Chad Love: Cape Cod Wind Farms and the NIMBY Syndrome

Earlier this week Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the nation’s first offshore windfarm. From this story on Boston.com: In a … Continued

Earlier this week Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the nation’s first offshore windfarm.

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From this story on Boston.com:
In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he had approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod. “This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick. The decision comes after nine years of battles over the proposal. “America needs offshore wind power and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation,” Patrick said.

Why did it take nine years to get approval? Because, some argue, it would spoil the summer home views of a lot of rich and powerful people.

From this column in the Wall Street Journal:
So beautiful Cape Cod may well become home to America’s first offshore wind farm, after all. Or maybe not. On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar finally gave the go-ahead for the $1 billion Cape Wind project in federal waters off Massachusetts on Nantucket Sound. The decision is viewed as a wind-power bellwether, since the industry still hasn’t built a single offshore turbine in the U.S. Yet this saga–which has already dragged on for most of a decade amid fierce political opposition and claims of “visual pollution,” shorebird Cuisinarts and the desecration of Indian burial grounds–still isn’t over. The Cape Wind company estimates that it has spent more than $45 million in the so-far-endless gauntlet of regulatory reviews, government studies, public hearings and environmental lawsuits. The biggest obstacle has been that Bay State liberals support renewable energy, as long it is produced somewhere else. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a well-funded opposition outfit, has already vowed to file suit against Mr. Salazar’s approval, and the legal battle could stretch out for another five years or more.

Cape Wind might have had an easier go if it had tried to build near Bar Harbor, Maine, or East Hampton, New York, if only because the Kennedy family doesn’t summer in those well-to-do retreats. In a February letter, Joseph P. Kennedy II invoked the middle-class proletariat in defense of his Hyannis ocean views when he argued that Cape Wind imposed an “unjustified burden on the ratepayers of Massachusetts.”

For years residents of the plains states have watched as huge windfarm projects have been developed on critical upland gamebird habitat, all without a word of protest from anyone outside the region. But stick one near the Hamptons or Hyannis, and suddenly wind power isn’t so green after all. Valid argument or just a case of super-rich NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome?