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May 22, 2008

MMS Overwhelmed by 40,000+ Comments on Cape Wind

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Agency permanently extends comment period for alt. energy leases

[Originally posted at Red, Green, and Blue on May 5, 2008] In the fall of 2001, Jim Gordon of Energy Management Inc. (EMI) announced his intentions to build a 420 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts - the nation's first. Now, the long permitting process that was made even longer by powerful opposition groups, is nearing resolution...finally.

More than 40,000 individuals and organizations have submitted comments on an environmental review of the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, according to an article in the Cape Cod Times.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Rodney Cluck, Cape Wind project manager for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the lead federal agency to review Cape Wind Associates' plan to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts. Originally, the comments were set to be released last Friday, but officials at the Minerals Management Service postponed the release to give agency staffers more time to organize the overwhelming public response to the proposed wind farm.

As a result of the scoping process' popularity, the MMS announced that they would be preemptively extending the comment period for all of the remaining "Alternative Energy Leases" from 30 to 60 days.More...

The final number of public comments submitted on the agency's Cape Wind draft environmental report has yet to be tallied. But it is quite telling that an earlier 2005 report on the same project issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers produced one-tenth the number of comments than this one indicates that MMS did something right since taking over the review of Cape Wind from the Army Corps as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (As an aside, I think it also says something about the Corps of Engineers' ability to adequately conduct a thorough public scoping process).

Opponents remain critical; supporters remain confident

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the project's most vocal opponent, enlisted 40 experts to review the report. The hired guns produced a 3,000-page critique of the Cape Wind proposal. One theme of critique coming from private scientists as well as public ones, was that the report's information on migratory birds and fishery habitats where the project would be located is inadequate. "At the very least, the (report) should explain why recommended studies and analyses were not conducted and the ramifications of not having that information," Michael Bartlett, supervisor for the New England Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Despite the criticisms of the MMS report, the vast majority of comments submitted will be in favor of the project, predicted Mark Rodgers, Communications Director for Cape Wind Associates.

A record of decision from the agency indicating approval or disapproval of the Cape Wind project is expected to be released sometime in the winter. And only then will this long, arduous journey be over...right?

Cape Cod Times

Other Posts Related to the Cape Wind Project:

"The Politicos Chiming in On Cape Wind" :: sustainablog (8/2005)

"(D)emocracy: Tell the Feds What You Think About Cape Wind" :: Planetsave (2/2008)

"Survey Finds Overwhelming Support for Cape Wind" :: ecopolitology (8/2007)

"Breaking: MMS Report Favorable on Cape Wind" :: sustainablog (1/2008)

"Cape Wind Opponent to Step Down" :: sustainablog (1/2008)

Photo: © Kamil Sob√≥cki | Dreamstime.com

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