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Greentech Media reported late last week that the approval timeline is unclear for Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt wind project off the coast of Massachusetts valued at $2.8 billion that would be the largest thus far in the U.S. — the government is reconsidering its “cumulative impact analysis” on the environment and the delays are causing ripple effects in the broader U.S. offshore wind market. Emails between the National Marine Fisheries Service of NOAA and fishermen who argue they will be adversely impacted by Vineyard Wind are now public, reveal close ties and some coordination between the Agency and the fishing industry to throw cold water on the wind development, according to E&E News.
Why This Matters: The industry will need certainty on the approval timeline to be able to fulfill its economic potential. The Vineyard Wind lease sale yielded over $400 million to the federal government — larger than most oil and gas leases. And there is some truth to the argument made by the government that it is important to get this first big offshore development right. The fishing industry deserves to be heard and treated fairly in the process. Their claims of the economic losses they will possibly sustain if the wind farm goes forward must be as well-substantiated. The needs and sacrifices of fishers must be balanced against the greater good of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Wind Outlook Going Forward
The wind industry remains optimistic about the prospects for new developments off the East coast, but the delay in the Vineyard project could cause the next projects to also be delayed and could mean the loss of the Vineyard project’s wind tax credit.
The economic impacts of those developments, according to the industry, will be bigger than the number suggests, given the associated investments in ports, harbor infrastructure and factories.
Fishers Interests Represented By NOAA
According to E&E News, NOAA informed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that is responsible for all offshore energy leasing (oil and gas and wind) OEM the agency could not support the bureau’s draft environmental impact statement on Vineyard Wind.
“NOAA argued more study was needed on the project’s potential impact, saying BOEM’s review did not provide enough evidence to support the conclusion that the wind project would have a minimal impact on fisheries.”
Emails obtained by E&E News under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the extent to which some in the fishing industry oppose wind development and their reliance on NOAA to help fight wind development.
E&E News reported that the “emails do not show that fishing interests influenced NOAA’s position on Vineyard Wind. But they do show that fishermen and NOAA officials were in regular contact regarding Vineyard Wind — and that federal regulators often shared fishermen’s concerns.”
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