NEW BEDFORD – So many people turned out for Thursday’s hearing on Vineyard Wind – about 140 – that some had to stand where they could not see the presentation.
But no one came for the presentation on the proposed 800-megawatt wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard; they came to officially register their comments with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and to hear others’ remarks.
The hearing at the Waypoint Event Center was one of five around the region to collect public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a required step before the wind farm can win approval.
An emcee from BOEM invited each commenter to sit across from a panel of three BOEM employees at the front of the room. Commenters’ backs faced the audience. A court reporter recorded the entire session.
Vineyard Wind intends to build 84 turbines, but the federal document would allow up to 100, depending on the turbines’ capacity.
Here are some highlights from the public comments:
Hunter Major, commercial scalloper out of New Bedford:
“I’m 20 years old. So, throughout the whole presentation I didn’t see too much on the future, which is what I’m pretty much concerned with, because I plan to have a long life in the fishing industry because I love the ocean and I want to be able to see a good future for me and my friends that fish.”
David Wallace, spokesman for the surf clam and ocean quahog fishery:
“If these turbines are not spread out a lot more than one nautical mile, … it will be just way too dangerous, and I am pretty sure that our insurance companies are going to say, ‘We are not going to insure while you’re fishing in the array.’ And they have already said, ‘We are not going to take a position on the issue, but we will just wait and see.’ Let there be one major claim, and they’re going to say, … ‘Large mobile fishing vessels and those arrays are just a disaster waiting to happen, and we’re not going to insure those disasters,’ unless the premiums are so high we can’t afford them, in which case then we have to withdraw because of them.”
John “Buddy” Andrade, president of the Minority Action Committee:
“We’re very concerned that the federal government is not much communicating with the minority community and others. … I’m talking about environmental justice and civil rights, demographics and jobs, employment for our region. If you look at the upcoming 2020 Census, you’ll find just to the … southwest of here, that this is one of the most highly depressed communities in the New England region. And so we are adamant about having responses back to us about the processes of being able to participate in jobs and employment, career development, as well as business utilization of minorities and women.”
Andrade later said that when people say SouthCoast residents will get training and jobs, the term “SouthCoast” comes off as racist because he believes people from the less racially diverse towns surrounding New Bedford will get the jobs.
Amber Hewett of the National Wildlife Federation:
“The National Wildlife Federation has long advocated for the responsible development of offshore wind power. We feel that it is an essential solution to the leading threat to wildlife and habitat, which is climate change.”
“We understand that those jobs belong to us. And we understand that we need to be able to come to these meetings and look at some folks and say, ‘OK, this gentleman is from this particular company, they work on the project.’ No one has a name tag. No one has any involvement in these meetings. We don’t know who to speak to. And before you know it, it will be the end of 2019 and we won’t have met a person. We won’t have had an opportunity to solidify any opportunities with these individuals.”
Edward Barrett of Northeast Fishery Sector X:
“Are you going to recognize that in this rush for wind power, there are going to be losers? That there are U.S. citizens that are going to be steamrolled by this project? That there are fishermen that feed this country, that are going to be put out of business? That there are small businesses that are going to be displaced? That there are generations of culture that are going to end?”
“Vineyard Wind has played a game up to this point. They have delayed and delayed the creation of a mitigation plan and a legitimate monitoring plan, hoping that they can convince you that they will take care of it later, that you can trust them, that everything will work out fine. It shouldn’t work this way. … You need to force them to put together a legitimate mitigation plan and a legitimate monitoring plan.”
Michael Davey, United Brotherhood of Carpenters:
“We would like to see this be a union project. … We were the workforce for the Deepwater Wind Block Island farm. And all the constituents that we have here today from this community will stand in support of this project.”
Timothy Field, a Westport fisherman:
“The scallop industry has a big voice. They have money. They have the Fisheries Survival Fund. As a small owner-operator and operations, we don’t have those sort of things. And as stated previously by another speaker, we will get pushed out of the way, because in the big picture, you know, me and maybe 10, 20, 30 lobstermen, that’s nothing.”
“Let’s not pretend that this, here, is the solution to everything.”
Field said that when cars were first built, they were considered clean transportation compared to horses on city streets, and anyone who tried to predict automobiles’ environmental problems would have been laughed out of the room. “We just better be prepared for whatever impacts this project may have. We don’t know, and we won’t know until it happens.”
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