THE LATEST sneak attempt to block the wind farm off Cape Cod is an amendment that opponents want to attach to a funding bill for the Coast Guard. By banning any wind turbines within 1.5 nautical miles of a shipping lane or ferry route, it would kill the Cape Wind project, part of which is 1,500 feet from shipping channels. If project opponents succeed in attaching the clause to the conference committee report on the bill, both houses of Congress should reject the report.
Like an invisible torpedo, the amendment is attacking the wind farm without a hearing in either chamber. If there had been hearings, members of Congress would know that offshore oil rigs are permitted within 500 feet of shipping channels in US waters and that wind turbines in Copenhagen harbor are within a quarter mile of shipping lanes that get vastly more traffic than the Nantucket Sound site proposed for the Cape wind farm. At Nysted, south of Copenhagen, the biggest offshore wind farm in the world sits 1 mile from one of the busiest shipping channels in Europe, used by 60,000 ships a year.
With hearings, Congress would also be reminded that the energy bill it passed this summer makes the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service the lead agency for offshore wind facilities. The service is directed to consider issues such as shipping lanes safety in consultation with the Coast Guard and other agencies. A group opposing Cape Wind, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, favors the amendment and says it reflects concern in the United Kingdom over possible radar interference caused by wind turbines. It's true the British would subject a Cape Wind-like project to special scrutiny, but their proposed regulations would not require an outright ban.
If Cape Wind's 130 turbines are built, they would supply about three-quarters of the electricity needs of the Cape and Islands but require no costly fossil fuels and produce no greenhouse gases.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and professor at Pace Law School, criticized the project in an opinion article in yesterday's New York Times. But Kennedy, whose family owns property in Hyannis Port, omitted a crucial fact: If he stood on a beach in Hyannis and sighted in on the turbines with his extended arm, they would be no larger than his thumbnail.
It is one thing to have a not-in-my-backyard approach to issues. Not-in-my-back-ocean is going some. But at least Kennedy's attack on Cape Wind is out in the open. The same cannot be said for the stealth assault being mounted in the Coast Guard conference committee. Congress should reject any limits on wind projects that have not been subjected to the sunshine effect of open debate.