Published July 02, 2012
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.
Now the same congressman who led the investigation into failed solar panel firm Solyndra is calling for a probe into Cape Wind.
"The emails that came from the FAA that I have seen obviously shows the White House is pushing the FAA for political reasons," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.
Audra Parker, the president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization that's working to prevent the wind farm's development, said her organization has obtained documents she believes are proof the Federal Aviation Administration fast-tracked the project despite safety concerns for local aviation.
"We have at the federal level and at the state level a very, very strong green agenda but this project is a perfect example of a green agenda at any cost," she said
Parker welcomed a congressional investigation. "The documents are based on responses that we got through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FAA, and they reveal a very strong pattern of political pressure and ultimately the FAA succumbing to that political pressure and sacrificing the lives of the flying public over Nantucket sound," she said.
Parker's paperwork reveals that an internal FAA email from 2009 acknowledges "The Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound is highly political..."
A PowerPoint presentation given in 2010 states: "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."
These documents have caught the attention of Stearns.
"I think the Cape Wind project is something similar to Solyndra in the sense there's a lot of pressure from the White House," the congressman said.
The White House dismissed Stearns' latest accusations. And Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said that despite the concerns raised by opponents, the project has been heavily vetted.
"Cape Wind has been through the most comprehensive review of any power facility in the history of the Northeast U.S., and so if we're on any kind of fast track I'd hate to see the slow track," said Rodgers.
In fact, the FAA is again reviewing the project after a federal appeals court overturned the agency's ruling that 130 proposed turbines posed "no hazard" to aviation. Rodgers believes the FAA will once more rule in Cape Wind's favor despite political pressure from opponents.
"We know in the early years there was a lot of political pressure by project opponents to try to prevent the FAA from ever approving Cape Wind. But despite that negative political pressure the FAA has approved this three times after reviewing the full record -- twice during the Bush years, once now in the Obama years, and we're confident when they have this one more decision to make that we'll be approved again," Rodgers said.
Despite the latest efforts to fight the project, Cape Wind hopes to begin building next year. But they are facing multiple lawsuits and the possibility of further delays as both sides -- for and against the development -- charge that politics is playing a role in the battle.