A draft report released Friday by the federal agency overseeing the Cape Wind proposal said that wind farms built in appropriate locations will have ”negligible to minor” effects on the environment.
”We believe the statement is correct and that the experience with offshore wind, the successful European experience with offshore wind, shows that,” said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, the company behind the proposal to erect 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
Charles Vinick, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which opposes the project, said the impact of a properly sited wind farm may, indeed, be minimal.
But he argued that Nantucket Sound is an inappropriate site for the project, citing concerns about marine habitat, disruption of commercial fishing and hazards to navigation.
The Minerals Management Service’s draft ”programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” makes no direct comment on the Cape Wind proposal. Rather it outlines, in general terms, the effects offshore alternative energy projects using wind, waves and current will have on everything from sea turtles to tourism.
The statement, now subject to public comment, will serve as a guidepost in the development of the first comprehensive set of federal regulations governing offshore alternative energy projects.
Two projects slated for federal waters – Cape Wind and a smaller wind farm that would be built south of Long Island – are already being reviewed by a panoply of federal, state, regional and local agencies.
Nicolette Nye, a spokeswoman for the Minerals Management Service, said the new rules, due out in draft form in June, would apply to both projects. But with the Cape Wind review already in an advanced stage, she said, it is unclear if the regulations will have much practical impact.
The rules are expected to govern how the federal government will award leases, easements and rights of way for alternative energy projects in federal waters; how it will collect payments; how it will regulate construction and operation; and how it will oversee decommissioning of old projects.
But the focus, for now, is on the draft programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which examined the effects of both alternative energy projects and conversion of old gas and oil platforms to alternative energy, aquaculture and research facilities.
While the report found that wind farms would have ”negligible to minor” impact on the whole, it did point to areas of concern.
Pile-driving associated with the construction of foundations for wind turbines could have ”moderate to major impact on seafloor habitats” and that construction of transmission cables from wind farms to onshore substations could have ”moderate” impact on coastal habitats.
The Minerals Management Service will host nine public hearings on the draft programmatic Environmental Impact Statement in April and May, including an April 26 hearing at 7 p.m. at the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel in Newton.
Members of the public can obtain copies of the statement and file comments online at http://ocsenergy.anl.gov. Comments can also be mailed to MMS OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Ave., Argonne, IL 60439. Comments must be received by May 21.
By David Scharfenberg
21 March 2007
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