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United States

Another blocking manoeuvre

Opponents of a 170 turbine offshore wind farm proposed for Cape Cod have filed suit in US federal court in Boston to stop the construction of a meteorological mast that would provide important research data to Cape Wind Associates, the company hoping to build the project. In late August, attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP in Washington DC and the Boston-based Nutter, McClennen & Fish, the two law firms representing project opponents, filed suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), claiming the Corps did not have jurisdiction to issue a permit for the data mast, and also that the Corps failed to follow proper permitting procedure.

"Any large structure installed in Nantucket Sound will have inevitable harmful effects on birds and sea creatures, will lessen the beauty of the Sound as a national marine treasure and thereby will diminish quality of life," reads the complaint. Both the law firms, hired by the Alliance for the Protection of Nantucket Sound, are large, well-known and prestigious. Their 14 page filing claims the data gathering mast "is the first step of an industrial energy facility."

If the suit were to prevail -- something most observers deem highly unlikely -- then the proposal to build the complete wind farm would likely find itself dead in the water, since if the Corps lacks authority to permit a temporary structure it would also, most likely, lack authority to permit a larger and permanent facility.

The government has 60 days to file a response to the suit. In the past, USACE officials have said that such a suit would be specious, since they have historically permitted many such temporary structures and their authority to do so has generally been upheld by the federal courts (Windpower Monthly, September 2002). Within the past few years, a similar temporary device was placed in the area by the Cape-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, an internationally known scientific and environmental research group, without any objection from local people, officials say. Corps officials, as federal government employees, are not permitted to discuss specific legal cases; which are immediately referred to the US Department of Justice.

Mast goes ahead

Cape Wind was not named as a defendant in the suit. Nor did the suit ask the judge to issue an order restraining the construction of the data mast. Consequently, the company will move forward with its construction, says Cape Wind's Mark Rogers. "We will be fully deployed and operational sometime in November at the latest. Once we start collecting the data, we'll be getting wave heights and meteorological data," he adds.

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