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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Economy

Molly Line

Boston, MA

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1st Offshore Wind Farm: Decision Day

April 28, 2010 - 9:46 AM | by: Molly Line

A landmark decision on the fate of America’s first offshore wind farm will be announced today. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has scheduled a press conference for noon in Boston from Beacon Hill.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is an adamant supporter of the Cape Wind project and the announcement will be made from the Governor’s press office.

Salazar will announce whether or not final federal approval will be granted to Cape Wind. The battle over the company’s proposal to construct 130 turbines in the waters off Cape Cod has been nine years long. Dozens of public hearings, protests for and against, political wrangling and environmental concerns have combined to make the regulatory process slow and arduous.

“I think the decision is going to be very high stakes and significant either way,” said Mark Rodgers, spokesperson for Cape Wind. “If it’s favorable, it will be huge for Cape Wind. We’ll be the first off-shore wind project in country to get this federal permit.”

Rodgers believes a thumbs-down decision would lead to serious repercussions throughout America’s fledgling off-shore wind industry, scaring away investors and discouraging projects.

“A negative decision would have a really chilling effect,” said Rodgers. “It would make everybody think twice about whether they want to make significant investments in time and money.”

Proponents of Cape Wind say the project will create jobs and provide clean energy.

Opponents of Cape Wind have argued the environmental impact to Nantucket Sound would be too great, that migrating birds or the fragile marine eco-system could be harmed. Some have argued air and sea navigation would be affected. Others say the Cape’s thriving tourism industry would be stunted and that long-treasured ocean views would be destroyed.

Sailors, scientists, and nearby home owners have had their say. Local, state and federal authorities have weighed in. From the Coast Guard to the U.S. Energy Department to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Minerals Management Service, agencies focused on both land and sea, have filed hundreds of documents, reviewed thousands of pages and slowly moved the project forward.

Politically, Cape Wind has not been a project that divides along party lines.

The late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who’s Hyannis Port home overlooked Nantucket Sound, argued voraciously against the project prior to his death. Fellow Democrat, Senator John Kerry said he will support the project if it is approved by Salazar. Recently elected Republican Senator Scott Brown is opposed.

Even the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation weighed in on the hotly contested energy project earlier this month, arguing against Cape Wind, citing the Kennedy Compound as one of many historical properties that would be affected. In total, the ACHP claims 34 historic sites on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island will be adversely impacted.

Six Governors from nearby states fired back at the ACHP’s attempt to influence Salazar’s decision writing in a letter “we are troubled by the implications for all offshore wind” if council’s approach is adopted.

Signed by Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, Governor David Paterson of New York, Governor Don Carcieri of Rhode Island, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland the letter to Secretary Salazar reads in part:

“Processes and standards must be transparent, predictable and applied fairly. Adopting the ACHP’s recommendation sets a much more strict standard for offshore wind project compared to other types of development, thwarting the compelling national priorities President Obama has set and you have embraced- lowing our greenhouse gas emissions and regaining economic leadership through the development of clean, renewable energy.”

Salazar’s decision is one being watched closely far beyond the borders of Massachusetts.

At the end of last month, Cape Wind announced the company had agreed to buy the 130 wind turbines needed for their project from Siemens. The global company installed the world’s first offshore wind farm in Denmark in 1991.

The ground work is underway and with approval Cape Wind hopes to be making energy by 2012.

“Our goal would be to begin construction by the end of this year,” said Rodgers.

European countries operate over a dozen offshore wind farms and China’s first goes online within weeks.

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