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Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Rep. Stearns Calls For Investigation Of White House Role In Wind Farm

Opponents Say E-Mails Show Administration Pressure On FAA To Approve Project

The controversy over the Cape Wind wind energy project planned for an area off the coast of Massachusetts in Nantucket Sound continues to swirl. Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is calling for a Congressional investigation into e-mails obtained by opponents of the program through an FOIA request which he says shows the White House pressured the FAA into approving the project, which will consist of more than a hundred 400-foot-high wind turbines in the middle of the sound.

“As with Solyndra and other projects, emails and other documents show that for political reasons the White House pressured a federal agency to approve an energy project,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) (pictured), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “In this case, personnel at the ... FAA approved the controversial Cape Wind project under White House pressure without giving adequate attention to the risk Cape Wind would pose to small aircraft operating in the area.”
 
According to a Stearns news release, an internal FAA email dated May 7, 2010, states, “Who is willing to go tell the White House that we are halting wind development because there might be wake turbulence or microclimate effects?”  A PowerPoint presentation to Eastern Service Area Directors on May 3, 2010, included, “”It would be very difficult politically to refuse approval of this project.”
 
The records also outline specific safety and national security concerns with the project. An October 31, 2011 email reads:  “I don’t think air traffic could keep a low flying search-only VFR [visual flight rules] from running into a wind turbine.” The documents reviewed by my office clearly show that the FAA's own experts have determined that the Cape Wind's 42 story, 24- square-mile wind plant would have an adverse effect on the 400,000 annual flights that traverse this airspace, but instead the FAA succumbed to political pressure and issued its third No Hazard Determination in 2010. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the FAA ruling that Cape Wind presented no hazard to aircraft or local air traffic control.  Because of the Federal Court order, the FAA must now again consider the very real aviation safety risks posed by Cape Wind’s 24-square-mile wind plant proposed for an area directly in the middle of a highly trafficked, low-altitude flight corridor in Nantucket Sound.

The Obama administration took a different view. “This is the same member of Congress who wasted over $1 million of taxpayer dollars on a politically motivated investigation that has turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing,” the White House said in a statement, referring to the Solyndra investigation.

The Boston Herald reports that U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) on Monday joined the call for a federal investigation into the Cape Wind program. Brown said "If there is any inference of any backroom deals, there should be an independent investigation." He dismissed the White House assertion that the probe would be too expensive.

The FAA continued to assert as recently as Monday that any employee "opinion" that might have been written in an e-mail does not represent the official position of the agency.

Opponents of the wind farm say not only is it unsafe, but that it is unsightly, and will be visible from the prime vacation island of Martha's Vineyard.

Cape Wind, the company which is attempting to build the wind farm, told Fox News that the project has been "heavily vetted." Company spokesman Mark Rogers said that if they have been on a "fast track, I'd hate to see the slow track." The company still hopes to begin building wind turbines in Nantucket Sound next year.

FMI: http://Stearns.house.gov, www.capewind.org, www.whitehouse.gov

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