Friday, December 16, 2005

Should Environmentalists Support the Cape Wind Project? Kennedy Says No, and His Argument Echoes the Case Against Broadwater

Bobby Kennedy Jr. argues persuasively in today’s Times against allowing a wind power project in Nantucket Sound. His argument echoes the argument against allowing Broadwater to build a liquefied natural gas facility in the middle of Long Island Sound.

As an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many. But I do believe that some places should be off limits to any sort of industrial development. I wouldn't build a wind farm in Yosemite National Park. Nor would I build one on Nantucket Sound, which is exactly what the company Energy Management is trying to do with its Cape Wind project.

Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons - in this case 24 square miles of a heavily used waterway.


Take out the part about environmental groups having been enticed by Cape Wind, and it’s a succinct argument against Broadwater too (although not the only argument).

But is Kennedy’s argument weakened by the fact that his family has a compound in Hyannisport? Are his arguments really rationalizations of his real concern, that the view from the Kennedy place won’t be quite as nice if the wind power generators are out there? And should his piece have mentioned his family’s proximity to the project?

I started reading the piece expecting to end it by being convinced that it was merely a rationalization. But I was convinced otherwise as soon as I saw the parallel between the wind project and Broadwater: both want to use publicly-owned waters for private gain, to the detriment of people who use those waters. I don’t dismiss the arguments or the convictions of people who oppose Broadwater because they happen to live where they will see it; on the contrary, I think visual blight from the shore is an important (if relatively minor) issue in the Broadwater debate. So why should it make Kennedy’s argument less convincing because his family happens to have a place within view of Cape Wind?

Should he have mentioned the family’s proximity? Does anyone who cares enough to follow the issue not know about the Kennedys and Hyannisport? I doubt it. But I would have liked to see a sentence in his piece that said something like, “It’s true that the project would be visible from my family’s place in Hyannisport, and I don’t like the idea of the view being marred, but there are more important reasons to oppose the project as well.”

His arguments are worth reading. Click here if you haven’t seen the piece already.

3 Comments:

Blogger John said...

He really ought to have mentioned the possible confict of interest, even though the Kennedy compound at Hyannisport is fairly well known.

To me, the most compelling argument there is the possible interference of the wind farm with bird migration routes and fishing areas. The former would negate some of the environmental advantages of wind power, and the latter could negatively impact the economy. The degradation of vistas to me is much less compelling. Wind farms will always interfere with someone's view, and a particular site being more well-known or upscale should not in itself be reason to site the farm somewhere else.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

his arguements aren't very persuasive when you hear the counter arguements, check out cape wind dot org site they have a point by point response

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Brown said...

Tom,

You wrote: "Take out the part about environmental groups having been enticed by Cape Wind, and it’s a succinct argument against Broadwater too (although not the only argument)."

Here's an alternative take. Substitute "LI Offshore Wind Project" for "Cape Wind" and see what happens. Many if not all of Mr. Kennedy's arguments also apply to LIPA's proposed wind project.

Many local environmental groups are 100% behind this project, for some good reasons and with the best of intentions.

But with no mention of the price tag by LIPA or the builder, no one knows how much this project will cost. Are there investments to be made first in order to maximize our energy efficiency before we "industrialize" the south shore of LI? I believe so.

LIPA's first target was the east end of LI; however, they quietly withdrew that plan and focused instead on Jones Beach. Perhaps they anticipated the same challenge that Robert Kennedy is making on the Cape?

What's your take on the LI Offshore Wind Project?

Thanks for blogging!

10:50 PM  

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