Cape Wind Has Powerful Critics, Supporters

Published September 1, 2006

The Cape Wind project has powerful opposition, including Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and the Bay State’s senior Democrat senator, Edward M. Kennedy. An environmental group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, also has worked against the plan.

This summer Kennedy and allies in the U.S. Senate attempted to short-circuit the project by endorsing legislation that would require the governor’s approval of the wind farm. If he had been granted such powers, Romney would have stopped the wind farm plan.

After pressure from members of Congress who threatened to scuttle the entire Coast Guard reauthorization bill, however, Kennedy assented to a compromise that gives the Coast Guard–not the governor–regulatory review over the wind farm proposal.

Kennedy, a boating enthusiast who spends summers at his Hyannisport home, contends the wind farm would be a navigational hazard and a threat to Cape Cod’s vibrant tourist economy. That worry is shared by local fishermen, chambers of commerce, and the real estate industry.

Grid Operator Backs Project

Supporters of the project argue the wind farm would generate 170 much-needed megawatts of electricity to a high-cost region. ISO New England, a not-for-profit corporation that runs the region’s power grid, expressed support for Cape Wind in a letter to federal regulators earlier this year.

“Our region is in need of both new generation sources and a diversification of its generational base,” wrote ISO New England Vice President Stephen Whitely. “This is important for both the economy and electric system reliability.”

The project would generate about 2.5 percent of the electricity used by Massachusetts, or 1 percent of that used by all of New England.

Polls Show Support

According to some polls, the project enjoys public support. Several environmental groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation and the Sierra Club, also support the project. A poll in May by the Civil Society Institute, a public policy think tank in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, found 81 percent of adults statewide and 61 percent of Cape Cod residents supported the Cape Wind project. Only 14 percent opposed it.

Another poll, by the College of Marine Studies at the University of Delaware, found high-income residents were the least likely to support Cape Wind.

Frank Conte