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A series of lawsuits is threatening America’s first major offshore wind project.
That could spell trouble for President Joe Biden’s goal to slash planet-warming pollution. The Vineyard Wind project — a 62-turbine facility planned for the waters off Martha’s Vineyard — would generate large amounts of the carbon-free electricity needed to power the Northeast, writes POLITICO’s E&E News reporter Benjamin Storrow.
Massachusetts utilities signed a contract to buy the project’s power once it’s up and running. But landowners and fishing groups are challenging the federal environmental permit issued to Vineyard Wind.
The lawsuits argue that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management did not adequately evaluate the potential impact the project might have on local fishermen and the critically endangered North American right whale, among other issues.
One of the cases involves a prominent conservative think tank called the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which has a history of attacking solar and wind energy projects and promoting fossil fuels. The group represents five fishing companies and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. A second lawsuit comes from a fishing trade group, and two others were filed by residents in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
A BOEM spokesperson did not respond to Ben’s request for comment, and an official with Vineyard Wind declined to comment.
The first proposed offshore wind project in the U.S., Cape Wind, eventually met its end in 2017. Years of beating back lawsuits created an interminable delay that ultimately killed the venture.
But the context is much different today, Timothy Fox, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, told Ben.
The companies behind Vineyard Wind — Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners — are experienced at building offshore wind developments in European waters. And the Biden administration, anticipating legal scrutiny, appears to have proceeded cautiously, Fox said.
Plus, the Trump administration had ordered a cumulative impact analysis of the project, which could also shield it from some of the recent complaints — though nothing is certain.
Vineyard Wind has begun laying transmission cable for the project, and turbine installation is scheduled to begin this summer.
It’s Wednesday — thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]
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That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.
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