Some 61 per cent of residents of Cape Cod and the Islands favor the Cape Wind project, according to a major new scientific survey of 501 residents.
So said the press release put out yesterday by the Civil Society Institute, which describes itself as a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank in Newton. The release made it look like a decisive verdict in favor of the wind power project, delivered in the court of public opinion.
A majority of people, regardless of political affiliation, approved a plan to erect 130 turbines, each 440 feet tall to the top of their blades, across 25 square miles on Horseshoe Shoal, in federal waters in the center of Nantucket Sound.
If you believed it. If you could safely assume that in the whole Cape Wind brouhaha, involving its myriad so-called grassroots groups, its corporate vested interests and numerous local, state and federal regulatory agencies, there were any dispassionate players.
The poll is just the latest example of the spinning of the issue by both sides, a vortex of claim and counterclaim which sucks in everything in its path — most recently the Cape Cod Commission.
But it’s a good example because its relatively easy to see through. All you have to do is examine the questions actually posed on behalf of the institute by their pollsters. Like this one:
“Some opponents of Cape Wind argue that Cape Wind could disrupt commercial fishing in Horseshoe Shoal. But the proposed Cape Wind location is not in waters used any longer for significant commercial fishing and it may actually end up helping to restore recreational fishing. Does the fishing issue make you more or less likely to support the Cape Wind project?”
All the questions were like that. They set up the straw man with the words “some opponents argue,” then knocked it down, and asked the survey respondents for their reaction.
About the best one could say, after reading the details, is that the survey serves less as an endorsement of the Cape Wind project than of the old pollsters’ maxim that the questions you ask determine the answers you get. Pretty standard propaganda.
The spinning of the Cape Cod Commission decision of a week ago rejecting the proponent’s plans for cabling under the sea and then through Yarmouth and Barnstable to connect their offshore project to the electric power grid, however, is something else.
The Cape commission and opponents of the project would have you believe it was so stymied by the failure of the proponents to provide vital information that they were forced to reject the plan.
The company and supporters of the project would have you believe the commission was never likely to approve the proposal, regardless of how much information they received, and was stalling proceedings by continually asking for more.
The executive director of Clean Power Now, Barbara Hill, went further after the decision. The commission had been “captured by vested interests with enough money to buy just about anything they want, including the government agency intended to protect us all,” she said.
Not all the project’s supporters have been so blunt. But they do point out inconsistency on the part of the commission, which engaged in no such rigorous examination of a new power transmission line to Nantucket which would pass through the seabed in the same area.
They do point out that in 2005 the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board approved Cape Wind’s interconnection with the state power grid and in March this year Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Security Agency determined Cape Wind’s final environmental impact statement was adequate.
The Cape commission and project opponents say the information the company failed to provide was vital to an informed decision. That included a detailed emergency response plan and a certain other technical information.
The response from Cape Wind’s vice president for project development, Craig Olmstead, was that the record before the commission was complete and exhaustive, and adequate for an informed decision.
And so for now there is a stalemate. It could be broken by the company agreeing to provide what the commission wants. Or it could be broken by the state Energy Facility Siting Board.
The board previously has overruled another, unrelated decision by the Cape commission in relation to an energy project, the KeySpan pipeline project.
The matter was never tested in court, but lawyers opposing the wind farm said the commission did not need to rely on decisions by other regulatory agencies, suggesting court action to determine who has the final say is a possibility.
However it plays out — and the spokesman for Cape Wind, Mark Rodgers, said yesterday the company would announce its next step in coming days — the story is far from over.
At latest count, Cape Wind was subject to seven state, federal and local government agencies. But for those people looking for a dispassionate assessment of the project, the best hope is likely to come next month, when the federal Minerals Management Service produces its environmental impact statement on Cape Wind
It’s likely to be huge. To get some idea, consider that the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency which previously had primary responsibility for the project until handing it over to the Minerals Management Service in 2005, produced a 3,800-page environmental impact statement.
Public meetings will be held to explain the federal agency’s statement, including on the Vineyard.