VINEYARD WIND says its offshore wind farm could be in jeopardy if the federal government fails to approve its environmental impact statement over the next six weeks.
In a carefully worded statement issued early Thursday morning, the company appeared to be prodding federal officials at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to move quickly to approve the environmental impact statement. The statement represents a shift for the company, which had earlier acknowledged delays were expected in the review of the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm.
“Vineyard Wind has communicated to BOEM that, for a variety of reasons, it would be very challenging to move forward the Vineyard Wind 1 project in its current configuration if the final EIS is not issued within, approximately, the next four to six weeks,” the statement said.
Vineyard Wind has a very aggressive construction schedule designed to meet a number of project milestones that are key to its financing. The project is currently scheduled to start construction this year and be completed in 2021.
The Vineyard Wind statement indicated company officials had met with officials at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and communicated “directly” to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who has the final say on the project moving forward.
“Through all of our communications with government officials, it has been made clear to us that there was no intention to prevent the Vineyard Wind 1 project from moving forward,” the statement said.
Vineyard Wind said it had expected a ruling from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on July 12, but the day before disclosed that it had been informed that the agency needed more time to review the environment impact statement.
“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,” Vineyard Wind said last week. “As with any project of this scale and complexity, changes to the schedule are anticipated.”
A day later a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offered no explanation for the holdup but said more time was needed. The spokesman also noted that the agency was well within the two-year review window for such projects. The two-year review window is up in March 2020 – after construction was scheduled to begin. The agency’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Vineyard Wind project is a key element of the state’s long-term energy strategy. The state’s three utilities, under supervision of regulators, approved 20-year contracts with Vineyard Wind that paved the way for the financing of the project. Gov. Charlie Baker has hailed the low price the state secured for the offshore wind power and suggested that price helped kickstart an offshore wind industry up and down the East Coast.