Cape Wind advocates like to caricature their opponents as a few select landowners who care only about preserving the views of Nantucket Sound.
It’s a clever and convenient argument, and it’s dead wrong.
But I have to hand it to them. By focusing on a few seaside landowners, Cape Wind developers have managed to distract the public from the real issues raised by their proposal: Do the public waters belong to all the people, or can they be seized and exploited by private companies for financial gain?
Cape Wind has been able to avoid a discussion of why not a single town on the Cape and Islands has stepped forward to support the project, or why the local business community has consistently opposed the project through its local chambers of commerce.
It’s long past time to take a step back and take a clear-eyed look at the real issues underlying the opposition to the proposal.
First, Nantucket Sound belongs to all of us. Before we hand more than $1 billion in subsidies and tax breaks to Cape Wind, we’re entitled to be sure that we receive the best possible deal for our land and waters. We need to discuss whether it’s in the best interest of the public to allow a private developer to select and essentially seize, for personal profit on a no-bid basis, a 25-square-mile area of Nantucket Sound.
Second, Cape residents deserve to have their concerns addressed. For more than 350 years, Nantucket Sound has been fertile ground for the region’s fishing industry. Cape Wind proponents argue that there will be negligible impact, but our fishermen know better.
A joint study by the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership and MIT concluded that more than half of the fish that mobile gear fishermen haul out of Nantucket Sound come from the proposed site at Horseshoe Shoals. It will be virtually impossible for them to move their gear safely through the maze of cables and towers.
Third, Cape Wind also raises serious safety issues for local airplane pilots and passengers. As we saw in recent days, dense fog can envelop Nantucket Sound in an instant. The wind towers would be just 60 feet below the minimum altitude prescribed for the more than 400,000 flights that cross the Sound each year. That leaves no margin for error, and all three regional airports have expressed concerns about passenger safety.
Fourth, ferry operators and passengers will also be at risk. The Hy-Line and Steamship Authority, which ferry more than 3 million passengers a year through Nantucket Sound, oppose the project because of safety concerns. Hy-Line representatives call it an “accident waiting to happen.” The British require 1.5-mile buffer zones between shipping lanes and wind turbines. Why shouldn’t a similar rule apply to Cape Wind?
We must address and resolve these serious and, in some cases, life-and-death issues before any construction begins. We must have a full and open discussion about the appropriate siting of this project to ensure that the public’s interest and safety are protected and that all dangers are eliminated or at least minimized. This discussion is particularly important now that new deepwater technologies are making it possible to locate such facilities further out at sea, where they can generate power without intruding on coastal communities and public safety.
The nation agrees that clear rules are needed for siting offshore wind farms. Until now, we have never sited such a facility. The Department of Interior is now working to create specific regulations for the siting and construction of wind energy facilities. Cape Wind should be subject to those rules, just as all future developers will be. Unfortunately, as a result of special-interest legislation, Cape Wind was handed an exemption, allowing it to move forward without competitive bidding and before the rules for offshore wind development are established.
Nantucket Sound deserves the same protections that my family and I have fought for – and won – for the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Blackstone River Valley, the Essex National Heritage Area, the Boston Harbor Islands, Stellwagen Bank and many other historic and scenic areas that belong to all the residents of our beautiful commonwealth.
The Sound is a national treasure, and we all have a responsibility to protect it from reckless exploitation.
By Edward M. Kennedy
Edward M. Kennedy of Hyannisport represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.
5 August 2007
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