Articles from Massachusetts
A U.S. fishing group on Monday sued the Biden administration over its approval of the huge Vineyard Wind offshore wind project off the East Coast, saying the government had failed to address industry concerns about its potential safety and environmental impacts.
A proposal under review by the City Council and the Planning Board seeks to amend zoning to allow for wind turbines along the old Interstate 95 access road, but many residents have come out strongly against the idea. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilor at-Large Barry Connell, was introduced to the council on June 28 and referred to the Committee on Planning & Development for further discussion. “I think that we have a responsibility to look for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the city of Newburyport to the extent that is possible,” Connell said in a phone interview Thursday.
[S]ome fear that this project and others in the planning stage could also irreparably harm Massachusetts fishing and lobstering industries in the vicinity of these turbine sites. But that didn’t stop the Biden administration, as part of its aggressive offshore wind and renewable-energy agenda, from issuing final permits for Vineyard Wind in May. It’s evident that not all green-conscious activists believe wind power’s the optimum clean-energy solution.
Concerns about the fate of the right whale, whose population is dwindling, are not new. The downturn in the whale population is already happening without any wind farms being built, primarily because the whales are being hit by boats or becoming ensnared in fishing nets. Still, officials from 17 prominent environmental groups wrote a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service in September 2020 raising concerns that regulators were failing to protect environmentally endangered mammals, including right whales, in their review of offshore wind projects. It’s unclear whether any changes were made in response to the letter; efforts to reach two of the signers were unsuccessful. Erica Fuller of the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston did not return calls over a two-day period.
The group, Nantucket Residents Against Turbines, says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries failed to ensure that Vineyard Wind would not jeopardize the survival of federally listed critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale. The suit also names Interior Secretary Debra Haaland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. "The North Atlantic right whale is on the verge of extinction. However, one of its longtime safe havens – where there is ample food and protective areas for birthing and rearing young – is the area immediately south-southwest of Nantucket Island," the lawsuit reads.
Little is known about the impact offshore wind could have on wildlife. Scientists across the country agree we need to be monitoring its potential impacts, though it’s not consistently studied across the country. “I believe strongly in responsible development of offshore wind. I think it is a key to fighting climate change,” said Jessica Redfern, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium. “What’s critically important is that it is responsibly developed and to have responsible development, we need to continue monitoring and understanding species numbers, understanding a species that are in the area, how long they’re there.”
Bob Vanasse, who heads the fishing advocacy group Saving Seafood, said Vineyard Wind and other projects proposed in the region could impact a range of significant fisheries, including squid, clams and scallops. “There are a number of groups in various fisheries who have raised concerns about the insufficiency of the planning and review effort,” he said Wednesday. “This group is far from alone in that.” Vineyard Wind also comes years after the infamous Cape Wind project, which failed after bitter litigation from another group that included Nantucket property owners.
“The construction of these turbines is set to take place in a nexus of activity of the North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered baleen whale with a population of fewer than 400 specimens remaining in the world,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. The group also launched a website, ackrats.com, where it said, “We are concerned with the adverse impacts from the increased construction vessel traffic, pile driving, and operational noise on the critically endangered,” whales.
The Adams Township Board voted unanimously to impose a six-month moratorium on approving applications for commercial wind and solar projects Wednesday. Supervisor Gerald Heikkinen said the board would take the time to find more information about renewable power. “I know everybody in this room is probably against it, but there are still people that are for it, so we have to take the middle of the road,” he said. ”
The turbine issue was before the board on March 22, when Whyte gave the neighbors 15 minutes to talk about it and said he was worried that town officials would be angry at him for shutting down a turbine that brings in a profit to the town. In his motion to not investigate the turbines for their impact on public health, Whyte said he was considering the direct cost to taxpayers if the turbine was shut down.
Proposed legislation that would compensate Massachusetts residents who have been adversely affected by wind turbines reached the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy last week during a virtual public hearing. ...Giving testimony at the hearing were Louise Grabowski, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts, and Lilli-Anne Green, Wellfleet’s delegate in the county assembly of delegates and secretary of the Wellfleet Energy and Climate Committee. Both gave three-minute-long testimonies in support of the bill. “I’ll speak to the health impacts standpoint, since that’s my field of expertise,” said Ms. Green. ...The symptoms that Ms. Green referenced are usually some combination of difficulty sleeping, fatigue, depression, irritability, aggressiveness, cognitive dysfunction, chest pain/pressure, headaches, joint pain, skin irritations, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus and stress.
Between December and May, almost a quarter of the right whale population may be present in the region, and the individual residence time for whales has increased to 13 days during the period, the study states. Visual and acoustic monitoring, from flight surveys and photography, showed consistent use of the wind energy area by a third of the species, including 30 per cent of breeding females. The study was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency responsible for permitting offshore wind development, as well as the state Clean Energy Center.
Conducted by scientists with NOAA Fisheries, the New England Aquarium and the Center for Coastal Studies using aerial survey data from 2011 through 2019, the study found that 327 unique right whales have been spotted in the waters of southern New England, making the area a crucial habitat for a species teetering on the edge of extinction. Scientists estimate the North Atlantic right whale population at less than 400 total specimens, including approximately 100 breeding females.
Allco, which is represented by its senior general counsel Thomas Melone, further claims that the DOI has failed OCSLA's balancing test because commercial fishing boats will effectively have to abandon the wind farm's area due to difficulties navigating there. The current plan is for 62 wind turbines. Vineyard Wind's approval was quickly condemned by the fishing industry, which raised concerns about the project's impact on fish stocks and vessel traffic.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Thomas Melone argued that federal regulators failed to consider Vineyard Wind’s impact on other ocean users, endangered species and onshore renewable developers. He asked the court to vacate the environmental permit for the 62-turbine project. The lawsuit offers an early test for the next generation of America’s offshore wind farms.
Beyond the benefits of clean energy and conservation, developers say the project also will create 3,658 full-time jobs in Massachusetts between 2019 and 2047. Sanfilippo is suspicious of the job claims. "Nowhere have they said how many people, how many fishermen, they're going to displace," she said. "It's like we don't exist and the fishing grounds don't exist."
The shadow flicker and noise concerns of the past won’t be revisited upon Kingston residents. The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted 5-0 Tuesday night against supporting Green Development LLC of Rhode Island’s proposal to replace Kingston’s controversial Independence wind turbine with a new one.
"This is really not an easy path forward,” said Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, a green energy tech incubator in Somerville, Mass. “You have to prioritize safety and reliability and keep the lights on and the heat on for everyone and transition to the future.” The region can’t suddenly switch to cleaner sources of energy without ensuring that everyone’s energy needs can be met, said Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association.
An offshore wind project off Massachusetts that would create enough electricity to power 400,000 homes and is touted by backers as a key piece of America’s transition to renewable energy was approved Tuesday by the federal government.
Washington, D.C. — Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a broad membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations and fishing companies, condemns in the strongest possible terms the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) issuance of a Record of Decision for the previously terminated Vineyard Wind 1 Offshore Wind Energy Project. BOEM continues to abdicate its responsibility to the public and leave all decision-making to large, multinational corporations, including this Decision which includes effectively no mitigation measures to offset impacts to critical ocean ecosystems and commercial fisheries.