Reporting from Washington — The Obama administration has approved a long-delayed, highly controversial offshore wind project off Cape Cod, Mass., the Interior Department said Wednesday morning.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is set to announce Wednesday afternoon in Boston the decision to grant federal permits to the Cape Wind project.
Cape Wind proposes to string 130 turbines in Massachusetts' scenic Nantucket Sound and supply the majority of the power on Cape Cod and nearby islands. In a decade-long fight, the project has divided Massachusetts politicians, earned objections from the Kennedy family and most recently drawn opposition from Native American tribes.
But Obama administration officials – and Salazar in particular – have made offshore wind power a cornerstone of their push to boost so-called "clean energy" in the United States, and thus were widely expected to approve the project, which has the support of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
"After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favor of approving" the project, Salazar said Wednesday in Boston. "With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future, ushering in America's first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region."
The Boston Globe was the first to report the administration's decision Wednesday online.
Federal approval will put Cape Wind in line to become the first U.S. offshore wind farm -- assuming it clears a flurry of lawsuits expected to follow the decision -- and set the stage for similar projects along the East Coast, the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico.
Shortly after taking office, Salazar began touting the potential for offshore wind to supply massive amounts of electricity, especially on the East Coast, where much of the nation's electric demand is concentrated.
Interior officials have set the federal government's first rules for offshore wind development and settled jurisdictional disputes that hampered previous project attempts. Salazar has made wind as much of a part -- at least rhetorically – of his offshore energy development strategy as oil and gas drilling.
On Tuesday in Iowa, Obama toured a wind-turbine manufacturing plant operated by Siemens, which is set to provide the turbines for Cape Wind.
Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin contributed to this report.