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United States

Locals turn against Cape Cod offshore -- Newspaper campaign

Officials of the town of Yarmouth in the United States Northeast voted unanimously in late April to oppose a 420 MW offshore wind farm proposed for the southern coast of Cape Cod (Windpower Monthly, April 2002). Selectmen cited "irreversible" environmental damage, aesthetics, and their unfamiliarity with the technology in general as reasons for their opposition. Although the vote by local governmental officials is merely symbolic -- local government has no jurisdiction in US federal waters -- the entity's opposition is important, in that Yarmouth has been seen as a supporter of the ambitious project.

While many state and federal officials are supportive of the plans, observers question whether the project will be able to withstand such widespread opposition. "We're disappointed, but the Yarmouth selectmen voted in a resolution to oppose the wind park. We think it was incredibly premature. On the day our environmental scoping document came out from the state, they voted without even reading it. But we are continuing full speed ahead," says Jim Gordon of developer Cape Wind.

From the project's beginning, the local newspaper, the Cape Cod Times, owned by the Dow Jones Company, has waged an aggressive editorial campaign to halt the project. Most recently, in reporting a hearing on the matter before the US Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for development in American waters, the newspaper incorrectly said that speakers numbered "at least" two-to-one in opposition. In fact, speakers for and against the project were about evenly split, a fact which was accurately reported elsewhere.

Correction refused

Cape Wind's Mark Rogers said he asked the paper to print a correction, but was refused. Times editor Cliff Schechtman defends his editorial stance. "Our credibility is more important to us than the wind farm," he says. "I think we got it right."

The newspaper's coverage appears to be having a dampening effect on the enthusiasm for local wind projects. The Woods Hole Research Center had intended to include a wind turbine in its newly renovated, energy self-sufficient office building, but has now postponed that decision. "We're adopting a wait-and-see attitude," says project manager Joe Hackler, citing the coverage of the local paper as a major cause.

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