In what is emerging as a battle royale within the environmental movement, several noted greens have taken sides over the issue of whether or not to allow one of the world’s largest off-shore windmill developments to proceed off Cape Cod near the Massachusetts coastline. In an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, noted environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. defended his position in opposition to the proposed Cape Wind Project.
Proponents of the project argue that the renewable energy it would produce—up to three-quarters of Cape Cod’s electricity demand by some estimates—would make a significant dent in fossil fuel emissions exacerbating global warming. Well-known environmentalists Bill McKibben, Ross Gelbspan, Russell Long and Billy Parish, among others, have signed on in support of the project, which proposes to replace three-quarters of the fossil fuel-based electricity currently consumed by residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with renewable wind power.
Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. counters that the project’s windmills would constitute a blight on the horizon akin to building windmills in Yosemite National Park. “Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore … [and] the project will damage the views from 16 historic sites and lighthouses on the cape and nearby islands,” he commented. Kennedy’s own employer, the Natural Resources Defense Council, does not agree with his position.
Environmental squabbling aside, the hot-button issue may ultimately be decided by a Congressional vote. Representative Don Young, an Alaska Republican keen on maximizing oil revenues from his state, is trying to push legislation through Congress limiting off-shore wind projects such as that proposed for Cape Cod from infringing on commercial shipping routes. Young expects his proposal to be attached to a Coast Guard budget bill scheduled for a vote in February.