A group that represents the fishing industry filed a federal appeal of the Vineyard Wind 1 project Monday in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging the process was too hasty and didn’t take their repeated concerns into account, according to a press release. The filing was confirmed through the court’s online database, though documents were not yet available.
Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), which is made up of fishing industry associations and fishing companies, filed a petition for review of the Secretary of the Interior’s July 15, 2021, decision approving the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind energy project. “This action is the culmination of many years of conscientious participation by fisheries professionals, only to see their expertise and value summarily ignored by decisionmakers during the leasing process,” the release states. “The U.S. fishing industry harvests a renewable food source for the American people, and provides vital services to coastal communities and the nation; in 2019, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.3 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.5 billion. U.S. fisheries are held to a high standard of sustainability, thanks to actions taken by regional fishery management councils, federal agencies, and the dedication of the fishing industry to persist while complying with ever-changing regulations designed to protect our oceans. However, they are under increasing pressure from unfair competition with foreign entities that are able to circumvent stringent environmental oversight.”
The press release cites the “hasty approval” by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for the project.
Vineyard Wind 1 would be the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind installation. The project “adds unacceptable risk to this sustainable industry without any effort to minimize unreasonable interference with traditional and well-managed seafood production and navigation,” the release states.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Vineyard Wind 1, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The wind farm will feature 62 GE Haliade-X turbines, and is expected to have an overall cost of approximately $2 billion. The 62 turbines will produce 800 megawatts of electricity. That electricity will be sent through two export cables buried under the Atlantic seafloor.
“This is a precedent-setting decision by BOEM, and it is critical that they get it right so that future projects are following a trusted roadmap instead of a flawed and dangerous example,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of RODA. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the only recourse fishermen have to ensure the fishing communities’ concerns are addressed.”
The fishing industry has repeatedly expressed concerns about the project. “The project design approved by BOEM would endanger fishermen by placing turbines too close together for fishing vessels to safely navigate in inclement weather or heavy seas,” the release states. “Based on their understanding of the connectivity of marine systems, fishermen have also repeatedly requested a cumulative impact assessment of offshore wind development to fish and protected resources. Unfortunately, BOEM has not taken a holistic approach to address the cumulative impact of offshore wind on the ocean ecosystem and shoreside communities. It is impossible to effectively plan a new ocean industry without such an analysis, especially one with such a large environmental footprint.”
The Vineyard Wind project review, which had been put on hold in the final days of the Trump administration, got a jump-start when President Joe Biden took over. RODA takes issue with that process.
“The federal government must provide prudent and unbiased oversight in energy policy, carefully balancing multiple public interests,” the release states. “Instead, BOEM has failed to sincerely consider any mitigation measures beyond those voluntarily suggested by the investment banks and multinational energy giants to which it is leasing federal lands and waters.”
RODA is also calling on the federal government to consider climate change and the impact it will have on the fishing industry.