BOSTON – The offshore wind industry, the growth of which has been stunted by a longer-than-anticipated federal permitting process, is critical if Massachusetts and other Northeast states are to meet their carbon reduction goals, a bipartisan group of 40 state lawmakers wrote in a letter supporting the Vineyard Wind I project planned for waters 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
The lawmakers – including House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and Sen. Marc Pacheco – urged the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to approve the permit for the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind I project “so we can finally realize the many benefits of this industry,” citing the 3,600 jobs the wind project is expected to generate, the estimated $1.4 billion in cost savings for Massachusetts ratepayers, and the possibility of an 80,000-person offshore wind workforce along the East Coast by 2030.
“That kind of economic potential, if realized, would be a game changer for people in our region and across the country, the kind of investment that can rebuild communities and create new opportunities for families,” the bipartisan and bicameral group wrote in the letter. “But just as important as the economics is the effect the development of this industry will have on our environment and our efforts to reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change.”
Without the Vineyard Wind I project, which was selected to fulfill part of the state’s 2016 law to procure 1,600 MW of offshore wind power, the legislators said “the cataclysmic impact” of climate change will continue unabated.
Last August, BOEM rocked the entire offshore wind industry with its plan to withhold the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Vineyard Wind I while it studied the wider impacts of a sector that is hoping to ramp up in Northeast and mid-Atlantic waters also used by the fishing sector. Last month, the agency released its supplement to the draft EIS and opened a 45-day comment period.
A federal decision on a final permit for Vineyard Wind I is expected by Dec. 18, 2020. Before the feds launched the broad review of wind projects, a decision on permit approval had been expected by Aug. 16, 2019. Any additional delay could spook investors and imperil many of the expected benefits of offshore wind.
“We would also see a burgeoning industry once again stalled, that could shake the confidence of those seeking the regulatory predictability that leads to a stable, prosperous industry,” the group wrote to BOEM. “The offshore wind industry cannot get off the ground without a clear pathway forward.”
The letter was signed by a number of legislators including Reps. Haddad, Sarah Peake, Dylan Fernandes, Will Crocker, Tim Whelan, Randy Hunt, David Vieira, Mathew Muratore, Elizabeth Malia, Joan Meschino, David LeBoeuf, Jay Livingstone, Steven Ultrino, Hannah Kane, Kathleen LaNatra, Jack Lewis, Maria Robinson, Daniel Carey, Lindsay Sabadosa, Nika Elugardo, Carolyn Dykema, Mindy Domb, Brian Murray, Tommy Vitolo, Andres Vargas, Kay Khan, Natalie Higgins, Michael Day, Tram Nguyen, Michelle DuBois, Kevin Honan, Norman Orrall, and Natalie Blais. Sens. Pacheco, Julian Cyr, Susan Moran, Joanne Comerford, Michael Moore, Jason Lewis, and Bary Finegold also signed the letter.
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