Chris Perry Column: "My Hypocrisy Only Goes So Far..."

Chris Perry •

Photo by Cary Hazlegrove |

If you believe Ernest Benn when he said “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy,” then maybe you’ll understand why NOAA thinks the North Atlantic Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule is a good “solution” for a problem that does not exist.

It’s got to be a joke…right?

Outside of the right whales that have yet to make a public comment on this matter who in their right mind - especially those on Nantucket - thinks this is a good idea when we all know the North Atlantic right whale is not at risk in Nantucket Sound?

The rule, proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, would restrict most vessels over 35 feet to traveling at a maximum of 10 knots (about 11.5mph) from November 1st to May 30th. This would prevent all high-speed boat travel to and from Nantucket during that time, likely forcing the closure of Hy-Line Cruises and greatly decreasing the island’s ability to access needed goods and services from the mainland.

If you don’t believe the collective voices of our local commercial fishing captains then listen to the Hy-Line and Steamship Authority operators who have never documented a right whale sighting in over 25 years in Nantucket Sound. According to the town of Nantucket, that represents over one million trips between Hyannis and Nantucket.

With the legislation gaining more speed than the Grey Lady passing by the Muskeget Channel, the obvious objections from Nantucket’s perspective are well documented. If enacted as written, the best way to sum it up for the island would be Economic Armageddon. No one would be immune to the negative impact including construction and retail, the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the public school system, tourism, freight, and all private sectors.

Even if you want to curb construction, eliminate traffic, cut down on the noise at the airport, and empty all the beaches and you miraculously secure a picture of a right whale being rammed by the Uncatena off Great Point, I can’t believe your ultimate goal would be to gleefully watch Nantucket come to a grinding halt.

The frustrating part of this story is knowing there is an easy solution to this brouhaha. Much like they did for Buzzard’s Bay and parts of Long Island Sound, a “carve out” excluding Nantucket Sound from these draconian measures would eliminate the growing angst everyone is feeling on Nantucket.

But that’s too easy and practical especially right now as the politicians will milk this one to the bitter end.

Frankly, I believe this whole mess is politically motivated. When there’s a political problem with a reasonable compromise on the table that everyone is avoiding like the red tide at ‘Sconset Beach, Mark Twain was right: “We have the best government that money can buy”.

Much like my stance against the emerging wind farm colony off Nantucket’s south shore, I have a selfish “horizonal” view against this recent legislation because I sense it is all about power, money, and politics.

Like many of you, I support alternative forms of affordable, clean, renewable energy and I support measures to protect the right whales. However, I do not support Vineyard Wind’s expanding wind farm construction project off our coast, the Good Neighbor Agreement or the damaging proposal from NOAA. When our philosophical views are twisted to fit a false narrative and then used as a political hammer against Nantucket, it’s like what Doc Holliday once said in the movie Tombstone: “My hypocrisy only goes so far…”

Unfortunately, the political winds have shifted against Nantucket. On two very important subjects - Vineyard Wind and the North Atlantic Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule - Nantucket is presently on the destructive side of the hurricane.

Despite what you might think, these two subjects are linked. For example, in both cases, political support for these initiatives has come at the expense of common sense. Nevertheless, as members of the Nantucket community, we are routinely told to contact our local, state, and federal representatives to voice our concerns. Naively, some have tried but those unsuccessful attempts have only reconfirmed that unlike me and Doc Holliday, their hypocrisy has no bounds.

For example, the town of Nantucket’s website has a full page urging this island’s 15,000-plus residents to contact state and federal representatives such as Bill Keating, Ed Markey, and Elizabeth Warren to fight against NOAA’s proposed speed limits in Nantucket Sound.

The website continues and emphasizes the fact that “the right whale conservation efforts must be focused where the whales travel and congregate...”

That all sounds good.

But how can you reconcile the fact that Nantucket’s Select Board unanimously supported Vineyard Wind and the Good Neighbor Agreement with a recent vote that supports the efforts of international energy companies to build hundreds of wind farm platforms off Nantucket’s coast right where whales travel and congregate?

When it comes to NOAA, the hypocrisy is even more blatant. Their recent press release the Northeast Fisheries Science Center highlights an aerial survey of the ocean waters south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard touting 161 whales representing 7 species including the North Atlantic right whale and 93 Sei whales.

NOAA calls it a “dazzling array of sightings…”

That all looks good.

What they fail to mention is the fact that this area is in Vineyard Wind’s backyard where hundreds of wind turbines are being constructed.

So, let me see if I get this right: NOAA is using non-existent right whales in Nantucket Sound to build its case for the North Atlantic Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule; which if enacted as presently drafted, would cripple the Nantucket economy. But, when they report a “dazzling array” of over 160 whales south of Nantucket and within view of dozens of wind turbines, it’s OK to let the international energy companies continue to bulldoze the ocean floor and build more wind turbine platforms ultimately scarring Nantucket’s view shed.

How does one reconcile that?

I doubt we will ever get an answer to that question.

In today’s political climate, it is virtually impossible to have any confidence in our elected officials. Nevertheless, I am a glass-half-full kind of guy. I still hold a sliver of hope and faith that our representatives will do the right thing knowing it would be unfairly ridiculous to penalize the Nantucket community and those on the Cape who are directly impacted by this legislation.

Sadly, I don’t base that opinion on the scientific evidence that has been presented or the visual history documented for review or the sheer fact that this legislation will be so punitive that members on both sides of the political aisle can see it is a disaster waiting to happen.

With my last remaining sliver of cynical confidence to wager, I am betting on the fact politicians rarely change their behavioral stripes. Generally, they do what’s best for their own political future.

In this case, I predict that over the course of the summer our elected representatives will periodically test the direction of the political winds associated with the right whale in Nantucket Sound. With too much to risk including the optics of inevitable legal challenges and potential temporary injunctions that will be coming down the channel from both sides, a precedent based compromise carving out Nantucket Sound will bubble to the surface. In turn, both sides of the aisle will announce their victory secured by the fact they believe additional political capital was banked heading into the November elections.

Despite the unsavory and unnecessary spin cycle that this issue has put the Nantucket community through lately, I can live with that outcome.

If I am wrong, it won’t be the first time and it certainly won’t be the last.

But, do me a favor…

Call Sergeant Morneau and request a wellness check because it will be the first time that my glass will be officially empty.

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