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Testimony on the draft Cape Wind Environmental Impact Statement

Testimony before the United States Army Corps of Engineers, December, 2004

Good evening. My name is Deborah Donovan, New England Clean Energy Project manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit alliance of 100,000 concerned citizens and scientists working on environmental solutions.

Thanks and congratulations to the Corps and the 16 other involved federal, state and local agencies on completing the draft Cape Wind Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Now, the debate on Cape Wind can and should be based on sound science, rather than speculation or innuendo.

UCS maintains that wind projects, including offshore sites, should be built if rigorous review and study shows that there will be no significant unmitigated environmental impacts. With proper siting, careful design, comprehensive study, monitoring, and mitigation, wind power can and should play a significant role in New England's electricity system.

UCS is currently reviewing the draft EIS and will be submitting written testimony during the comment period. As a result, my testimony here does not present any final conclusions about the project. However, we are quite encouraged by our initial review of the Corps' findings. We concur with the draft's findings of many significant economic, public health, and environmental benefits. The Corps' draft also concludes that the majority of the other potential impacts examined will be minor, temporary, localized, mitigated in project design or construction, or will not occur.

If the scientific, technical, and economic conclusions of the draft EIS are supported in final EIS after the completion of the public input process, UCS believes the Cape Wind project should go forward.

If built, the Cape Wind project will contribute significantly to addressing many of the major problems our current electricity system poses. It will:

  • increase generating capacity when we need it,
  • use a plentiful energy source that is indigenous to our region,
  • serve as a physical and economic hedge against the region's vulnerability to over-dependence on natural gas to generate electricity,
  • reduce emissions of air pollutants that are causing illness and death of our residents,
  • cut emissions of heat trapping gases that threaten our beautiful landscapes and precious coastal ecosystems through climate change, and
  • reduce the physical and aesthetic degradation of areas that are producing the fossil fuels for our current fleet of power plants.

Today, we import the fuel we need to satisfy our increasing demand for electricity. By doing so, we export the impacts of our energy use to other communities—cutting off the tops of mountains to get at coal, exploring for oil and gas in pristine areas, or importing liquefied natural gas from foreign countries. These impacts are costly, risky, and hugely damaging to the environment.

When weighed against the very real threats of climate change to coastal property, the benefits of well-sited offshore wind power are starkly apparent, even with the visual changes that wind will bring. If we choose fossil fuels over wind and other sources of renewable power, we will continue to cause damage to our landscape that is destructive and irreversible. By choosing wind, we will get our energy from a source with significant benefits, and impacts that are benign, temporary, and reversible.

Thank you again for this opportunity to appear before you tonight.


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