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Next month Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is scheduled to rule on a proposal to build one of the most contentious clean energy projects in the country. It is a 420-megawatt offshore wind farm in Massachusetts called Cape Wind. Audra Parker, the young leader of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket ... has emerged as a local public interest celebrity as a result of herwork to prevent developers from constructing 130 turbines five miles out in Nantucket Sound.
The long battle over Cape Wind, the grand daddy of citizen opposition campaigns to clean energy development, is a reflection of many other such battles across the country, and emblematic of the
schism in the environmental community over clean energy development and climate action. There are grassroots campaigns against wind energy projects in 13 states alone documented in this post.
Many of my environmental friends are not that concerned, arguing that grassroots opposition represents the give-and-take, checks and balances that have always existed in the green community. My reporting indicates that it could be much more significant than that, and may invite criticism from environmentalism’s opponents.
On the one hand, said a letter this week in my hometown weekly, the Benzie Record-Patriot, environmental organizations have pushed hard for clean energy investment and action to solve global warming. On the other groups big and small assert this or that project is unfit for construction. I’m
documenting that opposition in this and a number of other posts.
With wind the arguments generally focus around noise, viewsheds, light flicker, location, and a few more issues. But victory for wind opponents is no victory because the default position now and for the
time being is almost always generating power with more fossil fuel, mostly coal. In the risk-benefit analysis how is that coal is seen as less risky than wind?
Nevertheless grassroots activists fighting clean energy are gaining fame and plenty of support. On Nantucket, Audra Parker counts the Kennedy family as allies, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s senior environmental attorneys, though the NRDC says the windfarm should be built. The state historic preservation officer also opposes the project because of its location in an area viewed as historically significant, as well as sacred to a number of native American tribes.
Greenpeace supports the project, which was initially proposed almost a decade ago, along with the World Wildlife Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dr. George Woodwell, the renowned ecologist and the founder of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.
Many of the details of the opposition to the Nantucket Sound development — viewsheds, NIMBYism, scale of the machines, proximity to sacred ground — are consistent with another fight over wind energy nearby on Cape Cod. Wellfleet officials want to place one windmill on town land close to Cape Cod National Seashore...
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