Boaters turn the tables on greenpeace

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A flotilla of more than 30 boats surrounded a Greenpeace research vessel in September to speak out against the environmental organization’s support of the controversial Cape Wind Project.

A flotilla of more than 30 boats surrounded a Greenpeace research vessel in September to speak out against the environmental organization’s support of the controversial Cape Wind Project. The protest came after Greenpeace interrupted an event by project opponents in August.

“We wanted to get the word out again that we are very much against the wind farm,” says Cliff Carroll, founder of www.windstop.org and an opponent of the project. Carroll, along with members of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Council, organized the protest.

“We already went through hell this year with the red tide, which devastated our waters,” he says. Carroll, like others, says he’s concerned that oil from a proposed 40,000-gallon oil transformer substation and from the turbines could leak into the water and catch fire. “It would shut down Nantucket Sound’s shellfish beds and fishing grounds for years,” he says.

John Coequyt, an energy policy specialist with Greenpeace, says the way in which the protest was staged was “uncalled for.”

“It’s one thing to be aggressive, which Greenpeace can be at times, but it’s another thing to be mean-spirited. There were families with children on our boat. It just wasn’t very professional,” he says.

“We believe this project is in the best interests of the people living on the Cape,” Coequyt continues. “While we understand the opponents’ issues, we stand behind our beliefs in wind energy.”

Carroll, however, believes the protest was “as professional as possible.

“Anything we said was to the point,” he says. “The official protest lasted about an hour and a half. From what I understand a number of local boaters who saw the Greenpeace boat approached it later on. After we left, I can’t say what happened. I can say, though, that people here are passionate about these issues.”

At about noon on Sept. 24, a group of commercial fishermen and recreational boaters encircled Greenpeace’s 163-foot research vessel, Arctic Sunrise. The vessel’s crew was giving a public tour near Hyannis Harbor, promoting the wind farm proposal in regards to how similar projects can help stop global warming in the United States, Coequyt says.

Once in proximity to the Greenpeace vessel, some boaters blew their horns while others shouted at the vessel through bullhorns, reportedly questioning the environmental activism group’s association with the project’s private developer, Boston-based Energy Management, Inc. (EMI). An airplane flew overhead trailing a banner that read, “Greenpeace Go Home!”

In August, Greenpeace interrupted an event organized by an environmental group, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, where activist Robert Kennedy Jr. was speaking against the project.

As it stands, the $800 million Cape Wind project calls for 130 turbine towers, each 417 feet tall, to be installed near Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound over about 24 square miles. Cape Wind developers estimate the turbines will produce enough electricity to power roughly three-quarters of the Cape and Islands (www.capewind.org ).

Proponents of the project say the wind farm will provide a substantial alternative to using fossil fuels, lessen effects of global warming, and improve air quality. Opponents are leery of giving public land on Nantucket Sound to a private developer. They argue that the location of the turbines would detract from the natural beauty of the area and that the project poses certain environmental and navigational hazards.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing the plan.