Top of Mind: Jim Gordon, Extended Version
JB: Did you anticipate all the resistance it would face?
JG: There’s always going to be some opposition. What we’ve done is gone out in the community; we’ve conducted forums in schools and in civic organizations. We’ve talked to proponents, opponents, and stakeholders. We did a lot of education, trying to educate people: “Look, here’s what this project is all about; here’s why we think it’s a good idea. But you know, we’re going to go through this very comprehensive and rigorous permitting process where 17 federal and state agencies are going to scrutinize every aspect of this project. At the end of the day, if the benefits of this project don’t outweigh the impacts, the projects will not go forward. Let’s keep an open mind.”
Most of the folks on the Cape and Islands entered the dialogue in that spirit. They saw that the project had possibilities and they wanted to see whether it would successfully pass through the regulatory process. Yet there was another group that basically before the ink was dry on the proposal created an opposition group. Over the ensuing years, they would spend millions of dollars trying to block this project.
…The most overriding environmental threat to the Cape and Islands is climate change. We’re talking about a low-lying community. We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent hurricanes and storms, warming ocean temperatures that will impact fish species, acidification of Nantucket Sound. …There’s a sad irony here that the “not in my backyard crowd” is fighting a project that is actually going to help mitigate some of these threats.
If you look at any major infrastructure project in Massachusetts or New England, it’s not uncommon to have opposition to it, whether you’re developing a football stadium or an art museum on Memorial Drive. We have an active democracy and citizen participation. The important thing is, if you look at the project now, independent public opinion polls show that 86 percent of Massachusetts citizens want Cape Wind built.
JB: Has this process taken longer than expected? For nine years, it’s been going on.
JG: Yes, it’s been longer than expected. But we believed in our hearts that this project was in the right place, at the right time…not only because it’s going to establish Massachusetts as a worldwide leader in offshore renewable energy, but also because it can inspire other communities to look at their offshore wind resources and develop them. And that’s already happening: Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, the Carolinas.
…The Department of Energy and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative have validated that there is over 900,000 megawatts of offshore wind resources blowing within five to 50 miles of our coast. To put that into perspective, the total installed electric generation capacity in the United States is about 950,000 megawatts. I’m not sitting here trying to tell you that offshore wind is going to replace all the electric generation capacity in the United States, but it can become a significant component of our energy future….