Alarmed by the Biden administration’s sweeping endorsement of offshore wind projects, fishing advocacy groups are braced for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s final decision on Vineyard Wind that could emerge in days.
“With Vineyard Wind we’re waiting on the record of decision,” said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing groups that recommended vessel transit lanes and other modifications to the project.
“Technically, we don’t know. They could address some of these fisheries issues (in the decision). It doesn’t look promising,” said Hawkins.
Top Biden administration officials in an online conference Monday laid out their ambitious plan for $3 billion in support to kick the U.S. offshore wind energy into high gear, speed regulatory and environmental reviews and strive to build 30,000 megawatts of capacity by 2030.
Commercial fishing groups that at best have had a rocky relationship with BOEM and wind developers were shaken by the breadth of the administration’s goals. Hawkins said there was no sign of new commitment to head off potential conflicts between the industries.
“These fisheries questions have been around for a decade,” said Hawkins. “We don’t have an interagency process” for understanding and resolving them, she added: “We’re just blown away by the lack of coordination.”
The ringing endorsements of this week call into question how federal agencies will handle reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory measures, said Hawkins.
“Can you imagine if this assessment was for oil and gas (development)? How would that look?” she said. “This whole thing is so upside-down. It’s not like the way we regulate any other resource.”
Another collaborative group, the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance, has been working with federal agencies, scientists and developers to further the study of offshore wind energy environmental effects. ROSA recently published a framework and guidelines document to help design scientific monitoring for wind power.
The Department of Commerce said Monday that wind developer Ørsted has entered an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to share data about its federal wind power lease areas.
As the Biden administration seeks more momentum for wind power development, it will come under more pressure to step up studies. A $1 million program for Sea Grant to find impacts of development on fishing communities “won’t understand the impact in one Maine lobster village,” said Hawkins.