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Huge Win For Offshore Wind Farm In Massachusetts

The massive Cape Wind offshore wind farm scored a huge legal victory on Friday, when US District Judge Reggie B. Walton upheld the results of a ten-year permitting process and rejected a laundry list of claims brought by local opposition groups. Chief among those opponents is one of the industrialist Koch brothers, which is hardly a surprise given the family’s fossil fuel holdings, only it’s not the Koch you may think.

cape wind

Artist’s rendering courtesy of Cape Wind.

Cape Wind And The Koch Connection

Charles and David are the Koch brothers best known for their generous and effective support for conservative causes, including those that benefit fossil fuels and related industries at the expense of renewable energy.

However, as far as we can tell those two are not directly involved in the Cape Wind opposition. That task has fallen to their third brother, William Koch. Though he keeps a much lower profile than his siblings, the third Koch is the major funder and a co-chair of the principle Cape Wind opposition group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

A Huge Legal Victory For Cape Wind

Here’s how Cape Wind sums up Friday’s decision (break added for readability):

Judge Walton rejected a long list of legal claims project opponents had raised, including arguments over navigational safety, alternative locations, alternative technologies, historic preservation, Native American artifacts, sea turtles, and the adequacy of the project’s environmental impact statement and biological opinions.

In two narrow instances, Judge Walton has asked Federal agencies to clarify its findings on whales and birds…Cape Wind expects these two compliance actions to be minor agency administrative actions that will not impact Cape Wind’s financing schedule.

Sour Grapes For The Opposition

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound put an entirely different spin on the Cape Wind decision.

Here’s the headline of their press release on PR Newswire:

Court Environmental Victory Is Major Setback For Cape Wind

And here’s the money quote, right in the lede:

In a landmark win for the environment, the U.S. District Court D.C. ruled today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to revisit Cape Wind’s impacts on migrating birds and endangered right whales in Nantucket Sound due to violations of environmental protection law.

But here’s what they buried way down near the bottom of the release:

The court ruled against the coalition of environmental advocates and other groups on several other issues but those decisions may be appealed.

William Koch clearly lost this round in court but the battle continues to play out in the media. We’re guessing that the Alliance’s press release was aimed at undercutting financial backing for the project.

Well, good luck with that. The Cape Wind project has overcome far greater obstacles. It scored a major financing milestone last year, with construction slated to begin later this year.

Meanwhile, if the end game of the three Koch brothers is to put the kibosh on offshore wind development in the US, they can delay it but that’s about all. Rhode Island is already in place to build the first utility-scale offshore wind farm as part of a coordinated plan for the entire Eastern Seaboard.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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