Cape Wind Project Struggles to Pass Go

After more than a decade of push and pull, the nation’s first offshore wind farm got the green light — but longtime opponents of Massachusetts’ Cape Wind claim they have a smoking gun that shows the Obama administration applied “pressure” to get the project approved. 

That’s the story Fox News ran yesterday about the Cape Wind project. Do you know about the Cape Wind project? The massive wind energy project that would place 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound within view of some very, very exclusive communities along the coast of Massachusetts? The green energy project that the late Senator Ted Kennedy adamantly opposed because he believed it would destroy the view from his very, very exclusive beachfront compound in Hyannis?

The project remains hugely controversial, even though it’s been studied to death over the past decade. The latest kerfuffle is that the Obama White House pressured some agencies to get the project approved. This is supposed to be a shocking revelation.

But it’s not shocking at all. Like all federal projects, Cape Wind had to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). And NEPA is always subject to political pressures. The entire premise of NEPA is to engage the public in discussions about federal environmental projects. I assure you that there are members of the public, usually organized in groups, who can apply a great deal of pressure. Further, every federal environmental project has its origins in the legislative (congress) or the executive (the White House and cabinet agencies) branch of government. Of course there’s political pressure involved in NEPA projects.

As I’ve written here before, NEPA is a procedural tool, not an outcome tool. It doesn’t guarantee the best environmental outcomes. NEPA doesn’t even guarantee good environmental outcomes. It’s a paperwork hurdle. And with a federal project as politically charged as this expensive and massive green energy wind farm, we should expect nothing less than political pressure to get over that hurdle, just like the political pressure applied to use NEPA to kill the Keystone Pipeline Project.

By the way, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Cape Wind was 3,800 pages long. Did you read it? What a joke NEPA has become.


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