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Coast Guard sued over wind farm off Nantucket

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has filed a federal lawsuit against the Coast Guard, the latest in a series of suits against federal officials and agencies by groups opposing the planned Cape Wind offshore wind farm at Horseshoe Shoal that will include 130 windmills within sight of the shore.  

According to the alliance, the suit was filed because the Coast Guard has failed to respond to repeated requests for public records as required under the Freedom of Information Act. The alliance claims the Coast Guard has ignored their request for more than two years, the only federal agency to fail to respond. Their request dates back to March 29, 2011.

The FOIA request seeks communications between the Coast Guard and all parties, federal or state, responsible for authorizing the project, including consultants and elected officials, dating back to April 28, 2010, when the U.S. Interior Department approved the project.

Specifically, the alliance wants to determine if the Coast Guard, like the Federal Aviation Administration, was under political pressure to go easy on Cape Wind, referring to reported accusations that the Obama administration exerted influence on the FAA to approve the project. Internal documents obtained indicate FAA employees said they felt political pressure to rule Cape Wind wouldn’t be a hazard to pilots, although they didn’t say who made them feel pressured.

A parallel navigational safety consideration was outlined Monday in a Soundings blog posting by Peter Swanson, executive editor of PassageMaker magazine. Admiralty lawyers Todd Lochner and John Fulweiler, representing the Marine Trades Association of Cape Cod and the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, have submitted a “friend of the court” brief articulating a case against the wind farm based on the navigational argument. They are asking the court to order the Coast Guard, which has already blessed the project, to take another look. “We’re looking at casualties and the real possibility of loss of life,” Lochner contends.

To date, the U.S. has no offshore wind farms because there is a decade-long pushback from many quarters against turbines being placed on our waterways, especially within sight of land. In the case of Cape Wind, which would be the first such development, the 24-square mile project off the coast of Cape Cod has unleashed a fierce fight. The groundswell to stop the wind farm was started by Cape Cod merchants and landowners. It’s also opposed by almost every town government. Even the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had a home overlooking the proposed wind farm, opposed the project as is one of Martha’s Vineyard’s most famous residents, former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite. “Our natural treasures should be off limits to industrialization and Nantucket is one of those treasures,” Cronkite says.

It’s notable that Secretary of the Interior Salazar has said renewable energy development must “. . . be accomplished in a manner that does not ignore, but protects our signature landscapes, natural resources, wildlife, and cultural resources.”

I couldn’t agree more. Clearly our near-shore waterways are among those “signature landscapes.” Moreover, there is little known about what effect things like pile driving, turbine noise and electromagnetic fields that will emanate from undersea cables connecting the turbines will have on fish, shellfish and other aquatic life.

If any future projects are to avoid similar opposition, it’s obvious offshore wind farms should be moved well offshore for openers. In addition, considerations like competition from cheap and hugely plentiful natural gas versus the expensive cost of wind-generated power and the need for taxpayer-supported tax credits to do it will continue to make the idea of wind farms on our waterways less than desirable.

 

Comments

6 comments on “Coast Guard sued over wind farm off Nantucket

  1. Alan Gould

    Amazing when rich folks do not want something done to spoil their views.

    The shipping channel does not go in the area of the wind farms.

    The very same people who are concerned about pile driving, turbine noise, and “Scary” electromagnetic fields would not give a damn about any of these concerns if the wind farm was installed elsewhere.

    Pile driving: Exactly how many of these people who are concerned about the pile driving have driven piles to support their very own private docks? or tie up their boats on marinas that have driven piles? I bet they were not concerned about work.

    Turbine noise: If they operate a power boat their boat make much more noise, in fact I have stood by wind turbine towers and can not heard noise at the base of the tower. I think seagulls, waves and wind would make more noise.

    Electromagnetic forces from undersea cables: People have houses that are built besides overhead power lines and while I would not want to live in one, if the emf does not affect people, what exact studies if any would people want done to make sure the fish, shellfish and other aquatic life are not affected?

    I bet they would be pro wind farm if in fact they were installed on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

    NIMBY at it’s finest on display in the Nantucket area.

  2. enginecom

    I am one marine concern who favors Cape Wind. Why these people keep trying to beat this horse is beyond comprehension. Let it get built at least started before evaluating the business impact. What we predict is more working vessels will be servicing the construction, tourism and sports fishing. As a degreed marine biologist from a local university construction in that area will have little impact on the sea floor and will increase fish populations. It is basically an artificial reef in an area where there is little. This has been studied to death and delayed long enough. Yes wind is not the answer to our energy needs but is part of a solution. It is being privately funded and needs our governments support.

  3. traveled

    The NIMBY crowd is always fun.

    In the EU they have managed to put thousands of the things on land and in the sea without problems.

    Very disappointing to see the super liberals of Taxachusetts not support the green actions they wish to force on the rest of us.

  4. CaptA

    I agree with Alangould and enginecom. I love it when people say DRILL BABY DRILL, but when it comes to something where the cost/benefit ratio is so low, there is a an uproar–especiallly when it is potentially is view of wealthy peoples views. My vote: BUILD THE WINDFARM!!!!

  5. Bill Carson

    Cape Wind in 2010 contracted to buy 130 commercial 3.6 Megawatt turbines. These turbines are older style gear driven turbines. Since 2010 many gear driven turbines on land have had catastrophic gear box failures due to overheating. Many of the turbines failed in two to three years. The wind industry has been accused of hiding the dirty little secret about gear box failures

    The wind industry has switched to direct drive type of commercial wind turbines in 2013. The question now is why is Cape Wind going to build commercial wind turbines with older gear driven turbines ?

    Many wind contractors have upgraded to 4.0 Megawatt turbines or larger.

    It looks like Cape Wind may go with the older wind turbines with breakdowns to avoid another review ? If this is the case the project is not sound

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