Elizabeth Warren chimes in on delay of Vineyard Wind project

The Massachusetts senator called a recent decision to hold up the project "extremely disappointing."

Wind Farm Turbines Rhode Island
Wind farm turbines near Block Island, Rhode Island. –Chang W. Lee / The New York Times

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says the recent move by federal regulators to delay Massachusetts’s first offshore wind project is “extremely disappointing.”

Late Friday, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was holding off on issuing a key environmental impact statement for Vineyard Wind, further delaying the $2.8 billion, 84-turbine wind farm planned 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and drawing blowback from local officials.

The project would be the first large-scale wind farm in the United States.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said they made the decision after receiving input “from stakeholders and cooperating agencies” requesting “a more robust” analysis of the project. The agency says the continued review could extend into early next year. The project’s developers had hoped to begin construction later this year and have the farm operational by 2021.

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In a statement Wednesday, Warren said the “last-minute decision” by the Trump administration would hurt Massachusetts jobs, as well as the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Vineyard Wind project — which is projected to create thousands of jobs and generate clean energy for over 400,000 families and businesses across the Commonwealth — would save money for Massachusetts ratepayers, reduce carbon emissions by over 1.6 [million] tons per year, and help the Commonwealth reach its clean energy targets by 2035,” the Massachusetts senator said. “Despite these benefits, the Trump Administration has chosen to hinder this important project and continue to put corporate polluters’ profits over Americans’ well-being.”

Vineyard Wind officials say the “project remains viable and is committed to move forward,” albeit on a revised timeline. The company said Monday that it hadn’t yet received word from the BOEM on what was required from the agency’s expanded review.

“However, it is clear that the timing of such an analysis is not compatible with the original timeline that has been communicated to Vineyard Wind since March 2018, which Vineyard Wind used to build its delivery schedule,” Vineyard Wind said in a statement. “With this development, the shareholders must revise the project as the original timeline is no longer feasible.”

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Plans for the 800-megawatt wind project had already been delayed as officials waited for the federal review, which had originally been expected last month. In a statement to media outlets last week, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office called the most recent delay “a step in the wrong direction” and urged the Trump administration to “move expeditiously” in the process.

According to a Reuters report last month, the holdup has been due to infighting within the Trump administration over whether the project does enough to protect fishermen. Several agencies are reportedly at odds over compensation levels for fishermen impacted by the project and the spacing of turbines, among other concerns.

Last year, Warren, fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, and Rhode Island’s two senators wrote a letter to the BOEM urging the agency to find consensus between developers and the fishing industry. In her statement, Warren called for the involved parties to come to a quick agreement.

“I urge the Administration to work towards a solution that will protect the environment, address the concerns raised by our local fishermen, and allow the Vineyard Wind project to move forward without delay,” she said.