For the first time ever in the US, a commercial-scale offshore wind farm is in the permitting process. The project is being developed by Vineyard Wind between the shores of Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. The RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is in charge of issuing a consistency certification with the ocean management plan called the Ocean SAMP . Although the project is consistent with the plan, the Fisherman Advisory Board (FAB) that advises the CRMC is opposed to the layout of the turbines.
Offshore wind is an invaluable resource with the capacity to provide significantly more power than wind turbines on land. Not only is this the first and precedent setting commercial-scale project in the country, but the energy it will provide is priced competitively. Without the consistency certification, the project will be delayed significantly and the cost will most definitely go up due to expiration of federal funds.
If we are going to address the climate crisis, we need commercial scale renewable energy. But we need it done right. We need it done democratically.
Offshore wind must work with the fishing industry, and Climate Action RI believes that Vineyard Wind has made every effort to do so in their extensive communication with the industry and offering alternative plans and a robust compensation package. The rectification they offer is forward-looking, providing resources to help the industry adapt to a changing climate. Furthermore, the company has worked with National Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and Conservative Law Foundation to reach a historic agreement to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale under a variety of measures that will keep whales safe while installing and operating turbines.
More details about this project and negotiation with the FAB are laid out in my letter to the CRMC included below. Please submit your own public comment via email by January 31st, 2019 urging them to support Vineyard Wind’s project. Click here for directions.
January 21, 2019
Coastal Resources Management Council
Stedman Government Center
4808 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879
Attn: Executive Director Fugate and Chair Cervenka
Subject: Vineyard Wind LLC Consistency with OceanSAMP
Dear Mr. Fugate and Ms. Cervenka,
Last year was the fourth warmest year on record. Twenty of the warmest years on record were in the last 22 years. The wildfires in California almost doubled in severity and will continue to grow every year, becoming a trend even in the southeast. Over a 1.5 million acres burned in 2018. Almost 20 million people were displaced due to climate change in 2017 and experts predict we will see up to 200 million displaced in the next 30 years. In that same time frame, sea level rise will cause up to 311,000 homes to be flooded biweekly. NOAA predicts RI will see 8 ft of sea level rise by 2100 based on emission levels that have increased since the 2017 study. Our predictions consistently fall short of capturing the true severity of the climate crisis. Impacts are always compounding and the interdependence of plant and animal species result in a domino effect that is based on a system so large and complex that it is nearly impossible to predict. Distinguished professor of atmospheric science and the director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University says it’s like a minefield that we’re stepping out onto as we continue to warm the planet.
To limit the impacts of catastrophic climate change, we must not exceed 1.5C of warming which requires 45% carbon pollution reduction by 2030, a feat likely unachievable without offshore wind. We’ve known the value of offshore wind development, which is why in 2008 the serious undertaking of the RI Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) was initiated so that the ocean waters off RI coasts could be used, according to the Plan’s Practitioner’s Guide, “collaboratively and openly as possible.” The consistency of Vineyard Wind’s 800-MW offshore wind project and CRMC’s jurisdiction over it’s issuance is the topic of this letter, which I hope you consider thoroughly and with a view that captures the pivotal nature of what would be the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind project.
The region obtained by Vineyard Wind for it’s offshore wind project was established as suitable for development by the Federal Government by a process that included extensive stakeholder engagement that resulted in extreme reductions to the parcels deemed available for lease. The reductions were so prime fishing ground would be avoided and as such, if fishing were to stop altogether in that area, (which is not necessary or likely), would only represent 2% of the total RI fishing landings value. Still, Vineyard Wind began engagement with the Fisherman Advisory Board (FAB) in 2017, before they even started the permitting process for the project. The foundation of this project is one of due consideration, compromise, and collaboration on the part of the company that is seeking to develop federal waters off the shore of RI in consistency with Ocean SAMP goals to mitigate greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.
Since Vineyard Wind has been meeting with the FAB in 2017 it has had hundreds of meetings with fisherpeople but has only heard about the east-west alignment request in 2018 after extensive geological research had already been done to design each turbine in a way that would be optimal for anchoring to the ocean floor in each specific location. The east-west alignment is not mentioned in the Ocean SAMP, which also included thorough, comprehensive, and meaningful involvement of stakeholders. Still, Vineyard Wind responded to the FAB’s request and has found a way to decrease the number of turbines that cannot be aligned in an east-west direction by securing the largest turbine commercial available in the world today. Under all options for turbine placement options proposed by Vineyard Wind , only about 6% of the entire combined Wind Energy Areas (WEA) would not have east-west rows. Further, Vineyard Wind has committed to orienting all future turbine installations in east-west rows and include a 1 nautical mile separation distance between each row, as requested by the FAB.
In addition to reconfiguration of the turbine arrangement, Vineyard Wind offered a robust compensation package that demonstrates sincere commitment to the fishing industry in our state. While the recent article in the Providence Journal paints a picture that the compensation package came late, I would like to highlight that fisherpeople were not engaging in discussions of mitigation while the package was being developed. Likewise, Governor Raimondo’s staff discouraged Vineyard Wind from meeting with the FAB while the company met with RI DEM to gather information about fisheries value. I think it is understood that such a package is considered a delicate legal process that requires both parties to audit independently the revenue that is at stake.
Vineyard Wind has proposed a $30 million comprehensive funding package for the RI Fishing Industry that is based on a study conducted by Dennis M. King, Ph.D., a leading expert in this field with a 20 page Curriculum Vitae of relevant experience. The study includes data and reports from RI DEM. The compensation package consists of $6.2 million to compensate fishermen for direct impacts which, if not used, can be applied to fishing industry programs. The remaining $23.8 million is for a fund to support fisheries driven programs to further develop ways for the commercial fishing and offshore wind to coexist.
The old proverb goes, “give a man a fish and he will eat for a night, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Well, these people know how to fish! But with the acidification of the ocean, sea-level rise, change in migration patterns of fish, overpopulation that increases food demand and results in overfishing, extreme-weather, and other intricacies I fail to mention, the integration of offshore wind power to the grid is an essential component for remediating other grave impacts of climate change. What Vineyard Wind offers is a project that moves us forward in achieving our emission reduction goals, goals that we are not on track to achieve and that are no longer pipedreams but necessary for sustained survival on this planet, while providing resources to the fishing industry so they can adapt and flourish as the energy sector of our economy necessarily transforms to include large-scale renewable energy.
In the Ocean SAMP Practitioner’s Guide, on page 48, it says “through the Ocean SAMP, the CRMC commits itself to evaluating the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of proposed Ocean SAMP area uses under projected conditions in a climate changed world.” On the same page, the need to be flexible in the face of climate change is noted as impacts are “occurring at rates faster than originally predicted and that management must adapt in response.”
Whether or not this precedent-setting project is deemed consistent by your board will have a significant impact on whether or not we, as a state and as a nation, will be able to limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Given the extraordinary commitment Vineyard Wind has demonstrated to the fishing industry, the precedent should be set that these commendable mitigation measures which have been taken in this process be the standard for offshore wind development moving forward.
RI was the first to have offshore wind. Don’t let us be the state that prevents the first large-scale offshore wind project. Not after we have seen sealife flourish at the base of our turbines. Not when we have 12 years to limit the impacts of climate change that are already catastrophic and put in grave danger the Ocean State. Not when extraordinary measures have been taken to accommodate the fishing industry that requires a transformation of our energy economy if sea-life is to survive the rising temperatures of the ocean which has already risen 2.2F since the 1970’s. Not when the project is consistent with the Ocean SAMP.
I urge you to act in accordance with your role in this process and issue the Consistency Certification to Vineyard Wind. Your support will go down in history as a launchpad for large-scale wind energy to be brought to the grid at a competitive price and put us in the right direction for securing a livable future for current generations and generations to come.