Two powerful US congressmen have launched a new attack on the proposed 468MW Cape Wind offshore wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts.
Both Republicans, the congressmen have sent a letter to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) questioning its conduct during a permit determination process for the offshore project and requiring that it provide documentation by the end of the month.
The letter was penned by the chair of the House of Representatives' oversight and government reform committee, Darrell Issa, of California, and chair of the transportation and infrastructure committee, John Mica, of Florida. Writing to acting FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, the two congressmen question whether the FAA’s decision to approve the Cape Wind project – by determining it as posing no hazard to aviation - was politically motivated.
The FAA made its determination in 2003 and affirmed it in 2005 and 2010. However, a federal appeals court overturned the FAA's determination last October, and since then Cape Wind's developer has been waiting for the FAA to reach a new determination.
Issa's and Mica's letter was written after the release of historic, internal FAA emails and presentations about the Cape Wind project, made public last month thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by Cape Wind’s most vocal opponent, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Opponents of the project argue that the emails and presentations suggest a political motivation behind the FAA's decision to approve Cape Wind.
In their letter, Issa and Mica call on the FAA to supply written explanations and further documentation, including communications with the White House, other federal agencies, and Cape Wind developer Energy Management. These are due by 31 July.
Congressional committees have the power to order that documents be produced and to subpoena individuals for hearings. Thus far, Issa and Mica have not said whether they will hold hearings on the FAA's decision.
In a statement following publicity about the congressmen's letter, the FAA said: "The FAA makes obstruction evaluations based on safety considerations and the available solutions to mitigate potential risks… We are reviewing the request..."
It would not say whether this latest development would delay its decision on the project, only that it hopes to issue a determination soon.
Cape Wind communications director Mark Rodgers said: "There are no merits to these claims and they should be summarily dismissed." The developer insists that it continues to plan to bring the project online in 2014 or 2015. Last month, Cape Wind reached an agreement with local fishermen who had previously been opposed to the project.