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United States

Majority now support offshore

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The proposed Cape Wind offshore wind station in Nantucket Sound continues to gain considerable public support in the face of wealthy project opponents using backdoor politics in Washington to have the project squashed. A spate of recent polls performed by a wide variety of organisations found that residents of Massachusetts support the Cape Wind project by an astounding majority, as much as six to one or more.

The opponents, led by Senator Edward Kennedy, were wrong footed again last month when their attempt to grant Massachusetts' governor Mitt Romney a veto right over the project failed. A "stealth" provision in the all important Coast Guard bill was dropped after intervention by key members of Congress, putting the project back on track in the permitting process.

Prior to the successful intervention, the right-wing Washington Times went so far as to print two separate editorials excoriating Romney for opposing the project and questioning his fitness to be president because of his aggressive five-year opposition to the Nantucket Sound project. Romney is a candidate for the US presidency.

Meantime, a new offshore wind developer has entered the fray. Jay Cashman, one of the western hemisphere's largest marine contractors, has proposed building three groups of roughly 40 turbines each in water known as Buzzard's Bay off the west coast of Cape Cod and south of the Massachusetts mainland. Details of the project proposal remain very vague, with only a preliminary application of a few pages filed so far.

Cashman has long standing political and union connections, which could help him achieve his stated goal. But he has yet to build an electrical generation project, let alone a wind project.

Whether the project could pass environmental muster remains to be seen. Unlike Nantucket Sound, Buzzards Bay is a delicate estuary inhabited by several endangered species, including the roseate tern. Additionally, the narrow estuary is the main channel for ships navigating through the Cape Cod Canal from New York City to Boston and further north. With many ledges and rocky areas, shipping accidents, some of which have caused oil spills, are somewhat common in the shallow estuary waters.

Most environmental groups have taken a wait-and-see attitude before issuing an opinion. For his part, Cashman says he hopes to work closely with those groups in siting the turbines. Many opponents of the Cape Wind project, however, have praised the Cashman proposal as a much better alternative to building a wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

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