Wind-farm foes say feds caved

June 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Federal air-safety officials — buckling under political pressure from the Obama and Patrick administrations to approve Cape Wind — were strong-armed into tak– ing “inappropriate shortcuts” in their review of the offshore energy farm, project opponents charge.

“You’ve got a very clear green agenda from the Obama administration, and a very clear agenda from the Patrick administration, wanting to have America’s first offshore wind farm, seemingly at the expense of public safety and fishermen, and other public interests,” Audra Parker of the anti-Cape Wind Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound told the Herald. “It’s like offshore wind at any cost.”

In a letter to acting Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta, Parker said bombshell internal emails the group obtained through a public-records request “make clear that FAA has made decisions based on political factors rather than the recommendations of the pilots, who use this airspace every day.”

A White House spokeswoman did not reply to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Patrick said the project “advanced based on the merits plain and simple. Final FAA approval will only come after serious consideration is given to public safety and ways to mitigate any potential risks.”

The documents — many created when the FAA was reviewing Cape Wind’s air-safety risks — contain repeated references to political support for the proposed 130-turbine farm five miles offshore of Cape Cod.

Some of the documents’ comments include:

• From an internal slideshow presentation in May 2010: “The Secretary of the Interior has approved this project. The Administration is under pressure to promote green energy production. It would be very difficult politically to refuse approval of this project.”

• In a May 2010 email from another manager to a host of recipients, regarding concerns about the turbulence planes leave in their wake and the subtle effects of wind turbines on surrounding climate:

“Who is willing to go tell the White House that we are halting wind development because there might be wake turbulence or micro-climate effects?”

• In an August 2010 email about the options available to upgrade Cape Cod airspace to digital radar — a measure to allay fears the turbines might confuse air-traffic controllers — concludes, “All of this is moved by politics, as well.”

In October, a federal court ordered the FAA to reopen its review of Cape Wind, saying the agency downplayed risks the project poses to small aircraft.

Parker said the documents cry out for a congressional probe.

“I’m looking for either some sort of a hearing, or an inspector general investigation, to determine whether the FAA was doing their job,” she said.

“This is putting public safety at risk.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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