Cape Wind Held Up Yet Again: Court Claims it Could Prove Hazardous to Airplanes

phault via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Cape Wind was supposed to be the nation's first offshore wind farm. It was announced over ten years ago, and after fighting through miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape, it was finally approved by the Department of the Interior earlier this year. But after fielding -- and overcoming -- complaints from rich neighbors who worried it would spoil their coastal views, utilities who claimed they didn't want to buy the electricity, and an animated conservative political opposition, Cape Wind has now hit yet another hurdle.

The U.S. Court of Appeals is questioning the Federal Aviation Administration's ruling that the wind farm would prove 'no hazard' to airplanes. The court has asked the FAA to reevaluate the 'no hazard' finding, and if it finds it erroneous, the whole thing could feasibly be sent back to the drawing board.

Cape Wind isn't worried, however. The company's communications director, Mike Rodgers made the following statement: "“The FAA has reviewed Cape Wind for eight years and repeatedly determined that Cape Wind did not pose a hazard to air navigation. The essence of today’s court ruling is that the FAA needs to better explain its Determination of No Hazard. We are confident that after the FAA does this, that their decision will stand and we do not foresee any impact on the project’s schedule in moving forward."

Indeed not -- this should be little more than a regulatory hiccup, but it nonetheless demonstrates how much opposition there is to the project, and how symbolic it has become in the struggle to get renewable energy up and running in America.

Hilariously, a far-right think tank, the Heartland Institute, sent me this statement from James M. Taylor, the Senior fellow for Environmental Policy, regarding the news: "The federal appellate decision underscores how deeply the Massachusetts political machine and the federal government are in the pocket of fringe environmental groups and the powerful renewable energy lobby." Yes, Massachusetts is being run by a bunch of nefarious "fringe" green groups and the "powerful renewable energy lobby" is pulling the strings from behind the curtains! Run for the hills!

That may be the saddest, most desperate, and strikingly counterintuitive bit of attempted spin about Cape Wind I've seen yet. The Heartland Institute, of course, is notable for its fervent climate denial, and receives much of its funding from ExxonMobil. And Exxon routinely spends more on lobbying than the entire renewable energy industry combined.

As such, it's rather hilarious to see this Exxon-funded shill attempt to paint supporters of clean energy as boogeymen. Remember, the renewable energy advocates Mr. Taylor thinks are so scary are pushing for a single wind farm that hasn't been able to get approval for ten years -- you'd think a powerful lobby would be able to do a bit better than that. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry routinely throws its actually considerable lobbying weight against any renewable energy-friendly policy that ever gets considered.

All told, this should read as a parable for the general struggle to scale up renewable energy in the U.S. -- these are the sort of challenges that clean energy advocates and companies face on a regular basis.

Tags: Wind Power

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