Federal officials have agreed to reduce a large section of ocean off Massachusetts being considered for wind energy projects by more than half.
“We have heard significant concerns from the people of Massachusetts and we have acted on those concerns,” U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich said in a statement on the decision released Monday.
The decision cuts a 3,000-square-mile area south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket that was being considered for offshore wind energy projects to roughly 1,300 square miles.
The majority of the remaining area available to be leased begins southwest of the Vineyard and extends to a location south of Nantucket. The area begins about 14 miles off the coast of the Vineyard and 24 miles south of Nantucket.
The area removed from consideration was mostly located southwest of Nantucket in an area fishermen and state officials argued is heavily used by fishermen and marine mammals or already set aside to protect a yellow-tailed flounder fishery.
Bromwich’s agency, which is responsible for leasing areas in federal waters for offshore wind energy projects, received nearly 250 comments in response to a request for interest on the originally designated area.
Not only did commercial fishermen and the state’s congressional delegation argue for the removal of the area but Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr. sent Bromwich a letter on April 18 asking that the area be cut in half.
“I am pleased that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has agreed with our proposal to amend the potential offshore wind energy development area based on best available science and feedback from industry stakeholders,” Sullivan said in a statement released Monday.
“This solution will safeguard one of the commonwealth’s most important traditional economic sectors – commercial fishing – and protect other marine habitat and shipping interests while providing ample opportunity for Massachusetts to become the hub of America’s brand new, job-rich, offshore wind energy industry.”
Opponents of locating large wind farms close to shore have continued to question the appropriateness of locations that remain available to developers.
So far, 10 companies have expressed interest in leasing portions of the area south of the islands. While some of the areas those companies have proposed to lease will now be removed from consideration the western half of the area that remains in play can still host the 4,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy that state officials have estimated could be produced in federal waters off the Massachusetts coast, according to Sullivan.
The area may be changed further as a joint local, state and federal task force on offshore wind energy development reviews other comments submitted on the leasing area.
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