Biden administration approval of Vineyard Wind project panned by fishing groups

Despite objections coming from U.S. fishing industry, the Biden administration on Tuesday, 11 May announced the approval of the country’s first large-scale offshore wind energy development project.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project will include no more than 84 turbines off the coast of Massachusetts.

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the Administration's goals to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation.”

While the project is estimated to create 3,600 jobs and provide power for up to 400,000 homes, Vineyard Wind’s economic benefit may be marginal due to the impact it will have on fishermen in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The turbines will be placed in an area that’s 12 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In the federal government’s record of decision document, published Tuesday, officials stated that Vineyard Wind would not be allowed to restrict access to the project area. However, turbine placement would likely lead fishermen to avoid the more than 75,000-acre area.

The turbines will be spaced at least 1 nautical mile apart from all cardinal directions.

Federal officials anticipate the economic impact to commercial fisheries to be USD 14 million (EUR 11.6 million) for a project estimated to generate between USD 14.7 million (EUR 12.2 million) and USD 17 million (EUR 14.1 million) in state and local taxes.

“Vineyard Wind has established compensation funds for Massachusetts and Rhode Island fishermen to mitigate for the potential loss in economic revenue associated with the potential loss of fishing grounds,” the record of decision stated. “When considering these factors, the project as proposed is anticipated to have negligible beneficial effect to local economics.”

A group of fishing industry businesses and trade associations that seeks to work with other entities that have offshore development interests roundly condemned the government’s decision.

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) said in a statement it was stunned that NOAA Fisheries could give its approval to such a project. NOAA Fisheries, NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management jointly signed the record of decision.

“For the past decade, fishermen have participated in offshore wind meetings whenever they were asked and produced reasonable requests only to be met with silence,” RODA Executive Director Anne Hawkins said. “From this silence now emerges unilateral action and a clear indication that those in authority care more about multinational businesses and energy politics than our environment, domestic food sources or U.S. citizens.”  

Photo courtesy of GE


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