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Senators fail in back room sabotage bid -- Offshore debacle continue

Two of the most powerful senators in the United States failed in a backroom bid last month to stop all American offshore wind development, including the 468 MW project proposed for Cape Cod's Nantucket Sound off the US Atlantic coast. Both senators, Democrat Teddy Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican John Warner of Virginia, have family property in a particularly wealthy village on the sound. And both Warner and Kennedy sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Warner, as ranking Republican, is head.

Last month, as the committee deliberated the final details of a defence spending bill, Warner, with Kennedy's blessing, informally suggested a rider to the money bill that would place a moratorium on all offshore wind development until Congress had approved a national siting plan.

Project proponents learned of the attempt at the last minute and e-mailed interested parties around the nation. Newspaper headlines with words like "sabotage" appeared across the nation. The night before the bill was to be reported out of committee, a Kennedy aide called an Associated Press reporter to say that the rider had been withdrawn. Word was that Carl Levin, a senior senator from Michigan, had stood up to Warner and Kennedy.

Why the Kennedy aide made such a call remains somewhat of a mystery. The aide made a point of saying that the reason for withdrawal lay with Republican committee members and not with the Democrats. Some observers believe that Kennedy may have been trying to save face with Levin.

review

Meanwhile, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has yet to release its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a document intended for publication two months ago. Although USACE officials say it is ready for the public, it has been removed from their purview and sent for review to the US Department of Defense (DoD). Although a number of New England newspapers and environmental groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for release of the document, the draft EIS remained sequestered in October.

Meanwhile, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a well-heeled group that opposes the Cape Cod project, released its financial statement for 2003. Headed by Doug Yearley, who sits on the board of Marathon Oil Corp, the Alliance admits spending nearly $2.5 million last year to obstruct the offshore project. Most of that was spent on lobbying and legal fees. Paul Fireman of Reebok, the athletic shoe corporation, was named by the Boston Herald as one of the big-name private donors. Roughly 60% of the organisation's income for the year came from the top 20 private -- and thus unnamed -- donors, whose contributions ranged between $25,000 and $110,000. The alliance contributed $7500 to a non-profit animal rights group, the Humane Society of the United States, which has vociferously opposed the offshore project.

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