Nine members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation asked the General Accountability Office to investigate whether the Trump administration’s extended environmental review of the Vineyard Wind project reflects a bias against renewable energy – an allegation a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior dismissed as “unfounded and uninformed.”
In a letter to the General Accountability Office, the Massachusetts lawmakers questioned the quick turnaround time for environmental reviews of fossil fuel projects, while the proposed Vineyard Wind project is facing a sweeping, extended review that “threatens to stall or even derail this growing industry.”
“We are particularly concerned that there is a ‘double standard’ at play in which fossil fuel projects are expedited while renewable energy projects are delayed,” the lawmakers wrote.
Carol Danko, a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, issued a statement dismissing the allegations in the letter. “Members of Congress are free to request the GAO, an entity within the legislative branch who they supervise, to respond to whatever inquiry they want,” she said. “The allegations made by the Massachusetts Democrats are unfounded and uninformed. In reality, the Department of the Interior carries out the appropriate environmental review of impacts of all energy projects – renewable and non-renewable—based on the following: the law, the facts and often after extensive public input.”
The Vineyard Wind project was put on hold indefinitely in August 2019 when the federal government decided to supplement its environmental impact review with a study of the cumulative impact of the many wind farms being proposed along the eastern seaboard. The impact of wind farms on fishermen is a focus of that supplemental review.
Kathleen Theoharides, Gov. Charlie Baker’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said earlier this week that she had learned the timetable for completion of that review is December 2020. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has so far declined to confirm that timetable.
All of the members of the Massachusetts delegation signed the letter to the GAO except for Reps. Stephen Lynch and Ayanna Pressley. A press release detailing the contents of the letter and the letter itself was issued by the office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
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