Unsettling news for Vineyard Wind

Feds put off key environmental decision with no explanation

VINEYARD WIND, the company seeking to build a large wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, faced some uncertainty on Wednesday after federal regulators said they wouldn’t be taking action Friday on a key environmental approval as had been expected.

The company posted a statement on its website downplaying the significance of the action, but industry officials said the news was concerning. At the very least, an extended delay could throw off the company’s construction timetable. Vineyard Wind had planned to begin construction this year and complete work in 2021.

In its statement, Vineyard Wind said it had been informed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “that they are not prepared to issue” the final environmental impact statement for the massive 800 megawatt project. The environmental impact statement lays out how the project will affect the surrounding area and wildlife and provides mitigation solutions.

“We understand that, as the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the US, the Vineyard Wind project will undergo extraordinary review before receiving approvals,” the statement said. “As with any project of this scale and complexity, changes to the schedule are anticipated.”

The website of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had no information on the action and news broke so late Wednesday night that no one at the agency was available for comment.

Vineyard Wind has won a number of significant regulatory approvals, but it encountered a setback on Wednesday when the Edgartown Conservation Commission voted 5-1 to deny a permit for underwater power cables to pass within a mile of Chappaquiddick on their way to Barnstable.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported that fishermen had opposed the cables citing a detrimental impact on marine life. “Vineyard Wind and their consultants, Epsilon, appeared stunned after the vote. No one from the contingent would comment on the decision,” the newspaper reported.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Vineyard Wind in August 2018 was awarded contracts to provide 800 megawatts of power to Massachusetts electricity ratepayers at an average price of 8.9 cents a kilowatt hour over 20 years, or a levelized price of 6.5 cents.

Gov. Charlie Baker has hailed the price as evidence that the offshore wind industry has truly arrived and suggested the contract spurred frenzied offshore wind development along the East Coast.