Romney offers renewable energy support, critics say it's "lip service"

The Yarmouth Register

Gov. Mitt Romney's appearance at clean energy promotion event Monday set off a chain of criticism, with students, labor, environmentalists and Democrats saying his opposition to a proposed wind farm on Horseshoe Shoals is inconsistent with his stated support for renewable energy.

With roughly a dozen students and representatives from two labor groups outside, Romney told a roomful of environmental-minded regional business leaders that Massachusetts is looking to attract employers who adopt clean energy policies. Those businesses, the governor said, are likely to have a global impact and demonstrate "explosive growth" over the next decade.

But supporters of the Cape Wind proposal, which would bring 130 wind turbines to Nantucket Sound, said Romney's appearance and "lip service" in support of renewable energy is "hypocritical."

"It's easy to be for something, but renewable energy requires more than just lip service," said Matt Palmer, executive director of Clean Power Now, a Cape Cod-based non-profit group that supports the Cape Wind proposal.

Romney says he supports wind energy, but opposes the Cape farm because of its location.

The governor's remarks, made during the morning portion of an all-day forum on emerging technologies at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, were not surprising given his audience. During his 20-minute speech, Romney promoted the state's commitment to smart growth, reducing auto emissions, promoting renewable energy, and limiting the amount of carbon dioxide produced by power plants.

"It's just lip service," said Chelsea Harnish, membership coordinator for Clean Power Now said after this morning's event. "He is being completely inconsistent with his stance on the wind farm."

In response to claims that Romney's position on renewable energy is inconsistent, his press secretary, Julie Teer, promoted the governor's record on clean energy policies and other issues.

"Governor Romney supports renewable energy," Teer said in an email. "He opposes building a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, which is a National Treasure. The Governor has been a leader on clean energy, energy efficiency and climate issues in the Commonwealth. This includes his aggressive enforcement of the Filthy Five regulations, the introduction of the state's first broad-based climate and energy conservation plan and the pursuit of a smart growth agenda that shapes every aspect of development in Massachusetts."

Romney is one of nine governors in the Northeast working on a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gas emissions, that causes global warming. That group was expected to release its regulations in April, and has since said more time is needed.

Here in Massachusetts, the administration is revising the state's pollution standards for the so-called Filthy Six power plants. Those regulations are expected to be released in January, Romney said today.

The governor has come under fire from environmentalists after reports that he was considering relaxing regulations on coal-burning plants during the energy crisis.

Romney said today he expects state leaders to approve legislation this year that offers tax incentives for consumers to buy hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicles. That legislation was approved by the Senate several weeks ago and is awaiting action in the House.

Frank Gorke, energy advocate for the Massachusetts Public Interest Group (MassPIRG), said the governor's record on clean energy is a "mixed bag," given his pursuit of tough standards for greenhouse gas emissions and participation in the regional initiative. Gorke said Romney's opposition to the wind farm is "unfortunate" because energy supply is running low.

"Really, they deserve a lot of credit for getting it this far," Gorke said, regarding the regional greenhouse gas initiative. "At this point though, I'm a little concerned that they're getting cold feet" because of pressure from the power companies.

Students from Boston University and Tufts University followed up their morning protest with an afternoon rally in front of the State House, criticizing Romney's "wavering" commitment to the regional gas initiative and his statements in support of renewable energy.

"That's irony if I've ever heard irony," said Tufts student Aditya Nochur. "I don't get it."

Dave Borrus, a representative of the Pile Drivers Local Union 56, pushed for the governor to recognize the potential job growth that could result from building the wind farm.

"I think it's high time for Governor Romney, instead of putting roadblocks in front of us, get behind us and support us," he said at the afternoon rally.

The Cape Wind proposal has been mired in controversy since its introduction several years ago. Residents on Cape Cod and the political delegation appear divided over the project.

Deval Patrick, a civil rights attorney vying for the Democratic nomination for governor, is the only candidate currently on the scene supportive of the Cape Wind plan. In a phone interview Monday, Patrick said the administration needs to focus on long-term energy goals.

"It's hard. I accept that it's hard," Patrick said, adding that there is more than one strategy to deal with energy needs. "But to me, it's just not enough to say that all we have to offer are short-term responses."

In May, the state's Energy Facilities Siting Board approved an 18-mile transmission line needed to connect the turbines in Nantucket Sound to the regional electric grid in Barnstable. Project opponents appealed the decision, but Attorney General Thomas Reilly has recused himself from representing the state in the lawsuit, given his personal opposition to the project.

The project is also undergoing another review by the US Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, after an amendment to the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives the Secretary of the Interior the authority to grant leases for alternative energy projects.