As the source of a heated debate in Massachusetts and the surrounding area for the last 11 years, how close is the Cape Wind project to the finish line? During today's OnPoint, Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind, discusses the impact of a potential Romney presidency on the future of the project. He talks about the latest legal challenges to the wind farm and also explains the role he believes William Koch has played in the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group that opposes the project.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind. Jim, nice to have you back on the show.
Jim Gordon: Hi, Monica, how are you?
Monica Trauzzi: Good, thank you.
Jim Gordon: Good.
Monica Trauzzi: Jim, Cape Wind in many respects led the way on the wind energy discussion in the United States. It's been 11 years though, so update us a bit on the status of the project right now.
Jim Gordon: Sure. Well, we knew the first offshore wind farm in the United States wasn't going to be easy and we thought it would take a while, but I'm happy to report that the project is fully permitted. We have the first offshore wind lease in the United States signed with the Department of Interior. We are currently commencing preconstruction activities. We are doing a multimillion dollar offshore geotechnical and geophysical program as we speak now. We released it in late June. They'll be working probably until the end of October. We recently acquired a marina in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which will serve as the home of Cape Wind's future operations and maintenance center. So we're fully permitted. We're moving the project forward and we are now commencing the financing activities.
Monica Trauzzi: OK, but there's still a problem here, right? I mean there is something standing in the way.
Jim Gordon: Yes.
Monica Trauzzi: So are there legal or regulatory challenges that still face the project?
Jim Gordon: Right now we have an appeal that has been launched by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has been the opposition group on the Cape Wind project for the past decade. Now, it's important to understand that the case is consolidated in the first District Court in Washington, DC. We have been in court with the alliance about a dozen times in the past and we have won every single case and it's not because we have better attorneys, Monica. It's because we have the merits and the facts on our side. This has been the most comprehensive and exhaustive review of an energy project that people can remember, so we are confident that when the judge looks at this frivolous appeal he will give great deference to the regulatory agency's decision.
Monica Trauzzi: I want to talk a bit about the alliance, because it's come under attack right now through a group called Cape Wind Now. They've launched an effort to expose what they call Bill Koch's dirty energy funded opposition to Cape Wind, because the Koch family is involved in this group. How exactly is the discussion on Cape Wind being influenced by Koch? And the alliance has been around for a long time ...
Jim Gordon: Yes.
Monica Trauzzi: So why is this now a relevant discussion to be having?
Jim Gordon: Well, I mean I think it's important to recognize that the alliance is a faux environmental group and it's basically fronting the interests of a fossil fuel magnate that made his fortune mining coal and exporting and burning petroleum coke. So, I think what this does is it gives an example of how some dirty energy interests are trying to not only undermine renewable energy projects that they feel threaten their market share or their future business, but I think it also shows how, we've seen how fossil fuel interests have tried to put a cloud around the science of climate change and I think this is being highlighted now. I mean this Cape Wind Now is basically a composition of major national, regional and local environmental labor unions. And I think what they're trying to do is show how fossil fuel interests, and particularly William Koch, is trying to hold up a renewable energy project that's going to provide significant public interest benefits in terms of increased energy independence, a cleaner, healthier environment, and thousands of new jobs.
Monica Trauzzi: The alliance would like to see Nantucket Sound declared a marine protected area. Why don't you consider that environmental and why do you think that they're sort of a phony group on the environmental front?
Jim Gordon: Well, I think one only has to look at the leadership of the group and one has to understand that right now Nantucket Sound is under assault from the impacts of fossil fuels. Right now we're raining mercury, lead, arsenic from a coal-fired power plant 45 miles northwest of Nantucket Sound. We have a large, heavy oil fossil fuel plant on the Cape Cod Canal that is raining pollutant emissions on Nantucket Sound. And these emissions are not only warming and acidifying the water, but it is -- because the cape and islands is a low laying coastal community it is most susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Monica Trauzzi: So, do you believe the alliance will just continue to take you to court?
Jim Gordon: I believe that we are at the last appeal on this project and I believe that this project is going to go forward or our company wouldn't be presently spending millions of dollars in moving the project forward and doing preconstruction activities. And, Monica, the reason that we've persevered and have been dedicated in seeing this through is because the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts citizens, environmental labor, health advocates, consumer advocates want to see Cape Wind built and that's what really propels us forward.
Monica Trauzzi: Let's talk about politics. Candidate Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts. He's indicated he would roll back the production tax credit for wind energy.
Jim Gordon: Yes.
Monica Trauzzi: How do you believe that a Romney administration would influence the future of wind energy and specifically this project?
Jim Gordon: Well, I think Romney would be a disaster for clean energy. I mean, you know, his program of maintaining the subsidies that the fossil fuel industries have enjoyed for decades, but take away incentives for renewable energy, clearly puts us not on a level playing field and disadvantages renewable energy in favor of, you know, the interests that are fueling his campaign and funding his campaign. William Koch himself has given, it's been reported in the papers has given $3 million to the Romney campaign super PACs.
Monica Trauzzi: Do you believe that you misjudged the debate on Cape Wind as you look back on it now? And would you have jumped into it had you known what a long road this would be?
Jim Gordon: You know, Monica, I don't think we misjudged the debate. I think that we understood that it would take a lot of education and consensus building to make this project happen. And I think that over the last 10 years, as the environmental impact statements and socioeconomic reviews and as a wellspring of support has been built for this project, I think now people are understanding that it is the right project at the right time and in the right place. And if we're going to provide a cleaner energy future for our children, this is an important project because it will also serve to help catalyze the offshore wind industry in the United States. And, Monica, we're two decades behind Europe and now Asia is installing offshore wind farms.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show, nice to see you.
Jim Gordon: Thank you, Monica.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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