Bloomberg News

In ‘Setback’ for Cape Wind, U.S. Court Vacates FAA Safety Study

November 01, 2011

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Aviation Administration must reconsider a study that concluded the Cape Wind offshore power project off the Nantucket coast poses no threat to planes.

The agency failed to adequately consider the impact of 440- foot-tall turbines on air traffic in the area, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a decision today.

The ruling is another roadblock for a project that’s been in development for more than a decade, said Audra Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

“I think this is a significant setback for a project facing significant financial and legal challenges,” Parker said today in an interview.

Cape Wind Associates LLC is developing the 468-megawatt wind farm, with 130 turbines in about 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound, about the size of Manhattan. The project may cost as much as $2.43 billion, according to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Alliance joined the Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts, in a suit challenging the FAA’s 130 Determinations of No Hazard, one for each wind turbine, issued in May 2010. The court today vacated and remanded the agency’s determinations.

Cape Wind Associates doesn’t expect the FAA to change its opinion about the impact of the project on air traffic.

“We’re certainly moving forward and are confident FAA will reach the same determination” as it did in its first evaluation, Cape Wind communications director Mark Rogers said today by telephone.

Nevada Case

The FAA encountered a similar challenge in Nevada in 2008, when a court ruled that it must conduct additional safety reviews for a proposed wind farm in Clark County, which was planning a new airport.

The agency took more than two years to complete that evaluation, said W. Eric Pilsk, a partner with the law firm Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell LLP, which represented Barnstable in the Cape Wind case.

“There is no mandatory timeline the FAA has to follow” for the Cape Wind report, he said today in an interview. “I think it will be difficult for them to find that it is not a hazard.”

The case, Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts, v. Cape Wind Associates LLC, is number 10-1276 in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

--Editors: Will Wade, Jasmina Kelemen

To contact the reporter on this story: Ehren Goossens in New York at egoossens1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net -0- Oct/28/2011 20:26 GMT


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