The federal Minerals Management Service expects to delay issuing its final environmental review of the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, previously expected by the end of the year, into 2009.
The new timetable means that the nation's first proposed offshore wind farm almost certainly will not gain final federal approval before the Bush administration leaves office Jan. 20.
Nicholas Pardi, spokesman for the agency, told the Globe last night that it does not "anticipate publishing [the review] by the end of the year."
The delay comes after the Coast Guard, on the heels of a request by Representative James Oberstar of Minnesota, decided to further review and hold a public comment period on a study it commissioned in October to evaluate the 130 turbines' impact on ship radar. The Coast Guard has provided the Minerals Management Service its findings but has said it will not give its final recommendations until after Jan. 15. Earlier this month, Coast Guard Captain Raymond Perry said any impact Cape Wind had on navigation could be mitigated.
Yesterday, the two senators from New Mexico, Democrat Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Pete V. Domenici the committee's ranking Republican, wrote Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Randall Luthi, director of the Minerals Management Service, urging the agency to release its final environmental review without delay.
They pointed out that the Coast Guard recommendations ordered by law on the navigational safety of Cape Wind had been submitted in August 2007 and that additional navigational safety standards for offshore renewable energy projects were not required.
After the final environmental review is released, the interior secretary must wait 30 days before entering a decision on the project, expected to include terms for a lease.
Audra Parker - executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the group that has been the primary opponent of Cape Wind - said: "I think it's a recognition by [the Minerals Management Service] that there are many outstanding issues around public safety and tribal and historical consultation that have yet to be addressed."