Updated August 12
Vineyard Wind, the $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt offshore wind project planned for waters off Martha’s Vineyard, appears to have been delayed, perhaps significantly, by the federal government, which now seeks to do a broader study on the impacts of wind farms.
The news did not sit well with U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, who came out swinging against the Trump administration by saying the “baseless personal vendetta President Trump has taken against wind farms throughout his career” may cost Massachusetts thousands of jobs, and a “blue economy” successor to Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
“I am extremely disappointed in the Trump administration’s decision to delay construction on the Vineyard Wind project,” Keating said in a statement released Friday night. “This administration has a terrible record of promoting fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy; it is par for the course that they would seek to stymie the nation’s most important renewable energy project just as it was coming to fruition. Taking this action, at this late stage, is another example of this administration’s hostility toward those seeking to combat climate change, as well as its overall rejection of basic environmental values.”
Friday’s news may mark the biggest stumbling block for Vineyard Wind, but not the first.
Last month, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management notified project officials that the government was “not yet prepared” to issue a final environmental impact statement (FEIS), which had been due that month.
It’s the latest blow in what’s been a difficult stretch for the offshore wind farm company, which hopes to erect 84 wind turbines about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. The Edgartown conservation commission denied permission for an undersea cable to pass by Chappaquiddick, a decision that’s under appeal with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Vineyard Wind officials referenced “the federal government’s decision to further delay the approval of the FEIS for the Vineyard Wind 1 project” and an apparent plan to study the cumulative impacts of the various offshore wind projects in different stages of development up and down the coast.
“To be clear, the Vineyard Wind 1 project remains viable and continues to move forward,” project officials said in a statement. “While we appreciate that the discussion on cumulative impacts is driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project, we urge the federal government to complete the review of Vineyard Wind 1 as quickly as possible. The project is poised to kick-start 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.”
Project officials acknowledged that Friday’s news will delay their project and others, Vineyard Wind said it “remains deeply committed” to the project and the offshore wind industry at large. Officials from BOEM were not immediately available Friday afternoon.
The Baker administration worked with utility companies to choose Vineyard Wind, which administration officials have touted as potentially the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project. Baker has since gone on to push for support for the Vineyard Wind project in Washington. The project has the support of both the Massachusetts House and Senate in addition to State Attorney General Maura Healy.
“The Interior Secretary’s revelation today is extremely disappointing to Massachusetts ratepayers and those working to advance the offshore wind industry,” Healy said in a release. “The Vineyard Wind project will deliver good-paying jobs while helping address our climate crisis. My office is reviewing all of our available options to ensure this project moves forward.” In contrast, several fishermen’s organizations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and on Long Island have criticized the wind farm proposal on numerous fronts. These organizations have argued, among other things, that safe navigation in and around the proposed wind farm and economic compensation for losses it might create haven’t been addressed to their satisfaction. In contrast to fishermen’s concerns, Vineyarders in general have expressed strong support for the Vineyard Wind project. At a BOEM hearing and at an Edgartown conservation commission hearing, numerous Islanders, including some scientists, said the project was a critical step in the fight against global warming.
“There is consensus that we need to fully understand the consequences of offshore wind development, as they are incredibly important for our fishermen and our coastal communities,” Keating said in his release. “I supported our local communities throughout this process to ensure their many legitimate issues were brought to the fore. However, in this instance, I believe that the Trump administration has not dealt fairly with Vineyard Wind. It has instead chosen to call into question the entire future of renewable energy in this country. The potential concerns that the administration raised could have been addressed subsequent to the start of construction of Vineyard Wind. The company remains committed to moving this project forward, as do I.”
On Monday, Vineyard Wind emphasized its shareholders remain committed to moving forward with the project regardless of the delay imposed by the federal government. The wind energy company extended thanks to vendors, contractors, financiers, and politicians who have maintained support for the venture.
“We are very proud of the Vineyard Wind team’s achievements so far, and we are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated,” Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said in a release. “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 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.”
Updated with new comments from Vineyard Wind.