Federal funding for Cape Wind is proving to be fertile ground for political haggling in Washington, DC.
Last Thursday, July 10, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 4923, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2015, with a provision that prohibits funding for Cape Wind.
A statement from Congressman William R. Keating (D-Bourne) said that the provision was supported by Republican members of Congress and caters to special interest groups such as “Big Oil.”
“I voted against this bill and oppose the continued efforts to undermine the development of offshore renewable energy. Once again, my Republican colleagues have demonstrated their tireless commitment to the oil and gas industry at the expense of investing in our nation’s job creation and innovation,” Congressman Keating wrote in a statement.
The vote comes after the US Department of Energy announced a conditional commitment to issue a loan guarantee for $150 million for Cape Wind this month. Republicans Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, chairman of the
Subcommittee on Energy and Power, and Fred Upton of Michigan, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, have statements on their websites opposing the federal loan.
“It’s more opposition to Cape Wind because it is an expensive project that will raise electricity rates for taxpayers and depends on tax subsidies while sending jobs overseas,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a local group that opposes the project for its financial and environmental implications.
Last year Cape Wind, whose developer is Energy Management Inc., a New England energy company, entered a deal with Siemens AG, a company based in Denmark, to supply 130 3.6-megawatt wind turbines, and an offshore electric service platform to be installed at Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound as well as a service agreement for the first 15 years of commercial operation slated to begin in 2016.
Its website states that the project will create 75 percent of the electricity used on the Cape while producing zero emissions. This would translate to taking 175,000 cars off the road each year.
Cape Wind does not believe the decision will be a major setback. Mark J. Rogers, communications director at Cape Wind, said the provision was inserted to block the loan agreement and that it will likely not pass in the Senate.
“This is a narrow partisan reaction that has no chance of being enacted into law. It’s sad and unfortunate that any House Republican who espouses support for an all of the above energy policy would even try to block clean domestic offshore wind from being part of our energy mix,” Mr. Rogers wrote in an e-mail.
The loan program originated in a Republican majority congress in 2005 under President George W. Bush to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse emissions, Mr. Rogers said.
“It makes perfect sense that America’s first offshore wind farm was selected for this program,” Mr. Rogers wrote.
The Cape Wind project has sparked differing opinions on how environmentally friendly it is among local groups. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound believes the proposed 25-acre plant would threaten commercial fishing and endangered wildlife in the area. Also, the farm would not cut down on fossil fuel-burning plants, which must continue running in case there is insufficient wind.
Other groups such as the Better Future Project, creator of 350 Massachusetts—a volunteer climate action group which started a local chapter in Falmouth in April—make climate change their priority.
“Better Future Project is calling on state and federal policymakers to do everything they can to confront the climate crisis and ramp up investments in clean energy and efficiency. Massachusetts can't expect to hit our clean energy goals—or make meaningful progress on solving climate change—without ambitious projects like Cape Wind,” Emily R. Kirkland, communications coordinator for Better Future Projects, wrote in an e-mail.