The Cape Wind proposal reared its head in last night’s gubernatorial debate, the second of four meetings among the candidates before November’s election.
While it came as little surprise that the issue would emerge as political sniping fodder, a comment made by independent candidate and Cape businessman Christy Mihos received an icy reception from Cape Wind officials reached after the debate.
”The government has put a moratorium on it,” Mihos said of the 130-turbine offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.
Mihos framed his comment at the Springfield debate around a U.S. Department of Defense report released last week that raised questions about the effect of industrial-sized wind turbines on military radar.
Mihos, co-chairman of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound that is trying to kill the Cape Wind proposal, said defense officials concluded that Cape Wind would have a ”negative” impact on the PAVE PAWS radar station in Sagamore.
While the report did find that turbines can interfere with military radar systems when built in the radar’s line of sight, it did not reach a specific conclusion about the Cape Wind project. Instead, the report called for more analysis ”on an expedited basis” into whether the project would disrupt PAVE PAWS.
Cape Wind remains the subject of several local, state and federal reviews headed by the U.S. Department of Interior.
”This report made no findings that Cape Wind would have a negative impact on PAVE PAWS, so he’s just flat out wrong on that,” Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said last night, adding that Mihos’ statement about a Cape Wind moratorium is a ”complete fabrication.”
The topic arose after Green-Rainbow candidate Grace Ross asked a question about what candidates would do as governor to address global warming. While the high-profile renewable energy proposal was a defining issue throughout the Democratic gubernatorial campaign, last night it emerged as a topic for the general election contest.
Joining Mihos in opposition to the project is Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who visited the Cape on Aug. 31 to speak against Cape Wind. Last night, Healey said she supports the development of deep-water offshore turbines and wants to work with officials in Vermont to take advantage of a power transmission cable that could bring in renewable energy generated in Canada.
Democrat Deval Patrick has backed the Cape Wind proposal since early in his campaign. Last night, he defended his position. ”We ought to seize opportunities that are before us that make sense and Cape Wind is one of those,” he said.
Patrick also said he would join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state effort to curb greenhouse gases that Gov. Mitt Romney has rejected.
In a reprise of their first debate on Sept. 25, the issue of rolling back the state’s income tax also played a major role in last night’s debate.
Firing off the first question of the night, Healey asked her opponents why they don’t support ”the will of the people” who voted to roll back the state’s income tax from 5.3 percent to 5 percent in a nonbinding 2000 ballot question. The Legislature never enacted the measure, despite its overwhelming approval by voters.
”I respect and honor the will of the people,” Patrick answered. But he said the state should cut property taxes, and called Healey’s tax proposals a ”fiscal shell game.”
Mihos said he would support a tax rollback, but accused Healey of not being able to do so because she has sought to ”vilify this Legislature rather than work with them.” He also criticized Healey and her boss, Romney, of being too secretive in implementing health care reform laws.
Ross, the Green/Rainbow Party candidate, said despite continued promises of ”no new taxes” by Republican administrations, ”I’ve been drowning in these no new taxes.”
In answer to Patrick’s question about what three actions each candidate would take to rebuild the state’s economy, Healey said she would lower taxes for small business owners, streamline the building permit process for homeowners and businesses, and deregulate automobile insurance.
Patrick said he’d also streamline permitting processes, spend more on higher education and encourage emerging businesses such as the biotech industry to move to Massachusetts.
Mihos said he’d cap real estate taxes, increase local aid to cities and do away with fees such as additional busing costs for public school students.
Ross said she’d try increasing the minimum wage.
David Schoetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
By David Schoetz, Staff Writer
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