An offshore wind farm in the North Sea. Photo courtesy of Harald Pettersen/Statoil/CC BY-2.0

Members of Congress have become involved in trying to move Vineyard Wind forward, a top Baker administration official said Tuesday, as lobbying intensifies to advance what state officials hope will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Undersecretary Patrick Woodcock told members of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center board Tuesday members of the state’s congressional delegation have joined the effort since the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management indicated it would not decide on a key project approval this month, as anticipated.

Project officials last week indicated the entire effort is at risk without a favorable federal response by the end of August. Federal officials say they are operating within a review window that extends to March 2020.

“We’re going to get that Vineyard Wind project over the finish line,” Bruce Carlisle, the center’s senior director of offshore wind, told the board, which authorized $3.5 million in new offshore wind-related spending.

In addition to meeting with Vineyard Wind officials last week, Rep. Bill Keating said Tuesday that members of the delegation are engaged with business community and “strategic partners” to “demonstrate strong consensus for this project.” Keating said he has met with BOEM officials as the project was moving through its review and was surprised about the recent delay, saying reasons for it are “not clear.”

Keating suggested the project’s financing was vulnerable if it encounters unanticipated delays, and said the snag before BOEM was concerning.

“This was something that wasn’t foreseen,” Keating said. “I don’t think anyone has a clear understanding of what prompted this change … This is really the vanguard of all industrial-size projects. This has importance well beyond our own project.”

“Vineyard Wind would create jobs, power homes and firmly place our region on the front lines of an emerging ‘blue economy,'” Rep. Joe Kennedy III, whose district stretches down to the South Coast, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are working closely with the Baker administration and Vineyard Wind to ensure this critical clean energy project moves forward.”

The 800 megawatt project has a lease at the center’s New Bedford Marine Terminal, where more than $113 million has been invested in upgrades. With the industry developing along the Atlantic seaboard, there’s still “robust opportunity” for more port development, beyond the New Bedford port, to support the sector, officials say.

Woodcock cautioned about the industry’s impacts on commercial fishing, saying regional efforts are needed to ensure responsible offshore development and noting the young sector’s rapid growth is drawing attention from other coastal and Great Lakes states.

Referencing the Vineyard Wind permitting delay at the federal level, Woodcock told committee chairman Rep. Thomas Golden, “I do think that the secretary of the interior is taking offshore wind very seriously and understands that reviewing Vineyard Wind is precedent-setting and as a result the precedent that may be established would have implications for all projects across the Northeast.”

MA Delegation Pushes Feds to OK Vineyard Wind

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min