The congressman who led the Capitol Hill probe into the collapse of taxpayer-backed Solyndra is calling for an investigation of Cape Wind amid accusations federal air-safety officials caved under political pressure — saying both projects bear the mark of an overbearing White House pushing green power at all costs.
The hotly contested Nantucket Sound power project has come under fire after opponents produced bombshell FAA emails — obtained through a public records request and provided to the Herald — showing the agency felt political pressure to approve Cape Wind despite concerns its 440-foot-tall turbines would interfere with radar and ensnare small, low-flying planes.
“This is yet another example of this administration making dubious decisions based upon political considerations in pushing out these energy projects without conducting due diligence that would call into question their viability or value,” U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) told the Herald in a statement.
“It appears that an investigation is warranted in the case of Cape Wind to determine if the FAA acted inappropriately due to political pressure from the administration. Such an investigation would be conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and/or the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.”
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which opposes Cape Wind, also has called for a federal probe into allegations the Patrick administration and White House bullied the Federal Aviation Administration into brushing off public safety risks and approving what would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
The Patrick and Obama administrations did not respond to requests for comment. Both have denied leaning on the FAA, saying Cape Wind earned the agency’s approval on its merits.
Stearns led the probe into the staggering failure of Solyndra, a California firm that filed for bankruptcy after it blew through $535 million in taxpayer-backed federal loans. His subcommittee’s investigation unearthed a series of emails showing federal budget officials under White House pressure to fast-track Solyndra and give their stamp of approval in time for a Vice President Joe Biden photo op at the company’s headquarters.
Stearns’ call for a probe earned him instant-hero status among Cape Wind foes.
“We’re very pleased that he’s taking a strong leadership position to look into how strongly politics have affected Cape Wind, especially when public safety is at stake,” said the Alliance’s Audra Parker.
She said her group sees “a pattern both at the federal and state levels to push green energy at any cost, whether it be taxpayer, ratepayer burden or public-safety risks. Many of our supporters have called out the parallels between Solyndra and Cape Wind in terms of the political pressure to push the review and rush the projects forward.”
Cape Wind opponents also have requested that the U.S. Coast Guard reconsider its own approval of the sprawling 130-turbine project, which would span 24 square miles in heavily traveled Nantucket Sound.
The maritime agency several years ago abandoned its long-standing request to shrink the project and create a bigger buffer zone for boat, ferry and barge traffic.