RODA request pause in offshore wind development amid COVID-19 pandemic
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance – a lobbying group formed in January 2018 to represent the East Coast fishing industry in discussions over offshore wind energy development – has called for all a six-month pause in the regulatory process pertaining to offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The call for a delay came via a letter sent to governors of New England states, including Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Janet Mills of Maine, and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire. The letter was also sent to Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The letter sites the importance of public participation in regulatory decisions, which is hampered by measures many states are taking to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
“Due to COVID-19, many meetings and opportunities for this engagement have been postponed until further notice,” RODA Executive Director Annie Hawkins wrote in the letter.
RODA, and the commercial fishing industry in the Northeast U.S., have objected to the layout of wind projects in the region, with the industry offering compromises such as transit lanes to minimize the impact on the seafood industry.
In the letter, RODA points out that the industry is facing financial impacts from the pandemic, which has forced members to put time and effort into addressing the crisis, and not engagement in offshore wind development.
“A six-month pause would not only demonstrate good faith to the fishing industry, but also allow for additional research on offshore wind’s impact on marine ecosystems and better data sharing that will benefit offshore development moving forward,” RODA said in a press release.
The letter additionally calls for three more steps, including the formation of a fisheries-driven Gulf of Maine regional working group, that can participate in the process.
“Fishermen in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all fish in the Gulf of Maine, and are currently forced to follow every meeting and engagement opportunity in each state to fully understand how offshore wind would affect their livelihoods,” the release states. “A regional group, convened and led by the fishing industry, would more efficiently address industry concerns and allow for industry input, according to the letter.”
The other two requests are that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management not take and unsolicited bids, and that there is “greater transparency” in the procurement goals, and the context of offshore wind energy in the “overall energy strategy.”
In an indication of strong industry support for RODA’s requests, the letter was signed by over 50 individuals representing Northeast fishery sectors, fishing associations, vessel owners, and seafood businesses throughout Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire,” the letter states.
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