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Offshore Wind Development Will Not Cause 'Major Environmental Damage,' Federal Review Finds

Posted: 02/ 2/2012 1:27 pm

BALTIMORE (AP) — Offshore wind farms from New Jersey to Virginia took a big step closer to reality with the completion of a review that showed the renewable energy source would leave no major environmental damage, officials said Thursday.

Obama administration Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also said his department also was trying to speed up the process for issuing renewable energy leases. Wind projects off the coasts of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and New Jersey are being studied.

"There are a number of developers who are very interested in developing offshore wind here and our goal is to hold the auctions and be able to issue the leases now, in 2012," Salazar said. "So, this is not something that's going to be waiting around."

The Mid-Atlantic lease proposal follows the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts that was given the go-ahead in 2010 after years of federal review. That project is still in development and Salazar said the department had learned from that experience.

"No developer should have to wait nine or 10 years," for approval, Salazar said.

Dominion Virginia Power is interested in building up to 400 wind turbines in Atlantic waters as soon as they are open for development, officials with that state's largest electric utility told The Associated Thursday.

The Interior Department said before the waters would be opened, the public would have a chance to comment on the projects.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who appeared at the announcement with Salazar, said his administration had contacted Defense Department officials to discuss the possibility of the military using offshore wind energy.

O'Malley, a Democrat, and Salazar both described the decision as a major step forward for offshore wind, and environmentalists agreed.

Environment America Clean Energy Advocate Courtney Abrams said "tapping into the power of offshore wind along the Atlantic coast is vital to getting the region and the nation off fossil fuels without creating more pollution."

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said the decision "just makes sense."

"It is a reliable, clean energy resource that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, curb harmful air pollutants, and create good paying American jobs in manufacturing and construction," Carper said.

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Associated Press writer Steve Szkotak in Richmond contributed to this report.

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