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Salazar: Wind farm could break ground in '13

WASHINGTON -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is voicing optimism that the nation's first offshore wind farm will soon break ground after more than a decade of delays and be followed by more off the Atlantic coast.

"I think there's a good chance it will happen before the end of the year," Salazar said Friday of the Cape Wind project. Speaking in an interview a few weeks before he leaves office, he also claimed gains as secretary in tightening oversight of offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "I think the coziness with industry that was there when I came into the department is gone," he said.

A former U.S. senator from Colorado, Salazar, 58, ran the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama's first term.

Along with changes at the offshore drilling agency, he pushed for renewable energy such as solar and wind power and helped to settle a long-standing dispute with American Indians.

The Interior Department manages more than 500 million acres in national parks and other public lands, as well as more than 1 billion acres offshore. The department oversees energy, mining operations and recreation.

Under Salazar, Interior authorized more than 40 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects.

He spoke of progress in the long-delayed Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast because developers have agreements with utilities to purchase about 75 percent of the power the project is expected to generate.

But the $2.6 billion project, which Salazar approved in 2010, has stalled because of lawsuits and trouble obtaining financing. Developers plan to build 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.

Opponents argue the project will ruin the pristine sound and endanger animal life. They also say the project's electricity is significantly overpriced.

Cape Wind says the cost is worth the project's benefits, including jobs, decreased pollution and the creation of a reliable power source near a busy coastline.

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