The planned offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard has hit yet another setback.
After receiving notice that federal officials won’t decide on a key permit until more than 16 months later than expected, Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen says the project — originally slated to be operational next year — isn’t expected to produce power until sometime beyond 2022.
“We have received updated information from the Department of Interior that indicates the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Vineyard Wind I project will be published later than what was previously anticipated,” Pederson said in a statement Tuesday.
“While we need to analyze what a longer permitting timeline will mean for beginning construction, commercial operation in 2022 is no longer expected,’ he said. “We look forward to the clarity that will come with a final EIS so that Vineyard Wind can deliver this project to Massachusetts and kick off the new US offshore energy industry.”
The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was originally scheduled to issue an environmental impact statement for the $2.8 billion project last August, but abruptly announced it would delay the decision in order to do “a more robust” analysis of the project. According to reports at the time, the delay was due to disagreements within President Donald Trump’s administration over whether the project did enough to mitigate its effects on the local fishing industry.
The BOEM published an updated permitting timeline Tuesday, which set a Dec. 18, 2020 deadline for Vineyard Wind’s environmental impact statement.
Vineyard Wind had hoped to begin construction last year on the 84-turbine project, which would be the first major offshore wind farm in the United States. Planned roughly 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, the project has been in the works since 2011 and is a crucial part of the state’s long-term clean energy goals.
The previous delay was met with criticism from elected officials in Massachusetts, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who criticized the Trump administration for slow-walking the project.
Last week, a majority of the Massachusetts congressional delegation questioned whether the Trump administration has been “employing a double standard for environmental analysis that favors the fossil fuel industry.” Rep. Bill Keating, who represents the Cape and Islands, blasted the decision Tuesday, attributing the new delay to political pressure from higher-ups in the Trump administration.
“It’s clear to me that these are political decisions and not guided by wanting to mitigate environmental impacts,” Keating told the Vineyard Gazette in an interview Tuesday. “This is infuriating because of the contradictions. It doesn’t even pass the red face test.”
However, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration took a less oppositional stance, attributing the pattern of delays to the expansion of the wind energy sector that has taken place since Vineyard Wind project was originally conceived.
“I think the federal government is just trying to make their environmental review consistent with the scale of offshore wind that is now developing off our coast and making sure it’s being done in a responsible way that addresses all users of the ocean resource,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katie Theoharides told reporters Tuesday, according to the State House News Service.