United States

United States

New battle in Cape Cod political war -- Roosevelt takes on Kennedy

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None other than Theodore Roosevelt IV, great grandson of America's early 20th century Rough Rider president Teddy Roosevelt, stepped into the limelight last month to fight on the side of Cape Wind in the dirty political war being waged against the company's proposal to build a 130 turbine wind station off the coast of Massachusetts. At the prestigious National Press Club in Washington DC, Roosevelt spoke out in defence of Cape Wind and against the backroom tactics of Alaska Congressman Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens in trying to get the project stopped.

The two have successfully attached a provision to an important Coast Guard financing bill that would grant the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, an avowed opponent of the Cape Wind project, the power to stop its construction. Before the bill can become law, it must be approved by the House and the Senate, but at this late stage of the legislative process they no longer have the option of voting to approve the main part of the bill while rejecting the amendment.


Cape Wind's Jim Gordon has spent the past weeks tirelessly drumming up support to prevent the bill reaching the Senate floor. His growing list of national supporters ranges from health organisations like the American Lung Association to labour unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to a long list of environmental groups, including Greenpeace. A considerable number of powerful US senators have expressed strong disapproval of the tactics of Young and Stevens.

The Young/Stevens backdoor amendment "will have a deeply adverse effect on the offshore wind industry," warns Roosevelt, a managing director for Lehman Brothers, a global investment bank. Roosevelt is heading up the financing of Cape Wind, which, if permitted, could require almost $1 billion in capital. He says his company is good at predicting a wide variety of financing risks -- and of compensating for those risks -- but that there is not much the financial world can do about "unpredictable, random political risk."

Roosevelt, an East Coast Republican, has tangled frequently over the past decade with the Alaskan Republican delegation and its opposition to the environmental movement. Both Young and Stevens accept money from oil interests and are close to lobbyists who represent various companies involved in fossil fuel businesses.

Why they would take action specifically aimed at a Massachusetts' energy project has been a matter of wide speculation in the nation's press, much of which has drawn attention to the role played by influential pro-fossil fuel lobbyists in the anti-wind politicking. Cries of foul have been uttered in editorial pages as diverse as the New York Times, with its sometimes-liberal point-of-view, and the Washington Times, a right wing and quite often pro-oil daily.

Kennedy's role

Eventually, staff of Massachusetts Senator Edward M Kennedy admitted that their Democratic senator, who would see the project from his family seashore estate and who has been furious about the Cape Wind proposal for nearly five years, had been in communication with the Alaskan delegation over the amendment's wording. After that became known, Greenpeace began airing a television advertisement in several states ridiculing Kennedy's anti-wind stance. Kennedy has the support of a series of other powerful shoreline residents with part-time homes on Cape Cod.

"I hope that Senator Kennedy will refrain from short-circuiting this five-year environmental review process," says Gordon, referring to the extensive scrutiny the project is now subject to as part of its permitting procedure. "Because I'm convinced that when it's completed he will see that Cape Wind is in the public interest and will be effective in preserving Cape Cod's fragile environment."

If Gordon and his supporters fail in their efforts and the funding bill with the anti-Cape Wind amendment attached is passed by both houses, Gordon says he still has several options. Exactly what they are he is not willing to discuss at this point. To date, Gordon has spent just over $20 million in his effort to build the project, roughly half of which was spent assembling a mammoth environmental impact statement. Almost all of that funding, says Gordon, has come from his own pocket.

Project opponents appear to have spent just under $10 million, nearly half of Gordon's spending on realising the project, to keep him from succeeding.

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