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Interior Secretary Signs Cape Wind Project Lease, Stresses Need for U.S. to Be Energy Independent


Interior Secretary Salazar last week signed a 28-year lease to permit a wind energy farm to be planted in Nantucket Sound. DOI photo.

Stressing the need for energy independence and technological progress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has signed a lease that will allow 130 wind turbines to be rooted in Nantucket Sound.

"The Department of the Interior is resolute and determined to secure a safer, cleaner energy future for our nation. We do so because we can't afford to remain so dependent on foreign oil," he said last week in a speech to the American Wind Energy Association. "We do so because we can't afford the risks that our energy dependence creates for national security, economic security, and environmental security.

"And we do so because we can't afford to fall behind China, Germany and India in the race for new energy technologies and renewable energy jobs," he added. "We will not accept second place."

The secretary's decision to sign the 28-year lease, which he did after his speech, likely isn't being received well by all.

Secretary Salazar was pulled into the wind project when the National Park Service’s Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places determined that Nantucket Sound was eligible for listing on the register because for of its significant archeological, historic, and cultural values. Those values, Secretary Salazar said back in March, must be considered in the Minerals Management Service's review process regarding a permit for the Cape Wind project proposed to be built in Horseshoe Shoals.

The Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes, the "People of the First Light," had sought the listing determination, arguing that the proposed wind farm would impact sacred rituals they conduct on the sound by obscuring the sunrise. The tribes also have contended the project would impact submerged tribal burial grounds. Others object to the project because they believe it would blight the viewshed and create environmental and navigational impacts.

Cape Wind Associates, LLC, plans to build and operate a commercial wind energy facility on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. The project calls for 130 turbines of 3.6 megawatts, each with a maximum blade height of 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound in federal waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island. The projected maximum electric output would be 468 megawatts (average of 183 MW) and serve communities in the Nantucket Sound area.

In April, when he announced that he would endorse the project, the Interior secretary emphasized that Interior officials had taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on traditional cultural resources and historic properties, including government-to-government consultations with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and that he was “mindful of our unique relationship with the tribes and carefully considered their views and concerns.”

Because of concerns expressed during the consultations, the Interior Department has required the developer to change the design and configuration of the wind turbine farm to diminish the visual effects of the project and to conduct additional seabed surveys to ensure that any submerged archaeological resources are protected prior to bottom disturbing activities.

Specifically, Secretary Salazar required efforts to reduce the visual impacts from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; to reconfigure the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and to reduce its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District. Regarding possible seabed cultural and historic resources, a Chance Finds Clause in the lease requires the developer to halt operations and notify Interior of any unanticipated archaeological find.

In his speech to the wind energy association, the Interior secretary stressed the need for the United States to develop a stream of clean, renewable energy at the same time that it develops its fossil fuel reserves.

"The fact is that, even as we transition to a sustainable energy economy, we will continue to rely on oil, gas, and conventional fuels. The Energy Information Agency projects that U.S. energy demands will rise 14 percent over the next 25 years," Secretary Salazar said.

"We need oil and gas. But – as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill made so clear - we need to produce it safer, smarter, and with stronger protections for the environment," he continued. "For 30 years, under the oversight of both Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses, industry ventured into deeper and deeper waters without adequate oversight.

"Drilling technologies accelerated, but safety technologies and the government’s regulatory framework were left behind. That gap is unacceptable."

Wind energy, meanwhile, holds the promise of a clean flow of energy, he said.

"Clean energy jobs are in places like Pueblo, Colorado, where a wind tower manufacturing plant opening there will put over 500 people to work. The new energy revolution is springing to life across the country," Secretary Salazar told the association's members. "The U.S. installed a record 10,000 megawatts of new onshore wind capacity in 2009, or enough to power over 2 million new homes. This is a great start, but it is only the beginning.

"If we fully pursue our potential for wind energy on land and offshore, wind can generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030 and create a quarter-million jobs in the process."

How much controversy the drive for clean energy spawns remains to be seen. Already there have been concerns about wind farms' impacts on sage grouse in Wyoming, and the American Bird Conservancy has been on record opposing the Cape Wind project "because the science collected for the project on bird collision threats is inadequate, and the site will reduce prime offshore sea-duck foraging habitat."

"Further, there are data to suggest that loons will likely abandon the area for years to come, and there may be significant impacts to endangered Roseate Terns , which breed in nearby Buzzard’s Bay and feed in Nantucket Sound,” said Dr. Michael Fry, director of conservation advocacy for American Bird Conservancy.

With the Cape Wind project now signed off on, Interior officials are looking to the West for additional clean energy projects.

Secretary Salazar noted that last week he also approved a fast-track process for two solar energy projects in California that are expected to generate more than 700 megawatts of power. Additionally, he noted that his department "is in the final stages of processing several major wind, solar, geothermal, and transmission energy projects in western states," with a goal of finalizing reviews of the projects by year's end.

"I am proud of the progress we have made. It shows we can cut red tape without cutting corners," said Secretary Salazar. "And, if we can do this type of work on the 250 million acres of the Bureau of Land Management, we should be able to do the same on the 1.75 billion acres of our nation's outer continental shelf."

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Excellent move Secretary Salazar. I am so sorry that those rich folks are going to lose their view of the sound. My family lost our view of the mountains due to a construction project near our home.

There are many wind projects currently being litigated in the Mojave desert that need to move forward also.

That little tortoise has wasted too many of our dollars already. These projects also need the approval to move forward.

I think Secretary Salazar means well, but this is a big mistake. Some wind and solar proposed projects are fine. But many are nothing more than taxpayer-subsidized corporate boondoggles, using the fig leaf of "green power" to get them through the regulatory system with minimal review.

Cape Wind is a perfect example. The wealthy developer is going to make a lot more money while degrading ecosystems, marring the natural landscape, and ripping off the taxpayers. It would never be built without major public subsidies. Moreover, it's selling its power at 150 percent of regular rates through a sweetheart deal with the power company, which was negotiated under state government pressure. The so-called environmental review was done by the discredited Minerals Management Service (which approved the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil rig) and most of the "data" came from the developer. It was a joke.

Many of the Mojave energy proposals are the same kind of thing. They're planned by big corporations that are going to be publicly subsidized. They want to build solar arrays in endangered species habitat because it's cheaper and more convenient. There are plenty of suitable areas in the Mojave that are not ecologically sensitive. There is no need to trash sensitive ecosystems. These "green power" developers also want to build massive power distribution systems that would cut through public lands with important ecological or wilderness values.

It's pathetic that we let these greedy big corporations exploit our public lands and waters, make a boatload of money, leave the environment and taxpayers worse off, and get away with it.

Clean energy is a solution only when it sustains the natural environment. When its construction decimates natural areas, it is counterproductive. We are a nation smart enough to be true environmental leaders, but Secretary Salazar would reduce us to knee-jerk competitors when it comes to energy solutions. He does not seem to understand that "less is more" for environmental health -- or that "Stewardship is the new Development." If he did, then RECYCLING brownfields and existing structures into clean energy centers would be primary land-use policy. Instead, Secretary Salazar chooses to squander our public lands and waters. Whether we do it with wind turbines, solar arrays, or just another parking lot, "Paving Paradise" is no solution. It is just pandering to corporate interests -- this time wrapped in a green label.

Secretary Salazar has no credibility.

Why has the Secretary ignored ALL within the historic preservation community? Why has he ignored Federally Recognized Tribes, treaties, and his own Advisory Council for Historic Preservation?

The National Historic Preservation Act established the ACHP. ACHP is the only entity with the legal responsibility to encourage federal agencies to factor historic preservation into federal project requirements.

The ACHP recommends Salazar deny Cape Wind.

The Tribes are the authority on the Nantucket Sound Tribal Cultural Property subject issues, and they recommend Salazar deny Cape Wind (more than 25 Federally Recognized Tribes):

The State Historic Preservation Officer's SHPO findings favor the Tribes against Cape Wind:

The National Parks Service and the Keeper uphold the SHPO findings that favor the Tribes against Cape Wind:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation findings support Mass Historic Commission MHC's opinion, and National Park's Service's determination of Nantucket Sound's National Register eligibility based on information provided by the authority on these matters, the Tribes, and NT rejects Cape Wind.

Noting the extraordinary leap of faith on the part of the largest assembly in the history of our nation of Native American's, President Obama made a promise to have meaningful consultation with Tribes. "Today's conference is not lip service" stated our President, the adopted son of the Crow:

Why is Secretary Salazar perpetuating myths as sound-bites for the AWEA on fossil fuel v wind that needs fossil fuel back-up?

"According to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration, oil represents less than 40% of our energy use. A full two-thirds of that oil comes from North America, primarily Canada, not the Middle East..."

Less than 1% of our electricity is generated using petroleum, so any renewable generation will have no appreciable effect on petroleum demand..."

Why should we be forced to pay National Grid/Cape Wind’s DIRECT COST as the $4.5 billion dollar premium @ 19.4 cents per kWh? When renewable energy is now available at a cost that’s 200-300% lower than Cape Wind?

And why is Secretary Salazar ignoring Best Science that he claimed will form the basis for decisions regarding federal actions?

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