By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Interior Secretary Ken Salazar voiced optimism Friday 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 of the Cape Wind project. Speaking in an AP 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, the 58-year-old Salazar ran the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama's first term.
Along with changes at the offshore drilling agency, Salazar pushed for renewable energy such as solar and wind power and helped to settle a longstanding 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 and provides services to 566 federally recognized Indian tribes.
Under Salazar's watch, Interior authorized more than 40 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands that officials say will provide enough electricity to power more than 4 million homes.
Salazar called his four-year tenure a "joyful journey" that took him from the Everglades to the Arctic. Still, he said he was eager to return to his family and his Colorado ranch.
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 and are working to get more. The $2.6 billion project off Cape Cod was the first offshore project to win a federal lease when Salazar gave his approval in 2010.