Government Continues To Go Its Own Way On Energy — Offshore Oil and Gas But Not Wind

Three wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island, Rhode Island, as seen in August 2016. Massachusetts is slated to start spinning at its own offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in a couple years. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Deepwater Wind, the first US offshore wind farm       Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP

According to Politico, the Trump administration is preparing to open the Florida coast to oil and gas drilling but will delay an announcement until after the November election because Republicans and Democrats in the state oppose drilling.  Meanwhile, the Interior Department did make public its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, and it appears they determined  (p ES-3) that installation of wind turbines would have negative impacts on commercial fishing, and it notes the environmental justice and national security impacts associated with some of the various proposed development plans. Interestingly these negative impacts on fishing are cumulative — the impact of wind development is combined with ongoing and future impacts as a result of climate change and reduced stock levels due to fishing mortality (i.e. overfishing and bycatch).

Why This Matters:  The Interior Environmental Impact Statement on Vineyard Wind criticizes the project over harm to an extractive industry (commercial fishing) due to the low fish population numbers resulting from climate change and overfishing by the industry.  What?  So we can’t solve the climate crisis because of the climate crisis and too much exploitation by commercial fishing?  Other nations, however, are transforming – the UK continues to power itself without any coal.

Offshore Drilling In His Dreams

The Interior Department declared from the outset it would deliver new offshore drilling areas to the oil and gas industry, but they were pushed back on this plan by Republican (and Democratic) Governors around the country who opposed it, including in Florida.  The Trump administration has been eyeing an area in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that Politico characterized as “the ‘golden trophy’ for the industry because it could be producing oil within 10 years using existing infrastructure from the Gulf’s western portion.”  Politico cited numerous anonymous sources, including one who said, “‘It’s a given that new acreage will become available when the politics of reelection are behind [Trump],’ said one person in the industry, who described the eastern Gulf of Mexico as ‘the prize acreage.’”

Vineyard Wind

The irony and baselessness of the argument that the Trump administration is building — that it cannot give a permit to a renewable energy project in the ocean because of the harm it would cause to an industry whose entire purpose is to extract as much biomass from the ocean as possible — makes a mockery of the cumulative impact analysis they performed.  The Interior Department will take comments on the SEIS for 45 days, and then it will make a decision on whether to greenlight it.  E&ENews reported that the delay caused by the decision to conduct a supplemental EIS “prompted some to question whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had intervened on behalf of the fishing industries.”

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