.
Needless to say, Cape Wind supporters enthusiastically welcomed the decision. The project’s developer, Jim Gordon the CEO of Cape Wind Associates said “Massachusetts is one major step closer to becoming home to America’s first offshore wind farm and becoming a global leader in the production of offshore renewable energy.”
The release of today’s EIS represents the second such study conducted by the federal government. In 2005 the Department of the Interior conducted an EIS for Cape Wind that was essentially annulled by the passage of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The ruling meant that an entirely new EIS would have to be conducted by the Minerals Management Service, the agency that was given regulatory jurisdiction over offshore wind farms.
Pending an almost certain approval from the incoming Obama administration, the project still awaits decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard on whether it would interfere with airplane and marine radar. Past studies by the F.A.A. found no real threat, but Jim Peters, an agency spokesman, said that officials visiting the site last summer found some evidence of possible electromagnetic interference.
Based on previous official statements from the Coast Guard, there is good reason to believe that the effects on marine radar will be deemed negligible.
Cape Wind opponents vowed to keep on fighting the 130-turbine, 450-megawatt project despite overwhelming support of 87% of Cape Cod area residents.
>>See also: Massachusetts OKs 10% Wind Power Requirement
Opponents will likely find a way to bring a lawsuit and are also awaiting the results of an investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Interior into the propriety of the environmental review process requested by “Cape Cod residents.”
Quick to respond to today’s decision was longtime critic of the project, senior Massachusetts’ Senator Edward Kennedy, who chided the action in a statement. Kennedy said he did not do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained as it would assure “years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation.”
For Cape Wind opponents, the only threads of hope left to hold on to—unsubstantiated investigations of proper conduct, hopes for unfavorable reports from the FAA and Coast Guard, and statutory challenges with shaky legal footing—look a lot thinner after the release of today’s report.