There’s a foul wind blowing off Cape Cod. The clean-energy project known as Cape Wind makes more sense than ever, what with the mess in the Middle East and the earth getting warmer by the minute. But resistance to the proposed wind-farm — which would place 130 windmills in Nantucket Sound and provide up to 75 percent of the Cape’s energy at any given time — proves that it really isn’t easy being green. Since Cape Wind was first proposed in 2001, the project has made plenty of powerful enemies (see the sidebar “Enemies in High Places”), including Ted Kennedy, his nephew Robert, and a host of other wealthy Cape Codders who don’t want their beachfront views blighted or their sailing waters cluttered. (Opponents also cite concern for the local fishing industry and avian and marine habitats.)
Now the ongoing fight over Cape Wind has yielded a media controversy. Following the release of a new book (published on May 7) that paints the project’s opponents in an exceedingly unflattering light, some wind-farm supporters are accusing the Cape and Island stations of WGBH, Boston’s public-broadcasting behemoth, of de facto censorship. Whatever you make of this accusation, it shows just how charged the Cape Wind battle has become — and highlights just how much clout the project’s opponents actually have.
Conspiracy of silence
Allegations of a media blackout surrounding Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound (Public Affairs) started with a reading that Wendy Williams, who co-authored the book with Robert Whitcomb, gave at a Cape Cod bookstore, Chatham’s Cabbages and Kings, on May 16.
Before Williams’s appearance, Jack Moye — the husband of the bookstore’s owner and a wind-farm supporter — tried to drum up advance publicity for the event on WCAI, WGBH’s Cape affiliate. (WCAI shares staff and programming with WNAN, the Nantucket station, and WZAI, which serves Martha’s Vineyard; in radio parlance, the latter two stations are “repeaters.”) In early May, Moye says, he mentioned the book and the upcoming reading to Elizabeth White, the reporter in charge of WCAI’s wind-farm coverage: Moye says White told him she was eager to read the book and stopped by the store to pick up an advance copy.
A few days later, Moye says, he hadn’t heard back from White. So he contacted Georgia McDonald, WCAI’s corporate-sales director, thinking that a pledge might help his cause. McDonald subsequently visited the store and discussed Cape Wind with a staffer. According to Moye — who didn’t witness the exchange — McDonald said “one of the people at the station had looked at the book and thought it was too pointed to bear mention. I don’t think she actually used the word ‘biased,’ but that’s what it turned out to be.”
Nothing too remarkable so far. After all, reporters take a pass on stories all the time. Furthermore, Williams and Whitcomb’s book is biased — though it’s also informative and entertaining. Jim Gordon, the man behind the Cape Wind project, is consistently depicted as a visionary underdog, and the lionization of Gordon can be a bit much. In contrast, the project’s opponents — including Kennedy, whose family compound at Hyannisport is the stuff of legend — are cast as a bunch of rich hypocrites who’ve put their own needs ahead of the common good.