Lawsuits loom over Biden’s offshore wind goals

Lawsuits loom over Biden’s offshore wind goals

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Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot turbines.

A spinning turbine from Dominion Energy Inc.’s pilot offshore wind project off the coast of Virginia Beach. | Francis Chung/E&E News

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.

Changing landscape
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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Power Centers

A man is disappointed when he encounters a broken electric vehicle charger.Pin

A man is disappointed when he encounters a broken electric vehicle charger. | Kikujiarm/iStock

EV charger breakdown
The high-tech highway system that the U.S. is building to power its electric vehicles — and replace the ubiquitous gas station — is riddled with glitches that are proving difficult to stamp out, writes David Ferris.

Individually, the issues are hiccups, but collectively, their consequences could be profound.

Stay in your lane
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is reviving momentum to add a third lane to Route 17, the winding highway leading to the Catskill Mountains, in an effort to reduce congestion on the two-lane route many New Yorkers use to escape the heat of the city, writes Danielle Muoio Dunn.

But the project is meeting opposition from local and national environmental groups, who say the addition of a third lane in both directions will increase the number of gas-guzzling vehicles zipping through the forested region.

A scalpel approach
House Republicans are going after Democrats’ landmark climate change law, but they’re picking a handful of provisions to target instead of a broad assault, writes Timothy Cama.

Still, a senior Republican said the anti-Inflation Reduction Act campaign is only beginning.

In Other News

Oil ban: Hundreds of the UK’s leading scientists are urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to halt the licensing of new oil and gas development in the kingdom.

Tampering: A series of recent investigations found that corporate interests “watered down” the latest climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Brendan Owens serves as the assistant secretary of Defense for energy, installations and environment. | Touch Of Light/Wikipedia (Pentagon); U.S. Department of Defense (Owens)

The Pentagon’s top climate official wants to convert more than 500,000 of the Defense Department’s buildings into energy-efficient facilities, dramatically reducing energy use.

U.S. oil drilling stalled at the beginning of this year as companies slowed spending because of uncertainty around bank failures, a labor shortage and higher prices, among other reasons.

The developer of a novel “metal-hydrogen” battery says it will build a gigafactory in Kentucky to scale up production of what the company described as a new type of grid energy storage.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.

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