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Trump move to delay Mass. wind farm concerns NY officials

Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand in the

Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I., on Aug. 15, 2016. Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

New York State is “watching closely” the federal government’s decision to stall a Massachusetts offshore wind project to review environmental and fishing impacts, a top state official said Wednesday, adding there’s no sign yet that the scrutiny will affect New York’s ambitious offshore wind plans.

“That concern does exist,” Alicia Barton, president and chief executive of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, told business leaders at a Long Island Association meeting in Melville Wednesday. She called the federal review a “significant setback” in the permitting schedule for that project, called Vineyard Wind.

Vineyard Wind in August said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the federal Bureau of Energy Management’s decision to scrutinize the “cumulative impacts [of offshore wind] driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project.”

For now, Barton said she had “no reason to believe” New York projects, which are slated to be in service in 2024, would be affected by the federal review. Nor does it appear to delay her expectation that additional leasing areas off New York will be offered by the federal government soon.

The website National Fisherman in August quoted a BOEM spokeswoman as saying the scrutiny will extend to environmental impacts of other federal projects, including Empire Wind, under contract with New York, and Sunrise Wind, which is slated to connect on Long Island.

But Barton in an interview said she’d spoken to “senior BOEM officials, who have told us that there is no impact to the New York timelines. And I want to work with them to ensure that that continues to be the case.”

Noting that New York has previously sued the federal government in the past when it disagreed with other federal policy changes, Barton said that if the Trump administration’s policy on offshore wind were to impact New York’s plan, “we would certainly consider all the options available.”  

BOEM spokesman Stephen Boutwell, asked if the New York projects would be affected by the review, said in a statement: “At this time we are still developing the cumulative-impact scenario including what will be analyzed by the supplemental environmental impact statement” in the additional review. “This comprehensive analysis is intended to help better address potential conflicts with other ocean uses, such as commercial fishing and navigation."

The “cumulative analysis,” he said “will serve as a model for future projects.”

New York this summer announced the most aggressive offshore wind plan of any state, committing to some 1,700 megawatts of the energy by 2024, enough to power more than 1 million homes. Barton said the offshore region from Massachusetts to Maryland could see some 20,000 megawatts of offshore wind with a $70 billion investment potential.

That prospect has raised widespread concern among fishermen who fear loss of fishing grounds and environmental impacts on the sea bottom.

NYSERDA and its two European contractors, Equinor and Orsted, have been on Long Island all this week for “informational meetings” with local communities to brief them on coming offshore wind plans. The state is not taking public input at this round of meetings.

Barton told LIA attendees that New York plans to be the “hub” of offshore wind development for the country, with up to $200 million in state funds to develop new port facilities and the nation’s research center located at Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Center. Job training, manufacturing and project management all could potentially benefit from $3.2 billion in investment from the two projects, she said.

NYSERDA will host a supply chain forum for offshore wind energy at Farmingdale State College on Nov. 15, she said, to present ways “Long Island businesses can participate in this opportunity.”

Gregory Penza, president and chief executive of ULC Robotics in Hauppauge, said the company plans to make its industrial drones available for the industry to conduct wildlife monitoring and wind-farm turbine inspections remotely.

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