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More furore over Cape Cod proposal -- Opponents issue fake press release

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Opposition to the proposed offshore wind development at Cape Cod off the United States' eastern seaboard has reached a truly fevered pitch this winter after the planting of a false press release with a Boston-based online information service by person or persons unknown. The "press release" purports to be from major Cape Cod manufacturer DT Converting Technologies and includes a "quote" from the well-known head of the local company, Brian Urban, who allegedly slammed the past business record of Cape Wind project head Jim Gordon. Because of that record, the false release says the company refuses to do any business with Gordon.

Urban, however, says he has never had any business dealings with Cape Wind or with Jim Gordon. He also says he has never issued a press release of any kind and that the quote attributed to him has been completely fabricated. The false release was sent from a "fake" e-mail address via a free e-mail service provided by Yahoo.com. Who exactly filed the false release remains a mystery.

The main opposition group to the Cape Cod wind farm proposal, The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, denies any connection. The alliance has hired a Boston public relations consultant, Ernie Corrigan, to act as its spokesman. Corrigan has vehemently denied filing the release.

Cape Wind press officer Mark Rodgers says his company is aggressively pursuing the issue. "We are in the process of having professionals conduct an investigation into this to see if we can identify the perpetrators and hold them responsible. There are a number of aggrieved parties here -- certainly Cape Wind, also the manufacturing company on Cape Cod," says Rogers. "We don't know if we're going to be successful, but we think we have a shot at it."

Meanwhile, the 468 MW Cape Cod project remains in regulatory limbo. In the fall, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the agency responsible for construction in US waters, asked that Cape Wind do a study of several "alternative" sites in the southern New England region, for comparison purposes only. The federal regulatory agency does not have the authority to insist the project be built elsewhere, but it can ask that comparative studies of environmental and community impacts be made. Those studies must be done before a draft Environmental Impact Statement, the next official regulatory step, can be filed and made available for public discussion.

Compiling and assessing that data has taken a considerable amount of time, and the many environmental organisations that support the proposed project, including the well-respected Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, have raised complaints with the US Army Corps of Engineers. The foundation has taken an active role in helping implement wind energy projects throughout the New England region.

Speeding up

Recently the federal agency announced that it has hired a consulting firm to help it compile the data and speed the process along. The USACE's Karen Adams, in charge of the Cape Wind permitting process, says the draft document may be available sometime this summer. "We hope this will help get things moving again," says Rodgers, referring to the hiring of the consulting agency.

The proposed wind project was first announced more than two years ago, in late 2001. To date, says Rodgers, Cape Wind has spent more than $12 million on development work -- roughly $2 million on a meteorological tower now measuring conditions at the site, and most of the remainder on environmental and engineering studies.

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