After Eight Years of Pro-Wind Advocacy, Clean Power Now Closes Down
By: Michael C. Bailey
Clean Power Now has declared “mission accomplished” and will formally dissolve the nonprofit organization at the end of the year.
“After eight years of working hard to inform, educate and empower citizens to support viable renewable energy projects and policies, Clean Power Now will be closing its doors at the end of 2011,” read a statement issued yesterday. “This decision is bittersweet, but both the governing board and the staff feel that the core mission has been accomplished through the work as citizen advocates for America’s first fully permitted offshore wind farm—Cape Wind.”
“Time and time again, Clean Power Now mobilized and provided effective advocacy on behalf of America’s first proposed offshore wind farm and renewable energy,” James S. Gordon, president of Cape Wind, said. “They understood the energy, environmental and economic challenges facing the Cape and islands and effectively communicated with legislators, state and federal agencies, environmental groups, labor unions and other stakeholders the importance of this region becoming a world wide leader in offshore renewable energy.”
Barbara J. Hill, the organization’s executive director, announced Clean Power Now’s dissolution to members yesterday by e-mail. At its peak, the organization boasted 14,000 members.
In a phone interview, Ms. Hill said the beginning of the end for Clean Power Now was April 2010, when Kenneth L. Salazar, US Secretary of the Interior, approved the Cape Wind project.
“A year ago we asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing? Who are we as an organization?’ ” she said. “What are we going to be after Cape Wind?”
Clean Power Now, a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting Cape Wind and other wind energy projects on the Cape and islands, was launched in June 2003 as a counterbalance to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
When the board met last year following Sec. Salazar’s decision, Ms. Hill said there was a strong desire to expand Clean Power Now’s mission to other pending wind projects along the East Coast, “but none of those have entered the regulatory process…they’re just ideas at this point. They’re not real.”
Further, the board “did not want to be duplicative” of any other organization with a similar pro-renewable energy mission, Ms. Hill said, but during Clean Power Now’s lifetime many other nonprofits, small and large, have joined the conversation—and divvied up an already very finite pool of financial resources.
“Once all the hard work got done” on Cape Wind, she said, “larger groups got involved, and they got all the money…we can’t compete with a National Wildlife Federation.”
Clean Power Now’s announcement alluded to the difficulties in remaining a viable organization financially. “The challenges to nonprofits these days are well known and the offshore wind space has changed dramatically since the success with Cape Wind with a host of larger non-profits filling the space and competing for limited resources,” the statement read.
Longtime member Richard Elrick of Mashpee, energy coordinator for Barnstable and Bourne and past president of Clean Power Now’s board of directors, said that, unlike Cape Wind opponents such as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Clean Power Now “did not have a sugar daddy” providing the bulk of its funding—a reference to Koch Industries founder William I. Koch, who has personally donated millions to the alliance over the years.
Mark Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind, noted that, despite Mr. Koch’s support, the alliance has likewise experienced a dip in its revenue stream in recent years. Although the alliance last year raised $1.74 million, a 22 percent increase from its 2009 revenue of $1.42 million, its receipts have fallen every year since 2004, and 2009 was its worst fundraising year ever.
With Clean Power Now’s necessity and revenue waning, “I told the board we need to look at this in the clear light of day,” Ms. Hill said, and that led to the decision to dissolve the nonprofit.
“It was a bittersweet decision,” she said, “but nonprofits have life-cycles. Not every nonprofit goes on forever.”
Counterpoint To The Alliance
Mr. Elrick, who was involved with Clean Power Now during its formative period, said the group “first began as a response to the opponents” of Cape Wind—the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
“Vociferous opponents had the microphone, and we felt it was important to have a group that could get good information out there,” he said, “and I think [Clean Power Now] served a very positive role in getting good information, accurate information out there.”
Ms. Hill believed that in acting as a clearinghouse for “fact-based” information about Cape Wind, it also promoted a regulatory review process “that judged the project on its merits and without any shenanigans from the opposition group.”
She considered Clean Power Now successful in that effort, and said that the group “really has no role in [the Cape Wind project] anymore since Cape Wind is in litigation now,” dealing with a number of lingering lawsuits, most of those filed by or involving the alliance.
“I think after Secretary Salazar approved Cape Wind and granted us a lease last year, that many of their members rightly felt a sense of ‘mission accomplished,’ ” Mr. Rodgers said, “but that also made it harder for their organization to continue to move forward with the same energy as they had in the past.”
Audra Parker, president and CEO of the alliance, had a different take on Clean Power Now’s dissolution. “I think this is another clear indicator that Cape Wind will not be built and support for the project has eroded rapidly,” she said, also referring to the lawsuits and to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to revoke its “no hazard” finding for the turbines.
Ms. Parker added that since Clean Power Now’s formation, the alliance has accused its pro-wind counterpart of being nothing more than a thinly veiled extension of Cape Wind’s publicity machine, “and I think it’s fairly clear that’s the case with them closing up shop rather than supporting other wind energy projects.”
“Our job was never to build Cape Wind,” Ms. Hill said. “Our mission was never to make sure a business proposal was a success or not…our mission right from the beginning was to inform, educate, and empower the public on clean energy policies, and we did that.”
In its farewell message, Clean Power Now suggested that members turn to Cape & Islands Self-Reliance (www.reliance.org), the Cape and Islands Wind Information Network (www.ciwin.org), and the Cape and Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative (www.cirenew.org) for the latest information on renewable energy projects in the region.