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January 19, 2009

Cape Cod’ll Tell which Way the Wind Is Blowing

Within thirty days we'll have a good indication of how serious the Obama administration is about freeing us from dependence of foreign fossil fuels; that's when the developers of the Cape Wind project could first get a federal lease for the offshore turbines which they estimate will provide three-quarters of the electricity used by Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. The Minerals Management Service, the lead federal agency in reviewing the project, has just released a favorable "final Environmental Impact Statement" (EIS); they have a mandatory thirty day wait before issuing a lease.

Developers say the project could be built in two years (and the next two years will be good ones to build in). They planned this long before the prospect of bailout funds although who knows who will apply for what now.

This isn't a partisan issue. Senator Ted Kennedy (D), from whose family compound the windmills will be visible, is opposed – for the record, he says the view is not the reason for his opposition. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) is in favor of the project as part of an effort to ramp up his state's wind use. Both Patrick and Kennedy were Obama supporters.

Studies have been going on for seven years. Opponents have alleged all the usual environmental hazards plus fears that the four hundred foot (to the tip of the blade) towers would interfere with aviation and marine radar. Kennedy isn't about to give in easily. He is quoted in The Wall Street Journal as threatening "By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation."

If we're going to quickly reduce our use of foreign oil, if we're going to generate electricity with less CO2 output, if we're going to put people to work on important infrastructure projects, then we must, must, must find a way to review quickly and decisively AND FINALLY; we must not allow opponents to add infinite delay and cost to every project. We can't let NIMBY be policy.

A quick favorable action following the favorable EIS would be concrete change we can believe in and part of a great start for the Obama administration.

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