BOSTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday again ruled that the Cape Wind offshore wind farm poses no hazard to local airplanes, months after a federal appeals court forced it to reconsider the agency finding.
The FAA said in a statement that after an aeronautical study, it determined the project's 130 turbines wouldn't endanger local air traffic.
The key clearance is the fourth time the FAA has approved the $2.6 billion project since it was proposed for Nantucket Sound in 2001. The project aims to be the nation's first offshore wind farm.
A federal appeals court last October overturned the previous FAA clearance of the wind farm, saying the agency hadn't adequately considered the project's effect on pilots who fly by sight only.
In its latest determination, the FAA said a structure can negatively affect sight-only pilots if it's within two miles of one of their common flight routes and rises more than 500 feet above the ocean. But it said since Cape Wind's planned turbines are only 440-feet tall "the proposed wind farm would not have an adverse impact."
"After years of careful aeronautical review of Cape Wind, we are pleased once again to receive FAA approval," said Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers. "Cape Wind is now closer to creating the public benefits of cleaner air, greater energy independence and new jobs."
Critics of the project say it will be a hazard to air and sea navigation, will ruin the sound, and will offer overpriced power.
Cape Wind has already committed buyers for more than 75 percent of its power. The company hopes to be producing power by 2015.
The FAA ruling comes as two congressmen are asking the federal agency to prove its previous Cape Wind approval wasn't driven by politics and pressure from the Obama administration.
U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and John Mica, R-Fla., made the request after internal FAA documents obtained by a Cape Wind opponent showed the previous approval came amid disagreement over how to best stop the turbines from interfering with plane radar and as employees felt political pressure to approve the project. As part of their request, the congressmen asked the FAA to produce various documents by July 31, but the FAA has not met that deadline.
Cape Wind opponent Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound said the FAA's decision was politically driven and "shows a complete and total disregard for public safety." She said it was outrageous the FAA made its ruling while the request from the congressmen was pending.
Sue Reid of the Conservation Law Foundation, a Cape Wind supporter, said the FAA's willingness to approve the project while under congressional scrutiny gives the ruling more credibility.
"I think it's important to remember the FAA made this determination even as it was acutely aware that its decision-making was under a microscope," she said.