The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has delayed for one month the release of its final assessment of Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind farm plan. But the bureau still intends to meet an August deadline to decide yea or nay on the proposal, an agency spokesman said.
The bureau was to issue the final environmental impact statement on June 7 before following with a final decision on the plan – called a record of decision – on Aug. 16, according to the agency’s timeline in March.
Now the bureau says that it will issue the final impact statement in early July. It still plans to meet the Aug. 16 decision date.
The one-month delay gives the bureau more time to review and analyze public comments on the draft version of the report, Vineyard Wind spokesman Scott Farmelant said.
“That date works for the project’s schedule,” he said of Aug. 16 timetable.
Both the federal bureau and Vineyard Wind have tight schedules for the proposed 84-turbine offshore wind project, to be built 15 miles south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The project could potentially be the first industrial-sized offshore wind farm in the country.
The federal agency is operating as the lead government group under a presidential executive order from 2017 that requires timely decisions on major infrastructure projects, where environmental reviews and authorization decisions are to be completed in two years.
Likewise, Vineyard Wind intends to start its project by the end of the year in order to take advantage of cost-saving federal investment tax credits that are on the verge of expiring.
Vineyard Wind won the bid in May 2018 to sell 800 megawatts of power to three Massachusetts electricity distributors by offering a competitive price. That price took into account both the federal investment tax credits and a long-term power purchase agreement, said Lars Pedersen, the company’s chief executive.
The impending final impact statement from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will evaluate potential environmental, social, economic, historic, and cultural effects of the proposed construction and operation plan. That final report would then be used by the agency’s top decision-makers on Aug. 16 to either approve the plan, approve it with modifications, or disapprove the plan altogether.
Under the executive order, a “one federal decision” mandate requires that other agencies involved, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, agree to the timetable and record their decisions in one record of decision except in certain situations.
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