Markey urges union labor for offshore wind

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 6, 2020

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is urging the two offshore wind companies developing projects off the Massachusetts coast to hire union workers.

“I encourage you to ensure that offshore wind jobs are union jobs,” the senator wrote in a Monday letter to Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind. The senator sent an identical letter to Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America.

“All offshore wind projects off the coast of Massachusetts should enter into Project Labor Agreements to make sure that local, highly skilled workers can have good paying and safe jobs in this important new industry,” the letters state.

Massachusetts may be the first state to witness commercial-scale offshore wind with Vineyard Wind’s $2.8 billion, 84-turbine proposal off Martha’s Vineyard.

The nascent U.S. offshore wind industry has 25,000 megawatts of proposed projects from Maine to Virginia but only one operating — the five-turbine pilot project Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island’s coast.

Of proposed full-scale projects, Vineyard’s Massachusetts wind farm is the closest to operation. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management tapped the brakes on the project in mid-2019 due to fishing concerns. The agency has promised a supplemental analysis of offshore wind’s fisheries impact in early 2020 that could allow the project to advance.

Vineyard — and other offshore wind projects — represents a boon of jobs and port investment. The company, a partnership of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, secured a Connecticut offshore wind contract in December that included a $890 million investment pledge in Bridgeport (Climatewire, Dec. 6, 2019).

States are vying for a central role in the support industries and ports that would serve offshore wind and employ skilled laborers both to construct proposed turbines and to keep them maintained.

“As the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind project, Vineyard Wind has the potential to strengthen the state’s role in developing and deploying the next generation of clean energy technology,” Markey wrote in his letters. “The introduction of offshore wind facilities off the coast of Massachusetts is poised to create tens of thousands of new jobs across the region.”

A spokesman for Ørsted said the company was “proud” of its union ties, noting that the Block Island Wind Farm — which Ørsted acquired last year when it bought Deepwater Wind LLC — hired unionized workers.

“Union labor will be central to the successful development of our planned offshore wind farms, just as it was with our Block Island Wind Farm,” said Cam Stoker, the spokesman. “We’ve reached preliminary labor agreements with unions in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, and we’ve forged training partnerships to ensure their members have all the skills they’ll need to build these projects.”