A pair of powerful GOP congressmen are launching a probe into the Federal Aviation Adminstration’s analysis of Cape Wind, saying they’re worried that political pressure from the Obama administration led the agency to ignore concerns about the danger the wind farm would pose to air traffic.
In a letter today to FAA chief Michael Huerta, congressmen John Mica (R-Fla.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) say they have “significant questions” about the role of politics in the agency’s approval of the project.
“A politically based determination of the Cape Wind project by FAA is an unacceptable use of federal authority, contravenes FAA’s statutory mandate, and raises significant safety concerns for aviation in Nantucket Sound,” their letter states.
An FAA spokeswoman said in a statement project reviews are “based on safety considerations and the available solutions to mitigate potential risks.” The statement was the same one the agency has issued to multiple requests for comment in recent weeks.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said claims of political pressure in the approval process have “no merits” and “should be summarily dismissed.” He said Cape Wind opponents made similar claims about federal analysis of the project during the Bush administration.
“The only politics being applied to this important clean energy project has been and continues to be on the part of project opponents,” Rodgers said.
Cape Wind, more than a decade in the making, would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The 130-turbine proposal in Nantucket Sound has become a pet project for the Patrick administration and sits squarely within the Obama administration’s green-energy initiative.
Last month, the Herald, citing internal FAA emails obtained by project opponents, reported that agency officials examining the turbine’s effect on radar systems and low-flying planes were aware of the proposal’s political implications. Those stories led to calls for an investigation by Florida congressman Cliff Stearns, who led the federal probe into the Obama administration’s Solyndra debacle. U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and congressman Paul Murphy (R-PA.) followed suit about two weeks later.
The glut of congressional criticism of the approval process has bolstered the project’s dogged opponents.
“We now have five congressional members who have sought additional evidence or called for a hearing,” said Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. “Clearly the Alliance is not the only one seeing a pattern of the FAA succumbing to political pressure.”
“It’s further evidence that Cape Wind is in trouble, and recognition that Cape Wind has consistently been the recipient of political favoritism.”
In their letter yesterday, Mica and Issa, whose committees deal with transportation and government oversight, asked Huerta’s office to do the following:
• Provide FAA analysis of local air-traffic controllers’ safety concerns about the turbines
• Explain why it approved the project, and whether the administration’s green-energy agenda affected that decision
• Explain why an FAA manager said in a slide-show presentation to his colleagues that it would be “difficult politically to refuse approval of the project.”
• Provide copies of communication and documentation of meetings between the FAA and other federal entities – including the Office of the President – during the time frame the agency was reviewing the project.
They set a July 31 deadline for the FAA to produce the information.
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