The US Department of the Interior is to delay final approval for Vineyard Wind, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the US, to conduct a supplemental study, a decision that concerns the industry
Responding to the announcement, Vineyard Wind said, “The federal government’s decision to further delay the approval of the final environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind 1 project comes as a surprise and disappointment.
“To be clear, the Vineyard Wind 1 project remains viable and is committed to move forward. While we appreciate that the discussion on cumulative impacts is driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project, we urge the federal government to complete the review of Vineyard Wind 1 as quickly as possible.
“The project is poised to kickstart a new offshore wind industry that promises industrial growth along with new manufacturing and blue-collar employment across the US, from New England to Louisiana to Colorado and beyond.
“Even though today’s decision will delay development of American offshore wind projects, Vineyard Wind remains deeply committed to the emerging industry’s success,” the company said.
“We firmly believe that once regulators are fully satisfied, our project and dozens of others will deliver billions of dollars of new investment in ports, enhanced energy independence, and above all, high-paying, long-term jobs for thousands of Americans.”
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said what it described as “the Department of the Interior’s regrettable decision to further delay the review of the Vineyard Wind project” undermines the Trump administration’s American energy dominance agenda and a major US economic growth opportunity.
AWEA chief executive Tom Kiernan said, “Offshore wind development is expected to result in a US$70Bn investment into the American energy supply chain.
“The clear value of offshore wind to generate large amounts of homegrown clean energy, grow tens of thousands of American jobs, and reinvigorate coastal infrastructure can’t be overlooked.
“The offshore wind energy industry will continue to work with other ocean users to find solutions that help all prosper and though today’s decision strikes at the heart of our industry’s momentum, we will overcome this regulatory barrier to US energy production.”
The AWEA said the Depart of Interior’s decision contrasts with broad bipartisan support for offshore wind from federal and state officials, including from Republicans such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, US Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), US Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA), and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“Vocal support from Republicans and Democrats, as well as what had been a predictable federal regulatory process, has driven record-breaking bids from proven energy developers for the right to develop US offshore wind projects,” said AWEA. “These bids represent US Treasury revenue totalling more than US$472M.
“New uncertainty about the Vineyard Wind project and future offshore wind development diminishes an opportunity for traditional offshore energy development businesses that already deliver a variety of economic benefits in the US.
“For example, offshore oil and gas contributes around US$30Bn to the US economy every year and supports 315,000 jobs. Unfortunately, according to a recent study by Louisiana State University, almost 21,500 jobs in this sector in Louisiana alone have been lost in recent years. There’s a real opportunity for these businesses to expand into offshore wind. The first and only operational US offshore windfarm ordered its steel foundations from Gulf Island Fabrication, a Louisiana-based firm specialising in offshore infrastructure including oil and gas platforms.
“Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for these American companies to source new business and create well-paying jobs,” said the AWEA, citing a recent study by the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind that found that building 18.6 GW of offshore wind by 2030 would create a nearly US$70Bn opportunity in the US supply chain.
Another study by the New York-based Workforce Development Institute, found that building an offshore windfarm requires a diverse technical workforce spanning an estimated 74 occupations including electricians, welders, ironworkers, pipefitters, pile drivers, engineers, scientists, and vessel operators.
The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) vice-president of government and political affairs, Tim Charters, said, “The decision to extend the environmental review of the Vineyard Wind project is disappointing to many who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to join the offshore wind industry boom coming to the Atlantic seaboard.
“We understand that the permitting of significant energy projects is challenging. To make any project carry the cumulative impact of other projects, that may or may not ever come to be, is a burden that makes permitting much more difficult.
“We encourage the federal agencies to view this project on its individual merits, benefits and environmental impacts when reaching permitting decisions. We expect that DOI will continue to work diligently to complete their environmental review of this crucial project. NOIA continues to believe that Vineyard is a win-win for the American people, the offshore energy industry and the environment.”