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Patrick says state wants clean-energy business

Deval Patrick spoke in D.C. at a governors conference. Deval Patrick spoke in D.C. at a governors conference.

WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick reaffirmed his support for what he called the "complicated" Cape Wind energy project yesterday, saying he wants to create jobs in the Bay State by encouraging growth of the clean-energy industry.

Speaking at a conference here, Patrick said the turbine farm planned for Nantucket Sound is "a symbol of the kind of economy" that he wants to cultivate in Massachusetts. The governor said he wants to attract the entire renewable energy industry to the state, including companies that would design and manufacture wind turbines, hybrid cars, and solar panels, in addition to establishing conservation consulting firms.

"I don't just want wind farms," Patrick told the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, business, environmental, and community groups that promote energy independence. "The whole integrated industry ought to and can have a place in Massachusetts," he added, noting that the state's intellectual and venture capital as well as its entrepreneurial tradition make it ripe to be a center for alternative and renewable energy.

The governor is in Washington attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, which ends today.

Cape Wind has been trying for five years to construct 130 giant turbines in Nantucket Sound over some 24 square miles of ocean. The project, however, has drawn intense opposition from those who question its potential effect on public safety, fishing, tourism, and other industries.

According to a project report, Cape Wind could produce three-fourths of the Cape and Islands' electricity; the project's final environmental impact statement was filed last week. Mark Rodgers, communications director for the project, said that both state and federal agencies are expected to make a final decision on permits for Cape Wind by early next year.

A spokesperson for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who has been outspoken in his opposition to the Cape Wind project, said he still disagrees with the governor over the matter but will join Patrick to "promote and develop renewable energy in Massachusetts."

In his speech yesterday, Patrick -- whose support for Cape Wind is a sharp contrast with former governor Mitt Romney's opposition to it -- said that "not everybody on the other side of that question are just rich beachfront property owners concerned about their views. . . . There are serious issues on both sides of the question."

He later added that the project's leaders have listened to its critics and improved it. "Now it's in the hands of the experts," Patrick said.

Patrick said that he expects leadership in the renewable energy industry to come from the private sector and from state governments, saying the Bush administration has not provided a comprehensive energy strategy.

"What you read about the diminishing sources of foreign oil and gas is real," Patrick said. "There is a sense of urgency we ought to have from a supply point of view, from a security point of view, and from an environmental point of view of breaking our dependence on foreign oil and gas."

Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado, who spoke after Patrick at the conference, also pledged support for a wind farm project in his home state.