Nantucket Sound as seen from Popponesset Beach in Mashpee, Mass. where the Cape Wind off-shore wind turbine power generation project won approval for construction.

Credit: Julia Cumes/AP, File

Cape Wind Calls It Quits

December 7, 2017

Barbara Howard: What happened to Cape Wind? That's the project to put a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in the waters of Nantucket Sound. It was pioneering when it was first proposed 16 years ago. It seemed destined to become the nation's first offshore wind farm, poised to help power Cape Cod and the islands. But from the start it faced stiff opposition, not least from the Kennedy family. This fall, the project finally appeared to be back on track. But now, the plug has been pulled once and for all. Cape Wind's president is Jim Gordon and he's on the line to tell us what happened. Hello, Jim.

Jim Gordon: Hi, Barbara.

Howard: So back in September, the Interior Department did reaffirm Cape Wind's lease of 46 square miles on Nantucket Sound and then recently, the project's opponents filed a Notice of Appeal, and then shortly after that, the project was scrapped. So why was the plug pulled?

Gordon: Over the years, there was just opposition from a very small special interest group that filed over 25 appeals on the project over its life.

Howard: It sounds like the court costs were going to kill this?

Gordon: Look — it's not so much the court costs. What's worse is the time element, and part of it is the process itself, how it lends itself to just endless appeals like there's no finality. I mean, I can't tell you how many times we re-litigated the same things in different forms. But it's really the time — time can kill a project.

Howard: So Cape Wind did have a lot of critics in high places — the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was among them. Now Kennedy and others in his camp said that they did have environmental concerns, but some felt that it was really a matter of their view of the ocean off the coast of Cape Cod being blighted by more than 100 wind turbines that would have been visible from the shore. There also were worries about harm to property values. Here is another Kennedy — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — raising environmental concerns back in 2005.

SOUND FROM ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.

You wouldn't put a wind farm in Yosemite. You shouldn't put one in Yellowstone. You shouldn't put one on the Boston Commons and you shouldn't put one in Nantucket Sound. This is, you know, the worst trap that environmentalists can fall into.

Howard: What do you say to that?

Gordon: What I say to Mr. Kennedy is that the project went through 17 federal and state agencies. The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office said that Cape Wind would contribute [to] and enhance the environment and preservation of Cape Cod and the islands. The waters there are warming, lobsters are migrating, the lobster industry is decimated. There are a number of environmental harms that are being visited on Cape Cod because of climate change. This project went through probably the most comprehensive permitting process in the history of Massachusetts. And, we looked at numerous sites, alternative sites, as part of the process, and the federal agencies concurred that Horseshoe Shoal was the best spot for this project. And yes, there was some opposition, but you have to understand we had an enormous amount of support from environmental advocates like Mass. Audubon, Conservation Law Foundation, National Resource Defense Council. All kinds of people wanted this project to happen. Unfortunately, that was stopped by a small group of people that just had unlimited resources to continue to gum up the works in the courts. That's what ultimately led to our decision, because there were still many avenues that the opponents could have appealed the project on.

Howard: What is your sense of the future of offshore wind in the United States?

Gordon: You know, we were the lone voice in the wilderness many years ago when we started this project. But now, people are recognizing that offshore wind is going to be an important part of the energy future, and we're proud of the role that we played.

Howard: Do you have any regrets?

Gordon: I have no regrets at all. Although Cape Wind didn't come to fruition, we're proud of the catalyzing and pioneering effort we devoted to bringing offshore wind to the United States.

Howard: OK, thank you so much, Mr. Gordon.

Gordon: OK, Barbara.

Howard: That's Jim Gordon. He was president of Cape Wind, which had been trying to build an offshore wind farm in the waters of Nantucket Sound, but after 16 years, it's now ended that effort. WGBH News did reach out to one of Cape Wind's chief opponents, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. They declined to comment.


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