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    The Cape Cod Wind Conflict
    “Since the dawn of their time humans have been dependent on the natural forces of the earth. Managing their relationship with the environment has been a continuous requirement and responsibility for people and society. How society has assumed that responsibility depends on technology, human ingenuity, and the values and norms of society, which also vary across cultures and over time. Just as human beings and society have evolved, so too has their relationship with the environment and the way they manage that relationship. It is still evolving” (Randolph 2012, pg. 5).


    The Cape Wind farm would be situated in 24 square miles on Nantucket Sound, so far from the coast that you could barely see them on the horizon (the closest being 5½ miles from Cape Cod, 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard and 12 miles from Nantucket). There will be 130 turbines, each three-bladed measuring 440 feet tall at the tip of the topmost blade. The energy would be transferred through transmission lines would connect to a mainland grid.
    The Cape wind Project has been going on for over a decade, around 11 years and is the largest and longest power struggle over a green clean energy project. The major roots of the conflict were found because the optimal site for Americas first offshore wind farm is also the site of some of the wealthiest waterfront real estate on the east coast. The main halting point right now is that the project is waiting on secure project financing.


    The turbines will be designed for 25 years of use, after which they could be re-licensed and extended, Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said. If not, they will be decommissioned and removed. For over ten years, those in opposition of the project claimed the ‘sky is falling,’ but those who support Cape Wind showed that their credibility was undermined. Cape wind gained validation over the years through support from respected organizations and Government Agencies, as well as opposition stakeholders who changed their mind. They showed that ‘dramatic fears’ of the project don’t have a factual foundation. A Cape wind website reveals that anti-cape wind lobbyists have ties with ‘dirty energy’ such as with coal and oil industries.

    The stakeholders range from elected officials, Cape & Islands based organizations, Newspaper Editorials, Environmental Organizations, Labor business, Civic & Religious Organizations, Health Organizations, Academic and Scientific Leaders and Authors, College and University Organizations, Federal and State Government, Cape Cod Property owners, Local people, citizens of the state of Massachusetts, Fishermen and Cruise lines. The wind turbines will be privately funded.

    Turning Opponents into Supporters

    There were many attempts to mediate or cooperatively resolve the conflict. There are many success stories. One of the success stories is the Highline Cruise Company, that runs ferry boats from Cape Cod to Nantucket, which were initially against the Wind Turbines and the project. Their main concerns were navigation safety. The Cape Wind project met with them explained how to solve their navigation problems and worries and made sure that their concerns were met. This is not only good business sense, but also a great planning principle. The Cruise line now viewed the project as a business opportunity and will be Cape Cods Eco-Tour provider. Also, near Martha’s Vineyard, commercial fishermen were against the project in fear of loosing their fishing grounds. Cape Wind spoke with them, made adjustments and assured them there would be fishing grounds and no exclusion zones. They worked together to minimize conflict with the turbines operations, construction and maintenance activities and are helping to set up a fishing bay and allow more local fisher water permits. Based on their opponent’s perceptions, Cape Wind was “often successful in challenging the scientific information about risks that are provided during the siting process by questioning data, methodology, and technical aspects of siting plans.” (Schively 2007, pg. 259) The way you approach a project or problem greatly affects the outcome.

    The Media and its role

    The media played a large role in the conflict. In my interview with Mark Rodgers, he mentioned that talking with people and having street conversations with people changed their perspective, got rid of their fears, and learned more about their position and the opposition. Most people they talked to changed their mind, if they were initially against the project. Cape Wind also released polls and public surveys which were very successful and are publically available on their website to view and assess for unbiased questions and technique. They are aggressively acting in their community and getting involved. They also have donor websites. These community engagement principles are very important, and Cape Winds success proves their value as a engagement and planning principle.

    Political Connections and Stakeholders

    The waterfront is privately owned and the turbines will be privately funded. Because they are Private companies and property, the issues and processes are unique. The Cape Wind Project has done a lot of lobbying to develop its ties in Washington and improve Political connections. These Political connections have proven to be a very significant part of this process and of their success. Cape Wind has worked with seventeen Federal and State Government Agencies to gather legislative interest to support their pursuits. Cape Wind is also engaged with Organizations, the Town, Civic Organizations, Chambers of Commerce and Government Agencies. Some problems were challenged in court and so litigation hardships occurred. “Seeking environmental health justice, similar communities around the world are engaging in street science, often forging research and action partnerships with outsiders, to address the problems they face.” (Corburn pg. 27) Part of Cape Winds support success has been their unique and exhaustive approach to bringing street science and pure science together in an easy to understand way for the publics understanding.

    The conflict has changed social and political relationships among participants. Trying to streamline the process and get all stakeholders involved early can help to build these relationships even more. Cape Wind had a Senior State Senator, Congressman, Governor and Attorney General all apposed to the project and fighting. Now, they all support Cape wind, as do House Delegation and Congress as mass legislators.

    It is always hard being the first to introduce something, especially when it comes to renewable energy and wind energy. It is hard to get the government to settle on what their approach is, which is one of the reasons why it took as long as it did. “At its most literal, NIMBY is about ‘backyards’, implying very local protest, about consequences of direct and immediate effect for protesters. The point is that some locations—no matter how near or distant—are simply inappropriate for wind farm development” (Haggett 2010, pg. 3). Though, as Cape Wind has successfully proved, the Cape cod location is perfect for Wind Energy Development. “Natural resources and managed natural systems are critical for human subsistence, livelihood, and quality of life.” (Randolph 2012, pg. 7) Cape Wind has also help draw much needed media attention towards the global warming problem and renewable energy solution. It also actively engaged people to think about what their relationship and understanding of nature was. Even though something may be a good project, or the right thing to do, locational disputes can and do still arise. Especially when located where wealthy politically and oil/gas tied Americans live.

    Community Engagement

    Cape Wind was on top of community engagement and cites this as one of the main sources of their public supporters. Cape Wind conducted over 500 public projections of the project, developed stakeholders groups, and gathered major national and local support groups and organizations for support. “Siting is inherently a political problem. It almost always involves conflictual relationships between a wide range of participants both within and across different jurisdictional and market levels. It involves conflict over goals, motivations, ideology, and values” (Lesbirel 2003, pg. 3). The opposition of the project was from across many different levels. Their opposition was well funded and was a difficult beast to go against. Although the Cape wind project is known for controversy, they have more support than any other project in the East.

    Cape Wind has been involved in press releases, letter to the editor, editorials and ‘earned media’, as Mark Rodgers put it. Initially, in the beginning Cape wind was involved in paying for advertisement, but soon after the project was under way, Cape Wind found itself being published frequently in newspapers and journals from the press and interest. They counted on the truth playing out over a long enough time period.

    Problems and opposition

    In 2006 the project was almost shut down completely. Cape Wind found itself with heavy opposition and had went over their budget trying to go against their wealthy and well-connected opposition just to stay afloat. “Irrational local opponents are preventing the state from realizing a clear civic good.” (Gibson 2005, pg. 6) Even though the Wind Project is clearly a great benefit, irrational and selfish opponents and politicians prevented for a long time, the state from supporting the project. “Public officials, unsure of how to deal with these tensions and competing commitments, often try to work quietly, get the job done without disturbing the public “peace,” and then often reassure everyone “out there” that there is no reason to be concerned or involved.” (Corburn pg. 11) Politicians tried to attach laws to the project last minute and under the table in order to out law the project before it got on their feet, which they appealed and fought. Which is another reason why this has been such a long conflict and process. Trying to avoid community engagement because of fear and concern is not a healthy or good practice. This sneaky approach was proven unsuccessful and stirred a lot of controversy and developed negative attitudes towards the project. Since then, Cape wind has made sure to be completely transparent and they confront and expose their opponents’ process and accusations in the same matter.

    Having very well known, well-connected and wealthy initial opposition was very hard for Cape Wind. If the project did not have as much initial capitol, it would have gone under. This idea begs at the idea that you need a certain amount of money and social standing to get things done. Unfortunately, this can be seen in a lot of land use and planning disputes.

    I think the discomfort with Kennedy’s position is best understood as “rooted in the suspicion that he is being hypocritical. Presenting himself as a principled environmentalist and supporter of renewable energy, Kennedy’s opposition to siting wind turbines in his ‘backyard’ seemingly exposes him as an unprincipled pretender—a hypocrite” (Meyer 2012, pg. 2). Cape Wind fought and successfully exposed these superficial attacks on the wind project. However, the Kennedy case is only one sort that has been described as NIMBY. “Recognizing its distinguishing characteristic, and the ways in which others differ from it, can generate a more pluralistic account of NIMBY and a more compelling defense of political struggles against locally undesirable projects” (Meyer 2012, pg. 2).

    Bill Koch is Cape Cods biggest enemy at the moment. Bill made a fortune from coal and oil and is the chairman of The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the group opposed to Cape Wind. Koch is spending millions to prevent Cape Wind’s clean offshore wind energy. He talks about “visual pollution” but apparently has no problem with real pollution or the scars caused by his coal mines and industry oil rigs off the coast. Mr. Koch talks about the cost of wind energy, but what’s the cost of climate change in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Katrina and the BP oil spill? Bill Koch talks about cost, but he never mentions the decades of government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, where he made his fortune. Because the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a pseudo-environmental organization backed and led by fossil fuel magnate Bill Koch, is hell bent on blocking it. Currently Cape Wind supporters are being asked to sign a pledge to keep the project moving forward, to show and gather support. From a planning approach, getting the community continually involved through any means necessary is a successful approach, and in this case signing a pledge.

    Cape Wind first applied for a permit in November 2001. (Something can be said about the permit timing as it correlates with the September 11th attacks and a change in political agenda because of it, as well as citizen support and priorities) Since then, it has been undergoing a lengthy permitting process at the state and local level. Cape Wind received its final permit in August when the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the project would not pose a hazard to aviation. It also has been the subject of repeated lawsuits, including from a group forcefully opposed to the project, the Alliance for Nantucket Sound. Opponents have cited concerns about property rights and private gain in public waters, and the impact to ocean life, migrating birds, tourism and fishermen.
    More and more political candidates are publically showing their support for Cape Wind. The worst is behind the project. Now its geological testing, data gathering, contrast agreements, ocean floor sampling and permits to acquire.


    Newly released research also suggests that the Wind Farm is critical to saving Cape Cod from rising seas. Cape Wind has cleared every federal and state review, passed environmental muster, been given the go ahead by the Department of the Interior, has long-term contracts for more than three-quarters of its electricity, and has the support of Governor Patrick and 80 percent of Massachusetts citizens. Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers (whom I interviewed) said the construction of the $35 million port has not yet, now estimated to cost upwards of $100 million, and it is estimated to take at least another 18 to 20 months to build.
    A lot has been and continues to be learned from this project. Whether that be through community engagement, stakeholder development, patience to gather resources, fighting for legislative support and helping opponents understand why they don’t support a project while changing their minds through factual information are just some of the many things learned. Wind energy is making its way on the political agendas of the government and minds of the people. Especially since the observance of erosion changes to the US east coast, recently seen in New York, accelerated by climate change stresses the importance of taking action.
    If renewable energy projects take over 10 years to even begin to initiate, how are we planning on meeting our energy goals, i.e. carbon neutral by 2050; especially when this is only one renewable energy project only feeding the grid in the local area?
    While the preliminary geological testing work is underway, it is now several years past the time when Cape Wind thought the wind farm would be up and running, their original document called out that construction would begin in 2005. Is private renewable energy projects the most efficient and cost effective way to implement our energy goals and standards, or should we look to government and federal involvement? There might be potential of future expansion once Cape wind gets up and going. There is talk that if they install 144,000 offshore turbines the energy produced would meet the entire demand for electricity from Florida to Maine, according to engineering experts at Stanford University.

    This project is not only a corner stone project for the environmental and renewable energy movement, but it brings a lot of great benefits as well. Some of which include: clean, renewable energy; new, green jobs; reduced emissions and carbon pollution; energy at a predictable price over the long-term; energy security; and a gateway to an enormous untapped clean energy supply.
    People are concerned that Cape Wind gives wind power a bad name. Renewable energy is a new battleground for America, and we have yet to establish efficient ways to implement it. It is the first offshore wind farm proposed in the U.S., and the government clearly lacked a clear regulatory path establishment for how such a project would get approved. One of the biggest failures of this project is the U.S. and its lack of efficient and effective energy policy.


    Interview with: Mark Rodgers, Communications Director for Cape Wind. Contact Information: 508-237-6312.

    "Cape Wind :: America's First Offshore Wind Farm on Nantucket Sound." Cape Wind ::America's First Offshore Wind Farm on Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind, 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. .

    "Cape Wind Now." Cape Wind Now. N.p., Oct. 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. .

    Corburn, Jason. “Street science: community knowledge and environmental health justice.” Chapter 1. 2012.

    "Environmental Land Use Planning and Management: Second Edition [Hardcover]." Environmental Land Use Planning and Management: Second Edition: John Randolph PhD: 9781597267304: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. .

    Gibson, Timothy A. "NIMBY and the Civic Good." City and Community 4.4 (2005): 381-401. Print.

    Haggett, Claire (2010): A Call for Clarity and a Review of the Empirical Evidence: Comment on Felman and Turner's ‘Why Not NIMBY?’, Ethics, Place & Environment: A Journal of Philosophy & Geography, 13:3, 313-316.

    Lesbirel, S. Hayden and Shaw, Daigee. “FACILITY SITING: ISSUES AND PERSPECTIVES.” Columbia Earthscape. (2003): 01-14. Journal.

    Meyer, John M. (2010): Hypocrisy, NIMBY, and the Politics of Everybody's
    Backyard, Ethics, Place & Environment: A Journal of Philosophy & Geography, 13:3, 325-327

    Schively, C. "Understanding the NIMBY and LULU Phenomena: Reassessing Our Knowledge Base and Informing Future Research." Journal of Planning Literature 21.3 (2007): 255-66. Print.

    Mon, Mar 4, 2013  Permanent link

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