Trump admin punts offshore wind review to late 2020

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Trump administration won’t complete an environmental review of the first U.S. offshore wind farm until the end of the year, according to an updated outlook from the Interior Department released today.

It is the second extensive delay in under a year for the 84-turbine Vineyard Wind project proposed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The new timeline breaks the developer’s goal of having offshore wind power churning by 2022.

The nascent offshore wind industry expected Vineyard’s final environmental impact statement in July 2019, but Interior put the review on hold to conduct a broad study of the offshore wind industry’s impact on fishing (Greenwire, July 18, 2019).

Fishermen have been some of the most vocal critics of offshore wind, questioning how turbine layouts and power connections will affect their industry. The Interior Department said at the time that the rapid growth of the wind industry made a broad impact study appropriate before proceeding.

The agency also repeatedly noted that it aimed to complete the cumulative analysis by early 2020 (Climatewire, Oct. 23, 2019).

The new schedule punts likely completion of Vineyard Wind’s final environmental impact statement to Nov. 13, with a record of decision slated for December.

Vineyard CEO Lars Pedersen said today that though Vineyard was still reviewing what the new timeline means for construction, the 2022 operational goal is no longer possible.

“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 U.S. offshore energy industry,” he said.

Laura Morton, senior director for offshore policy and regulatory affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said the new timeline “provides important clarity” for the offshore wind sector.