The discussion began cordially enough.
After all, the two men on the small stage last night at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History were well respected in their own circles and came bearing long lists of endorsements for their views.
But as the room heated up and despite a veneer of agreement on general issues such as the need to combat global warming and protect the Cape and Islands from environmental degradation, Jim Gordon and Charles Vinick were bound to disagree. The packed room of more than 140 audience members waited for it and when the oral blows fell, they cheered.
“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is (in support of alternative energy)?” said Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, the developer responsible for a proposal to erect 130 440-foot-tall wind turbines on 25-square miles in Nantucket Sound. Applause.
“Are we developers? Of course not. It’s absurd to suggest it,” countered Vinick, CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, whose mission is to kill the project. He, too, would be buoyed by applause from supporters wearing pins showing a turbine with a line through it.
The debate was only the second time the men had met in such a forum. Both spoke for 30 minutes on their own and then sat in comfortable beige chairs to respond to audience questions submitted through a moderator.
The crowd came to hear the men present the same arguments that have been bandied about for the past six years since the Cape Wind project was proposed and Vinick’s group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, was formed to fight it.
And they weren’t disappointed.
Vinick outlined economic, navigational and environmental risks to siting an expansive utility-scale wind farm in the sound and pushed for locating turbines in deeper waters.
Gordon pointed to the possibility of greater energy independence for the United States through renewable energy projects such as Cape Wind and asked why not here and now. “The pressure and the price impact on fossil fuels will continue to rise.”
Both men drew opposite conclusions from the same report from the Department of Defense on radar.
“In the news reports, we saw the panic and the fear-mongering statements,” Gordon said, of the Alliance’s response to the study. “The Defense Department said the project would have no negative impacts on radar.”
“What our press release said is ‘too close for comfort,’ ” Vinick said, after explaining that Cape Wind fell just outside the edge of the Air Force’s buffer zone for wind turbines near the Cape-based PAVE PAWS radar station.
And while Gordon lauded a survey released yesterday by the Civil Society Institute that showed 58 percent of respondents on the Cape and Islands supported his project, Vinick derided the sampling size of between 60 and 70 residents as too small to be representative.
They agreed on some things though: Cape Wind, if built, will not solve an impending energy crisis, and the fate of the project would be decided by regulators and the public, not Vinick and Gordon.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project from the U.S. Minerals Management Service is due out before the end of the summer with a public comment period to follow.
State environmental officials have already signed off on Cape Wind’s proposal.
The Cape Cod Commission is currently reviewing it and must approve a transmission line that is expected to land in Yarmouth.
By Patrick Cassidy
16 August 2007
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