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SECRETARY OF THE INFERIOR ?

Updated on May 9, 2010

CAPE WIND: WRECKED ON HORSESHOE SHOAL

Cape Wind, the idea that Nantucket Sound should host a huge commercial scale so-called renewable energy project, has been under federal review since the year 2001. First the United States Army Corps of Engineers and since 2005 under a new federal law (the Energy Policy Act of 2005) the United States Minerals Management Service has reviewed the Cape Wind application for exclusive use of twenty-five square miles of Horseshoe Shoal, the middle of Nantucket Sound. Now the Cape Wind decision is Ken Salazar's responsibility.

From a distance, which is where I sit when observing most public officials, United States Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar seems a likable, decent, competent man. He is no dummy, having been elected to serve as Attorney General for Colorado and then as United States senator for that state. Mr. Salazar was plucked from the Senate by newly elected president Barack Obama to head the United States Department of the Interior. As a former prosecutor Mr. Salazar is probably well able to detect a scam when he hears one. Cape Wind should be no problem: the developer is not telling the whole truth and the costs to the public for approving Cape Wind are enormous. And, the more I see and hear of and from Secretary Salazar, the more I respect his intelligence and method. He wants to be sure that Cape Wind and all offshore wind projects are reviewed according to the newly established rules, that all such projects serve the public interest.

Ken Salazar is an intelligent and ethical man. These are not qualities that will endear him to Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon. Gordon wants to gain approval for the Cape Wind project and history will show that he will do and say curious things to achieve approval. For example, the wind turbines he originally specified , the General Electric model 3.6s, have been discontinued since at least 2007. Still, Gordon has yet to say on the record that he has no turbines available. Minerals Management Service has known about the turbine issue since at least August of 2008, but have failed to call for a new Description of the Action by Gordon. Now the problem is on Mr. Salazar's desk.

Since the year 2001 Jim Gordon has been trying to gain federal approval for his Cape Wind project, an offshore wind farm he wants to plant on Nantucket Sound's Horseshoe Shoal. Having spun his web over and through the administration of George W. Bush Gordon is now seeking to work his breezy magic on the Obama presidency and gain a permit approval for his next big energy score. For nine tortured years Cape Wind has dodged the bullet of reason and fact, but now the end is near. Secretary Salazar wants to know if compromise is possible between Cape Wind opponents and proponents. Jim Gordon does not appear to know the meaning of the word compromise. He will not bend.

Nine years after the Cape Wind project was first proposed the federal government has acknowledged that Indian tribal concerns are important, in spite of long standing law and regulations dictating that such concerns must be considered in such matters. It is alleged that Cape Wind had has avoided properly addressing these concerns. In fact, it appears to some observers that Cape Wind actually moved sampling activities at the project site to avoid further discoveries of archeological findings of aboriginal settlements. To some it appears that Cape Wind would desecrate ancient native burial sites and historic settlements. These concerns have been known for years but are only now receiving attention under the new Secretary of the Interior. Previously used only to stop so-called undesirable energy projects such as hydroelectric damns and nuclear projects these archeological and historic arguments are now being aimed at the Cape Wind project which is claimed to be a desecration of ancient burial and habitation sites as well as religious sites. Finally the rules are being applied fairly, but it appears that Jim Gordon and Cape Wind do not appreciate this fairness.

The commercial press have steadfastly refused to acknowledge these concerns in the Cape Wind case. This factual ignorance, or avoidance, is amusing when one considers how the press routinely seize on anything aboriginal to generate interest and sales. Today's fashionable feathers are tomorrow's sour grapes. Native rights appear to be less important than political correctness...or they are politically correct unless they interfere with a renewable energy developer's plans. Tough to tell.

Added to these "recently discovered" but long-known concerns about historic and archeological matters is the basic economic issue: shallow water offshore wind power is expensive. Grid integration costs added to the undeniable capital costs of offshore wind make this renewable energy source very expensive....more than twice the retail cost of the traditional energy mix. Of course, it is impossible to know the exact costs to Cape Wind customers if no one knows what turbines will be used, but Jim Gordon wants us to trust him. So does the U.S. Minerals Management Service. This where our new Secretary of the Interior enters the picture. How will he deal with these problems? When will he demand that Minerals Management Service staff do their jobs?

Whatever Secretary Salazar decides in the Cape Wind case will become precedent for all future offshore Continental Shelf project decisions. Oil and gas explorations, mineral mining ......these will demand and should receive the same lax review as Cape Wind. Fair is fair. And, because of this simple fact, Kenneth Salazar could well become known as the Secretary of the Inferior. All because Jim Gordon can never be rich enough.


Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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