Vineyard Wind dealt severe blow by feds

With FEIS delay, Keating blames Trump ‘vendetta’ against wind energy.

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Holly Carlson Johnson, left, a senior consultant for Epsilon Associates, a Vineyard Wind consultant, and Rachel Pachter, vice president of permitting affairs for Vineyard Wind, speak at a hearing in Edgartown on June 27. - Rich Saltzberg

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.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Great news! This was all about a money grab by investors fleecing the taxpayers. Those tax loopholes will be gone before this project can move forward.

    • The water where the wind farm is located is federal property, and so the lease was issued by the federal government and the federal government has regulatory authority over it.

  2. The administration is doing the right thing regarding this project. The cumulative impacts are not well understood – both on the fishing industry as well as military impacts (not cited in the article). Rep. Keating’s tantrum is unwarranted and inappropriate. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he’s become irate when caution was suggested on this project. Time to stand down and take politics out of the debate!

    • That’s funny. Neither you or the Trump administration can site any “cumulative effects” of offshore wind farms. In fact, offshore wind power is nothing new. Many other countries have installed GW’s of offshore wind with virtually no documented adverse effects on the environment where they are installed. On the other side, the benefits of producing power through wind farm is obvious and well documented.

      Trump’s slant is obvious, he’s in bed with the oil companies. You on the other hand……??

  3. That’s what government does at all levels (look at your own town councils). Interrupt, delay, dissuade – find any reason to put off making a decisive decision to keep the voters at bay.

  4. I would hope part of the requirement is a bond to pay for removal of the corroded rusting hulks that will be there long after this fails to meet the financial expectations of the developer and the project goes broke. Or are we the taxpayers expected to clean up the eventual mess as usual.

      • You can’t force people to pay more than the market for electricity. Consumers can choose an electric supplier. Cape wind was bragging about WHOLESALE prices per KW that were 3 times what we were paying RETAIL at the time. If it was viable it would have been built here or somewhere else in the ocean. Not a chance in the world it pays for itself in 4 years and if it did, then windfarms would not need all sorts of subsidies, and government mandates forcing consumers to pay for it. Hedge funds and private equity would be throwing money at it. If they want to build it on their own land someplace, let them. When they go broke, their bank will get stuck with the tab getting rid of the non-functioning windmills. Not sure where you got that 16 year lifespan, but in the hurricane prone , nor easter prone salt corrosive environment of the Atlantic Ocean, its a lot different than a cornfield in Iowa. ANY proposal on public lands (or oceans) leaves the taxpayer stuck with the tab to clean up a failed venture. EVEN if was financially do-able as you state, it could be another ENRON and the windmills, or their remains, would have to be cleaned up at public expense. No bond…no thanks.

        • What, what are you saying ENDRUN what is it your saying, or oceans what is it you want to say, please leave alternative energy sources to adults.

          • @Teehump Obama DID leave alternative energy sources to ‘adults’. Solyndra cost taxpayers $600 million. Thanks for reminding the readers.

          • notnewhere, the loan the Solyndra received from DOE was filed for during the Bush administration.

            Your opinions are cursory.

          • @vanadium, the Solyndra failure was on the watch of Obama administration, and the taxpayers lost billions while his cronies benefited financially.
            Your opinions are just regurgitated MSDNC propaganda.

    • Why wouldn’t you leave them as an artificial reef as is done all over the world with derelict ships we all have seen sunk off shore for marine life

      • @dondondon12 I’m glad to see you veered off topic. If you checked you would see that nuclear plant operators are required to maintain a ‘trust fund’ JUST for the purpose of decommissioning, so “Entergy’ is paying. (unlike Solyndra that stiffed taxpayers for $600m) Thanks for bringing it up. And lets be sure to apply the same standards to this pipe dream which is on public property, Not private property as in nuclear power plants. I’m all for a windfarm if its not a visual blight and doesn’t force ratepayers to subsidize some ‘green scheme’ to the tune of at least THREE times the current per KWH price. . And @teehump, there’s a HUGE difference between sinking a ship or two, properly marked as obstacles on marine navigation charts vs a few thousand acres of an underground junkyard! That would go over real well with the dragger fisherman. Not!

        • notnew- you say i veered off topic.. the topic is wind farms, and you bring up liability concerns– we are talking about generating electricity and providing money for decommissioning– Pilgrim doesn’t come close– and as far as your “few thousand acre junkyard” goes– any towers that fell over would be clearly noted on marine charts– and much more easily removed that a nuclear power plant— and if these things actually ever really fell over, so what ? I could care less about the draggers that are destroying the fisheries —they should know better ..

  5. Lisa-all very god points- i couldn’t have stated it any clearer and this from someone who loves alternate energy-big solar fan-thanks for the great insights !!!

    • Te Orange Man spent a small fortune to keep offshore wind turbines away from his golf club in Scotland………..and lost that battle. Now tell us ..” who is the former Coal Lobbyist running the EPA ?” The guy who has lost many efforts in court to pollute the air even more than in the past. This is not about politics, this is about the planet!

    • Mustn’t poke at the hive with pesky facts. Just stick to the narrative. Orange man bad! Orange man bad! You’re bound to get the hang of it soon enough.

  6. ==> The news did not sit well with U.S. Rep wild Bill sitting bull Keating. So he started slinging it into the wind…

  7. Notnewhere—–is the only one other than myself that really knows whats going on here-it’s all about about millions in upfront money tax breaks decay and death of the turbines-this has never been a good idea for our waters !!!!

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