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Wind farm players read political tea leaves  

While last week’s election clearly established the state’s next governor – for those readers still thawing out from a cryogenic freeze, the winner was Deval Patrick – it didn’t establish what’s best for Nantucket Sound, according to opponents of a wind farm proposed for the area.
“This election was not a referendum on Cape Wind,” said Charles Vinick, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a leading critic of Cape Wind Associates’ plan to construct 130 wind turbines in the Sound.
Vinick said Patrick, the first gubernatorial candidate to support the wind farm publicly, enjoyed strong support from the entire state and didn’t ride the coattails of just one issue to victory.
“This was a very, very strong candidate,” said Vinick of Patrick, a Democrat from Milton who defeated the Republican candidate, Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, by a 21 percent margin. “While this was certainly a major victory for Deval Patrick, there’s no indication that Cape Wind was behind the momentum.”
Vinick said Patrick’s victory in the governor’s race was no more about the wind farm than was the re-election of Edward Kennedy, an ardent wind farm foe, to the U.S. Senate.
He also added that, while the state does have a role to play in the project, the Minerals Management Service, a federal agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, leads the review process.
Cape Wind welcomes Patrick
While there may be no one-to-one connection between Patrick’s victory and his stance on the wind farm, the results of the Nov. 7 election have swept a proponent of the wind farm into the corner office. And that, said Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers, bodes well for the project’s future.
“There’s no question that the election of Deval Patrick as the next governor of Massachusetts was a great development, not just for Cape Wind but for the entire renewable energy sector,” said Rodgers. He noted that, throughout the campaign, the governor-elect identified renewable energy as one of two or three areas most promising for the state’s economic growth.
“We now will have a governor with the vision to see Cape Wind in a broader context,” said Rodgers.
For Cape Wind, said Rodgers, the election also means that outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the more powerful opponents of the proposed project, will no longer be the state’s top executive. There was a concern, said Rodgers, that Romney’s stance might influence state agencies engaged in permitting the project.
“Certainly, with the election of Deval Patrick, that concern gets taken away,” said Rodgers, who reiterated his company’s position that the wind farm can be successfully permitted and approved “on the laws as they now exist” as a project in the public interest.
While Patrick’s victory was big news in Massachusetts, the top story nationwide was Democrats and their successful bid to gain control of both houses of Congress. The change soon will give more power to wind farm proponents like U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton, and wind farm opponents like U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Quincy.
But the change will mean little to Cape Wind in its constant efforts to monitor legislation for amendments or riders that might kill the project.
“That is something we would have kept an eye on, no matter what the outcome of the election,” Rodgers said. “We have to remain vigilant.”
Noting the charged political nature of the wind farm debate, Vinick said the Alliance would also pay attention to happenings in Washington.
Regarding the recent success of Democrats, Vinick said Kennedy would most certainly become a chairman of an important committee. He also indicated that U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota currently serves as the ranking Democrat on the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a committee now headed by U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. Like Young, said Vinick, Oberstar recently co-sponsored a wind farm-related amendment to a Coast Guard authorization bill and spoke in favor of it on the House floor.
The move to pass that amendment created much controversy before ending in a compromise, one that reinforced the Coast Guard’s oversight of navigational issues related to the wind farm project but did not give a Massachusetts governor veto power over the project.
Locally, Vinick said the Alliance is buoyed by Patrick’s post-election comments calling for an inclusive administration.
“I think that’s very encouraging,” said Vinick. He added the Alliance’s wish to work with the governor while sharing its specific concerns about the project.
The Alliance cites a number of local, regional, state and federal agencies yet to sign off on the project and points out that a final decision could be as far as 18 months away.
“There’s pretty extensive review still to come,” said Vinick.

By Craig Salters/ csalters@cnc.com


This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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