Is the Trump administration attempting to halt the proliferation of offshore wind farms?
Officials of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have informed officials of Vineyard Wind, a $2.8 billion, 84-turbine installation proposed to be located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, that it is not prepared to issue a final environmental impact statement for the 800-megawatt project, and will extend its review.
Earlier this month, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist, told Bloomberg News that the Interior Department had ordered additional study of the wind farm, noting that the National Marine Fisheries Service had raised concerns that the management agency had looked too narrowly at “potential cumulative effects on fishing.”
A statement on the bureau’s website says it has decided to add a supplemental environmental impact statement to a draft statement, which will then be available for public comment. “BOEM anticipates completing the Supplemental E.I.S. late this year or early next year,” it says.
Vineyard Wind, based in New Bedford, Mass., is a partnership between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables. Its officials had hoped construction would begin by year’s end and that the wind farm would be operational in 2021. They have urged the federal government to complete its review as quickly as possible, Bloomberg News reported, and have cast doubt on the entire project if the final E.I.S is not issued early next month.
A statement on the Vineyard Wind website dated Aug. 9 says, in part, that “the project is poised to kickstart a new offshore wind industry that promises industrial growth along with new manufacturing and blue-collar employment across the United States from New England to Louisiana to Colorado and beyond.” Despite the delay, “Vineyard Wind remains deeply committed to the emerging industry’s success. We firmly believe that once regulators are fully satisfied, our project and dozens of others will deliver billions of dollars of new investment in ports, enhanced energy independence, and above all, high-paying, long-term jobs for thousands of Americans.”
Three days later, on Aug. 12, the website stated that “company shareholders have affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule.”
Commercial fishermen up and down the coast have voiced opposition to the project, which its developers say would power 400,000 Massachusetts residences.
Bloomberg News reported that Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts called the delay a “double standard,” and said that the Trump administration had “cut every corner” with regard to environmental review of plans for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As for Vineyard Wind, he said, “they are trying to delay it to death.”
In an article published in The Boston Globe last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge Mr. Trump next year, was also critical of the delay. The Trump administration, she said, “has chosen to hinder this important project and continue to put corporate polluters’ profits over Americans’ well-being.”
In the Aug. 12 statement, Lars Pedersen, chief executive officer of Vineyard Wind, said, “We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States, so we thank the more than 50 U.S. companies already awarded a contract or currently bidding on contracts, the financial institutions engaged in raising more than $2 billion in capital, and the first-class global contractors that have joined us in planning for the first large-scale offshore wind farm in America. We remain committed to delivering that ambitious target and would like to thank Governor [Charlie] Baker, the Massachusetts Legislature, and our bipartisan backers in Congress led by the Bay State delegation for their collective support and courage in driving this industry forward.”
In another Aug. 12 statement, Liz Burdock, president and chief executive office of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, called the Bureau of Ocean Management’s move “a step in the wrong direction” that would slow the creation of new jobs and delivery of cleaner energy. “This ruling also contradicts the Trump administration’s objective of reducing regulatory constraints on business growth,” she said.
Both the federal bureau and the New York State Public Service Commission are reviewing the South Fork Wind Farm, a proposed 15-turbine installation to be sited approximately 35 miles southeast of Montauk. The project is a joint venture of Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, which until its 2018 acquisition by the Danish energy company Orsted was known as Deepwater Wind, and Eversource Energy, a Connecticut company. Deepwater Wind/Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind built and operates the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
“Both Orsted and Eversource know what it takes to develop projects that deliver the environmental and economic benefits to the communities in which they operate,” Meaghan Wims, a spokeswoman for Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, said in an email last week. “We take a holistic approach to community and stakeholder engagement and our project timelines created by our teams are realistic, informed by our actual experience in the development of large-scale commercial windfarms and other large energy infrastructure projects throughout the region.”
“The opportunities for offshore wind to transform the country’s energy economy are immense and we have every confidence that BOEM will operate within their two-year review for environmental impact statements,” Ms. Wims said.