It seems there’s no end to the number of obstacles the developers of the Cape Wind offshore project in Massachusetts face. The most recent is a challenge by Native American tribes, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Wampanoag of Gay Head. They say the project would disrupt views of the rising sun that are critical to ancient religious ceremonies and the turbines would disturb ancient burial grounds. The tribes are using a process contained in the National Historic Preservation Act to challenge Cape Wind. If successful, that could cause major disruptions of offshore development of renewable energy all along the East Coast. Opponents want to designate Nantucket Sound as a “Traditional Cultural property” under the federal National Register. Historic reviews are also under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department.
Supporters this week issued another plea to get the project moving in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Minerals Management Service. Project supporters thought the approval process would move more quickly with the new administration in place but have been so far disappointed by the pace. A group of traditional Democratic allies in the labor and environmental movements submitted the letter this week.
“We believe just another objection that comes in at the 11th hour and people are using this process to provide one more reason to further delay it,” Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers told me this week. The 130-turbine project has received all state and federal approvals over its eight-year life and is only awaiting a final decision from Interior. State court challenges are still pending and opponents have promised a move to federal court if and when Interior finally signs off.