August 25, 2012

Cape Wind opponents to appeal FAA ‘no hazard’ ruling

Aero News Network | 25 August 2012

After an FAA determination last week that 130 wind turbines that are proposed for a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would not pose any hazard to navigation by GA airplanes, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound filed an appeal in federal court challenging the decision.

“The FAA ruling shows a complete and utter disregard for public safety and flies in the face of last year’s decision by the US Court of Appeals in DC to revoke Cape Wind’s aviation safety permit,” said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, in a news release Thursday. “Cape Wind would place 130 massive turbines, each over 40 stories tall, in the heart of Nantucket Sound. It’s abundantly clear to virtually everyone outside of the FAA that it poses serious safety risks to the flying public.”

This most recent ruling comes following concerns that the FAA’s previous decisions in favor of Cape Wind were politically motivated and overlooked obvious safety hazards. Internal FAA documents unearthed in June revealed that officials had worried that it would be “very difficult politically to refuse approval” of Cape Wind even as its own technical experts and Air Traffic Controllers expressed concerns about compromising airplane safety.

The FAA’s new determination comes during a congressional investigation of the FAA’s handling of Cape Wind and before responding to requests for related documents by two powerful Congressmen, Darrell Issa (pictured, left), Chairman Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and John Mica (pictured, right), Chairman Committee Transportation and Infrastructure. The FAA appears to be stonewalling Congress by failing to comply with a July 31 deadline to answer questions and provide documents related to meetings between the FAA, White House and Cape Wind.

Another letter to President Obama from Chairman Issa, along with Congressmen Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy, referencing both Solyndra and Cape Wind, states “Documents show that your personal interest in the Cape Wind offshore wind farm may have created pressure on career officials to approve the project.” The letter went on to quote a Department of Energy email that states “[G]et cape wind done by Sept 30. That’s more important to the president.”

The group filing the lawsuit argues that the aviation community believes there are serious risks posed by the 25-square mile project due to its proposed location in the middle of a highly trafficked, low altitude flight corridor in Nantucket Sound that features rapidly changing weather conditions and 200 days of fog per year. “The FAA is continuing to bow to political pressure, and in doing so they are putting the safety of countless airplane pilots and passengers at serious risk,” Parker said. “Once again, the agency has ignored very real public safety concerns all for the sake of political expediency.”

In addition to concerns over the FAA’s recent rulings, Save Our Sound holds that Cape Wind faces a number of other hurdles, including four other pending federal lawsuits by numerous parties, and significant financial challenges that include its extremely high cost, lack of financing and expiring federal tax credits and subsidies. “Cape Wind is a financial, environmental and safety threat,” added Parker. “Despite the political favoritism the project continues to receive, its exorbitant cost and ongoing legal challenges make it clear that this project has no real chance of ever being built.”

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