Thursday, October 07, 2004

A step backward for renewable energy

A powerful Virginia senator has proposed a last-minute amendment to a national defense financing bill that would halt the Cape Wind energy project and freeze offshore wind power developments around the country.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has suggested adding language to a $447-billion defense spending bill that would change the long-recognized process for approving such projects.

The amendment would prohibit offshore wind projects from moving forward until Congress establishes new requirements and regulations for them.

Supporters of the Cape Wind project say the amendment is a political maneuver aimed at derailing the planned wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

"It's clearly an effort to kill the proposed Cape Wind project," said Jaime Steve, legislative director for the American Wind Energy Association, a lobbying group based in Washington, D.C.

The Warner amendment has surfaced "at the 11th hour and 59th minute" of Cape Wind's permitting process, said James Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates, the private company that has proposed the wind farm. ...

The senator, who has two daughters who are summer residents of Osterville, on Cape Cod, has opposed the project in the past. In August 2003, he was against granting a permit to build a data-collection tower and also expressed concerns about constructing the wind farm.

The Warner amendment "reaches back and penalizes businesses that have put millions of dollars and three to four years of efforts into these proposed projects," said Steve of the American Wind Energy Association.

"It's retroactive and we think any changes in the rules should be prospective."

The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement that it "strongly objects" to the amendment because it singles out wind power projects, and it has no connection to defense spending.

"New England and the United States need to develop sound wind energy projects that pass the rigorous scrutiny of the current review process," said Deborah Donovan, senior energy analyst for the organization. "That process is working, and should be allowed to continue."

This is another example of how the U.S. is being left behind in the development of renewable energy sources. Not only are we the most dependent on oil of any country, and among the laggards in supporting renewables, but we have an impenetrable political system that can shoot down necessary projects at the whim of a few powerful people. We are not placing ourselves in a good position for the coming storm.


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