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Salazar will try to speed wind projects

He says federal officials must work with states

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press / February 20, 2010

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US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar vowed yesterday to work closely with Atlantic Coast states to streamline the permitting process for offshore wind energy projects.

Salazar said the federal government must collaborate with the states - which include Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia - to avoid long delays for appropriate projects.

He said the coastal states are leading the way in developing offshore wind power.

Salazar’s goals include working to identify which coastal areas are best suited for wind turbines and discouraging speculators from rushing in to lay early claims ahead of the process.

Salazar, who spoke on a conference call after meeting yesterday with several Atlantic Coast governors in Washington, also said he wanted to make sure that future wind projects avoid the kind of protracted delays that have beset the Cape Wind project.

The project to build 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has been in the works for nine years and has run into opposition from critics who say the project is a threat to aviation, bird life, and commercial fishing interests.

Salazar is still weighing the fate of the $1 billion project, which developers say will provide cheaper energy, reduce pollution, and create green jobs. Governor Deval Patrick supports the project.

Salazar said that under the Obama administration there has been a renewed focus on offshore wind energy, which had been plagued by regulatory red tape in the past.

“We were able to break that logjam, and there are a set of rules now,’’ he said, adding that future projects “won’t be subjected to the same kind of time frame as Cape Wind.’’

The governors said they welcomed the extra support.

“We all agree the time is now,’’ said Governor Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island. “We need to move ahead as a nation rapidly.’’

Carcieri’s administration has signed a deal with Deepwater Wind LLC to build a project that could involve about 100 turbines roughly 15 to 20 miles offshore. In the near term, the company hopes to build a smaller demonstration project off Block Island. The projects still require multiple permits.

Governor John Baldacci of Maine said he believes strongly in the future of offshore wind power.

In December, Maine officials identified three wind-power test sites in the Gulf of Maine.