Kennedys take up alternative energy battle
Monday, January 27, 2003
defending Cape Cod property values and yachting from a wind farm project in the waters of Nantucket Sound.
His uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., may also weigh in against the project, which threatens to spoil the view from the Kennedy Compound at Hyannis Port just six miles away, as well as the vistas of many expensive homes on Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and tony Cape Cod retreats.
The fight is over a proposal to build the first-ever U.S. offshore wind farm, much like the turbines already lining Denmark and Sweden and planned for the British and Irish coasts. Europe has strongly embraced wind to replace fossil fuels and combat global warming.
The plan by Cape Wind Associates envisions 130 wind turbines 40 stories tall, spreading over 24 square miles and clearly visible from the shore. Photo simulations show the towers speckling the horizon. They could also make Cape Cod nearly energy self-sufficient.
San Franciscans needn't worry about wind farms spoiling the Golden Gate or anywhere else on California's coast, industry sources say, because deep coastal waters make the towers infeasible.
But the shoals of Nantucket Sound are almost perfect. Cape Wind began the environmental permitting process in November. But it has met stiff resistance from the newly formed Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, headed by Doug Yearley, the retired chief executive of giant copper-mining concern Phelps Dodge Corp. Yearley owns a $3.4 million waterfront home on the Cape.
The alliance plans a $3 million legal battle to stop the project (it accepts donations of stock), and has strong backing from Rep. Bill Delahunt, D- Mass. Delahunt wants a moratorium on the project until Congress enacts a comprehensive federal policy on offshore renewable energy. That could kill offshore wind farms for years, if not decades.
"I definitely support alternative energy," Robert Kennedy told a local public radio program. But he insisted that the wind farm plan "makes no sense for the public because the costs it's going to impose on the people of these regions are so huge. . .probably larger than coal."
"This isn't just about wealthy people objecting to the diminishment of property values, but that's an important issue too," he added. "The aesthetics are going to forbid people from going there."
The alliance says the wind farm would spoil tourism, kill migratory birds and create a "permanent industrial facility in a pristine natural environment. " And the towers would be illuminated at night to warn boats and aircraft, turning the coastline into a Christmas tree.
But many environmental groups oppose a moratorium, including Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council (where Robert Kennedy works), World Wildlife Fund, Public Interest Research Group and Friends of the Earth.
Curt Davies, research director for Greenpeace USA, challenged Kennedy on the radio program: "The truth is, everybody has to ante up in the fight for a clean energy future." Rising waters from global warming, he said, "are going to overwhelm the precious Nantucket area and all of Massachusetts."
"We're bullish on wind," Davies added. "We love that fact that somebody is pushing the envelope here."
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, a presidential contender who is running on an environmentalist platform and owns a home on Nantucket, has not taken a position yet, but has said he likes alternative energy.
Opponents hope Sen. Kennedy or Rep. Delahunt can stop the project. And Robert Kennedy, who has helped "indigenous tribes in Latin America and Canada successfully negotiate treaties protecting traditional homelands" is now in a fight for his own.
E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at email@example.com
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