Biden administration moves forward on Vineyard Wind

Issues final environment impact statement for project

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION on Monday released its final environmental impact statement on the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project and indicated the analysis could gain final approval soon, paving the way for the project to begin construction.

The four-volume statement said the final environment impact report “is not a decision document.” It said the statement will be published in the Federal Register shortly, allowing 30 days for review before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management decides whether to approve Vineyard Wind’s construction and operations plan, modify it, or reject it. The statement also said the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Army Corps of Engineers will make decisions about the project using the analysis of impacts outlined in the final environmental impact statement.

A press release issued by the US Department of the Interior suggested the project will likely be moving forward, with Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Daniel Davis quoted as saying “the United States is poised to become a global clean energy leader.”

Offshore wind advocates across the board hailed the announcement. Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, issued a statement applauding the Biden administration for moving ahead with the final steps to approve the Vineyard Wind project.

“By any measure, this is a breakthrough for offshore wind energy in the United States. Not even two months into a new Administration, years of delay have finally culminated in a thorough analysis that should soon put this infrastructure investment on its way to generating clean power for the region and creating good jobs at home,” she said.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified a preferred alternative, calling for an 800 megawatt offshore wind farm with 84 turbines and a cable carrying power ashore at Covell’s Beach in Centerville on Cape Cod. An onshore electric substation will be located there. The turbines would be arranged in a north-south and east-west orientation with a minimum spacing of 1 nautical mile between them.

Vineyard Wind acquired a lease area 14 miles southeast of Martha’s Vineyard in 2005 and won a contract from Massachusetts utilities for its power in 2017. The company subsequently filed a construction and operations plan, or COP, with the federal government in December 2017. A year later the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a draft environmental impact statement on the project, which was pulled back after the agency decided it couldn’t review the project in isolation from a host of other wind farm projects being proposed up and down the coast.

A supplemental environmental impact statement was issued in June 2020, but it was never finalized and Vineyard Wind ultimately withdrew its application on December 1 to explore use of a bigger wind turbine generator. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management terminated work on the environmental impact statement on December 16, a decision that was reversed by the Biden administration on February 3 after receiving word from Vineyard Wind that its proposal didn’t need tweaking. Just over a month later the Biden administration issued the final environmental impact statement.