Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dept. of Interior Approves Cape Wind: Shot heard around the world for clean energy, or just the latest shot in a nine-year war?

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The Department of the Interior today, at long last, approved the much-debated Cape Wind project, which will establish a farm of 130 turbines five miles offshore in Nantucket Sound. State Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles said, "This will be the shot heard around the world for clean energy."

Many environmental groups—including Environment Massachusettslauded the achievement as a great victory for sustainability, climate action, and common sense. Some other environmentalists denounced the measure and vowed to continue fighting it.

A debate that had been raging on the Massachusetts preservation listserve flared up again today, as the majority of posters took harsh anti-Cape Wind stances, reiterating a host of concerns, ranging from dire harm to the ocean ecosystem to despoliation of historic views (though the project is to be located five miles offshore) or even destruction of presumed (for now submerged) historic landscape or archaeological remains (though whatever is there hasn't been seen since the Ice Age). Several Native American tribes likewise promised to keep up the fight.

Splits and alliances were unpredictable in the political world, as well: liberal Democratic Governor Deval Patrick and Senator John Kerry supported the project, whereas newly elected conservative Senator Scott Brown—like his liberal predecessor Ted Kennedy—opposed it.

We are a state that loves its process and debate, and nothing brings out that double-edged trait like what one blogger called "the mother of all NIMBY battles": it's got environment, historic preservation, Native American rights, and plain old nasty political mudslinging—something for everyone to get worked up and indignant about. Why stop when we're having fun?

Stay tuned.

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