Cape Wind Poison Pill Dissolves

Congressional language described as a “poison pill” by supporters of the Cape Wind offshore wind project will be extracted from a broader legislative package in a new compromise reached by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman said they reached an agreement with Senators Ted Kennedy and Ted Stevens on changes to a provision inserted at conference into H.R. 889, the Coast Guard appropriations bill, related to the controversial 420-megawatt (MW) offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound. The news was revealed by a jubilant Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, speaking at this week’s Renewable Energy Finance Form, held in New York. The four senators have agreed to a concurrent resolution that will replace Section 414 of the conference report, which would have given the Coast Guard and the governor of Massachusetts final approval over the siting of the Nantucket Sound wind farm. The concurrent resolution drops any reference to the governor of Massachusetts and gives the commandant of the Coast Guard only the authority to spell out the terms and conditions for the wind project that are necessary for navigational safety. Before this change, the legislation would have granted the Massachusetts governor veto power over Cape Wind and future offshore wind projects. Gov. Romney has publicly stated he is against the Cape Wind project, largely due to its location. He was widely expected to veto the project, should that right have been granted to him. “In this instance, the governor veto is gone and the Coast Guard is only allowed to address navigational safety concerns,” said Chairman Domenici. “For all future projects, we will use the siting model we created in the energy bill. That’s a sound model. It gives the Coast Guard and other federal agencies a voice; it gives local and state governments a voice; but it prevents local special interests from torpedoing a reasonable and much-needed energy project in federal waters.” Senator Bingaman said last year’s federal energy bill gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to issue permits for alternative energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, but that it did not diminish the Coast Guard’s authority over navigational safety, and it expressly required the Interior Department to consult with the Coast Guard before granting leases for projects like Cape Wind. “The new language for Sec. 414 confirms the Coast Guard’s role for ensuring the navigational safety of the Cape Wind project,” Sen. Bingaman said. “This is an appropriate clarification to make and it ensures that Cape Wind’s proposal will receive a fair and unbiased consideration on the merits.”
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