INTERIM US Senator Paul Kirk should use his brief service in Washington to do something more constructive than seconding a splotch on Edward Kennedy’s legislative record: his attempts to kill the Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound. Quickly learning the Washington tactic of death by a thousand delays, Kirk has asked President Obama to postpone the administration’s approval of Cape Wind until an interagency task force has come up with comprehensive guidelines for development in ocean waters - a process that has no firm deadline.
After eight years of federal regulatory scrutiny, Cape Wind is closer to approval and construction than any major offshore wind project. The energy bill of 2005 shifted jurisdiction over it from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, necessitating additional levels of review. So far, no federal regulator has found the 130 turbines would cause serious problems to the environment, the fishing industry, or maritime traffic.
After Obama created the interagency oceans task force in June, several environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined with renewable energy producers in cautioning the task force against placing a moratorium on projects like Cape Wind that are already in the permitting process. Governor Patrick also wants the turbines built, as do 86 percent of the state’s residents and all four Democratic contenders for Kennedy’s seat.
Representative Edward Markey, whose name graces the only comprehensive climate change bill passed by either congressional chamber, has encouraged Obama to approve Cape Wind before the international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen next week - a fitting statement of US determination to reduce greenhouse gases. These are the Massachusetts voices the president should be heeding, not that of an appointed fill-in who should have thought better than to do the bidding of the project’s obstructionist opponents.