The marathon of federal public hearings on the Cape Wind draft environmental impact statement is over. The federal Minerals Management Service got the message loud and clear. Cape Wind is the wrong step in the right direction.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound would like to thank the 2,000-plus individuals who attended the recent hearings on Cod Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and in Boston — most of whom showed overwhelming support for protecting Nantucket Sound from industrial development. Kicking off the public hearings in Yarmouth, over 1,000 people attended. Ninety-five people spoke, 75 per cent of whom opposed Cape Wind. On Nantucket, 350 people attended. Sixty-two people spoke, 61 per cent of whom opposed Cape Wind. Even at the final hearing in Boston, 400 people attended and of the 105 people who spoke, 48 per cent opposed Cape Wind.
The hearings clearly showed that the opposition to Cape Wind is stronger than ever and transcends NIMBY issues. Minerals management heard from a broad spectrum of the community which spoke to a wide range of deficiencies in the draft impact statement and problems with the proposed project. Public officials, tribal leaders, airport commissioners, ferry lines, commercial fishing organizations, chambers of commerce, business leaders, environmental protection groups and everyday Cape Codders spoke out against a federal report that grossly understates or ignores Cape Wind’s potential impacts to our local economy, environment and public safety.
Barnstable and Nantucket airport officials addressed safety issues for aircraft, including potential radar interference. While the draft impact statement claims there is a minor impact to aviation, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a “presumed hazard” designation for Cape Wind and determined additional studies are necessary.
Likewise, the draft statement gives at-sea navigation impacts a rating of “minor,” but the Coast Guard has yet to issue terms and conditions for safe navigation in Nantucket Sound and has requested a complete study on wind plant radar interference and the serious effects it could have on safe navigation. Both Hy-Line Cruises and the Steamship Authority addressed these serious navigational safety issues in their testimonies.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) spoke out against Cape Wind and highlighted the project’s irreparable threats to tribal, cultural and religious values. Local chambers of commerce spoke out about the project’s threat to the local economy which is heavily driven by tourism.
The Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, an umbrella organization of 19 commercial fishing groups, cited both safety and economic concerns. According to a forthcoming study, the Cape Wind project would result in $8 to $13 million in losses to the mobile gear fishermen. In contrast, the draft impact statement estimates no loss. On the Vineyard and elsewhere, commercial fishermen spoke out to denounce a flawed DEIS that essentially ignores one of New England’s most lucrative and sustainable fisheries.
Several testimonies addressed the high cost of power revealed in the draft impact statement, which indicates that electricity produced by Cape Wind could cost up to three times the current wholesale price of electricity. At $122 per megawatt hour, Cape Wind electricity is projected to cost more than double the average current price of electricity in southeastern Massachusetts. And that cost doesn’t include state and federal subsidies that Cape Wind is lining up — over $1 billion in Massachusetts renewable energy credits and an additional $300 million from the federal production tax credit. Add those subsidies in, and the average cost for a megawatt hour of electricity is three times the current average price, or over $190 per megawatt hour.
Throughout the hearings, both public officials and private citizens continued to question the costs of Cape Wind’s expensive private venture that would unfairly burden the people of the Cape and Islands. Momentum is building and promising alternatives — like the recent Blue H deep water proposal — are emerging to the costly and irresponsible Cape Wind project. Blue H might just prove to be the right step in the right direction. Massachusetts could have the opportunity to lead the renewable energy revolution by example — by embracing wind energy without sacrificing our environment, economy and public safety in the process.
I extend my thanks to the Vineyard citizens and stakeholders who spoke out. The opportunity to protect Nantucket Sound is stronger than ever.
Dean Bragonier lives in Oak Bluffs and is program director for Nantucket Soundkeeper, a program of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.