We’re from the government and we’re here to _______ you!
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Nils E. Stolpe/FishNet USA
© 2021 Nils E. Stolpe
May 26, 2021
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On May 11, 2021 the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) issued a press release condemning the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management-in company with the Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Marine Fisheries Service for issuing a Record of Decision (see https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents/renewable-energy/state-activities/Final-Record-of-Decision-Vineyard-Wind-1.pdf)-for the Vineyard Wind 1 Offshore Wind Energy Project Construction and Operations Plan (COP).
Quoting from the RODA release
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.
It has only included one such measure: a voluntary and non-enforceable suggestion for developers to cooperate with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to mitigate what the Final Environmental Impact Statement characterizes as “major” impacts to scientific research.
The proposed project (from Page 10 of the Record of Decision), which is planned to be sited about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, is described thusly:
The proposed Project will consist of up to 100 WTGs in any of the 106 identified locations, each of which would have an 8 to 14 MW generation capacity, and up to two electrical service platforms (ESPs). The WTGs would be placed in a grid-like array (with WTGs in rows oriented northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast) within the WDA, with typical spacing between WTGs of 0.75 to 1 nm. The proposed Project would occur within the range of design parameters outlined in the Vineyard Wind COP (Epsilon 2020), subject to applicable mitigation measures.
Again, from the RODA release:
To the best of our knowledge, BOEM did not even consider any mitigation measures recommended by RODA or any fisheries professionals, scientists, or natural resource managers, despite having clearly defined requests available to them.
In one pen stroke, BOEM has confirmed its scattershot, partisan, and opaque approach that undermines every lesson we’ve learned throughout environmental history: the precautionary principle, the importance of safety and environmental regulation, the scientific method and use of the best available data, and adaptive management policies.
It is shocking that NMFS could sign off on a decision so inexplicably adverse to its core mission and the research, resources, businesses, and citizens under its jurisdiction.
To anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with federal fisheries management, which is supposedly controlled by the provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) and, which is par for this course at least, subsequent interpretations by the federal court system, this Record of Decision can hardly be a surprise.
It is just another example of the commercial fishing industry being “thrown under the bus” for the benefit of more politically powerful interests-in this case the wind energy industry and the political support that has been generated by it.
Once again, woe is us!
But then again, perhaps not. Gina McCarthy, described as the Biden Administration’s “Climate Czar” (actually the first-ever climate advisor) “said the administration already took those complaints.” These are the comments RODA and various other folks and organizations made on the COP which were never addressed.
According to interviewer Ted Nesi, reporting for WPRI (Rhode Island and Southeast Massachusetts) “McCarthy said offshore wind is emerging as an even more important linchpin of the Biden administration’s clean energy strategy than had originally been expected. There are about 16 projects currently in the pipeline, and the administration says it hopes to have some operational by 2025, with a goal to have 30 gigawatts total by 2030. It’s way bigger than anyone anticipated,” she said, “because we’re seeing the resources off the coast not just in the East Coast, but now it’s opening up in the West Coast, we’re looking at the Gulf of Mexico, we’re even looking at the gulf coast up in Maine all the way down to Florida.”
While Mr. Nesi seemed to think that the fishing industry’-and others’-concerns have been and will be addressed, having spent more years than I would have liked as a bureaucrat, then even more years dealing with bureaucrats, Ms. McCarthy seemed to be offering the fishing industry the kind of reassurances that bureaucrats fall back on when they haven’t spent a whole lot of time considering particular problems, or on considering them seriously. Sort of a pat on the head while saying “there, there, there! Leave it to us and we’ll take care of you” kind of thing.
She’s baa-aack! (with credit to Heather O’Rourke in Poltergist 2)
And then again, we can’t forget Jane Lubchenco (could anybody who suffered through the Deepwater Horizon tragedy forget Ms. Lubchenco?) whose role in the Biden administration is only just starting. According to the Washington Post (White House appoints former NOAA leader Jane Lubchenco to key climate change role, 03/19/21) she has been appointed to “a high-level (White House) position coordinating climate and environmental issues within its Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)…. Lubchenco is serving in the renamed position of deputy director for climate and the environment, which in previous administrations had been known as the head of ‘energy and the environment.’ The renaming signifies the emphasis the Biden Administration is placing on climate change. Lubchenco’s portfolio encompasses a broad set of issues that President Biden asked OSTP officials to address in a letter on Jan. 15. In the letter to Eric Lander, nominated to serve as presidential science adviser, Biden tasked OSTP with finding climate change solutions that will help improve the economy and health, “especially in communities that have been left behind.”
If you are reading this you probably have a fairly accurate idea of Ms. Lubchenco’s success in fixing the New England groundfish fishery specifically and in domestic commercial fishing in general in her previous government gig. From an article by Environmental Defense’s Julie Wormser on May 12, 2009 (A Turning Point for New England Groundfish Fishery: Jane Lubchenco sends a clear message, https://tinyurl.com/fy9c7h3n).
The meeting started at 8:30 am, with the room unusually full for that early hour. The previous days had been crackling with speculation around the region about the reason for her visit. After brief introductions, Dr. Lubchenco thanked everyone for allowing her the time to speak to them. She described the main components of the new fishing rules and then said that she came to the council meeting with two clear messages.
First, that NOAA would commit $16 million this year toward a new future for New England’s fisheries (in this case, groundfish, but also more broadly). Second, she put the room on notice—Council members, agency staff, industry and other stakeholders—that we all needed to step up and move away from crisis management toward a lasting solution—catch shares.
“We need a rapid transition to sectors and catch shares,” she explained. “Catch shares are a powerful tool to getting to sustainable fisheries and profitability. I challenge you to deliver on this in Amendment 16, to include measures to end overfishing. I will commit the resources to my staff to do their part to ensure Amendment 16 is passed in June.
To the surprise, consternation and chagrin of the folks at NOAA/NMFS, at Environmental Defense (Ms. Wormser’s article somehow failed to mention that Ms. Lubchenco had been a member and Chairperson of the Environmental Defense board, and those few who bought into Ms. Lubchenco’s assurances, though to not many other folks-at least those with a knowledge of and a concern for our domestic commercial fishing and one of our oldest and most important commercial fisheries-many segments of the New England groundfish fishery are in worse shape than they’ve ever been. And that has little or naught to do with who’s catching what, which is what Ms. Lubchenco’s groundfish fishery recovery was fatuously based on. And everything to do with the Gulf of Maine and adjacent waters heating up much more precipitously than the rest of the world’s oceans.
And on what is described as one of the biggest man-made environmental catastrophes that was ever visited on the world, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred during Ms. Lubchencos reign at NOAA, from one of her regular updates on the progress of the spill (from my FishNet issue on June 10, (NOAA Inaction in the Gulf of Mexico, http://www.fishnet-usa.com/NOAA_Inaction.htm, 06/12/10):
C-Span’s video library archives televised updates on the Gulf oil spill. In her response to a question about the availability of video from BP in the update on June 8, Ms. Lubchenco said “there were problems early on. We have directed BP to give everything they have and that has been forthcoming” (starting at 16 minutes into the video, which is available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/293950-1).
In a letter on the same day to Lamar McKay, President and CEO of BP America, Senator Ed Markey wrote “it has come to my attention that the Flow Rate Technical Group (the panel of scientists and engineers tasked with determining the rate of oil release from the Deepwater Horizon) has not yet received archived video data for this period (after the riser was severed and before the cap was in-stalled). Since I have previously requested that you archive all video, I expect that you have stored a copy of all the chronological vid-eo feeds. Any efforts on your part to prevent experts from determining the size of the spill is unacceptable. I request that you immedi-ately release the archived video to the Flow Rate Technical Group and to me so that the size of this spill can be determined.” Senator Markey is the Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
One has to assume that the Chairman of the Senate subcommittee that is and has been most directly involved in the BP provided and NOAA permitted environmental atrocity that is still happening in the Gulf of Mexico knows what materials are and aren’t available to a federally convened panel of experts. So why would Ms. Lubchenco be asserting on the same day that he made his request to BP that “everything has been forthcoming” from BP? This seems to be another of Ms. Lubchenco’s irregularities and anomalies, but it appears that none of them are random in nature, all seeming to fall on the BP side of the fence.
With friends like this, who needs….
So the federal representatives, in this case probably marching to either Gina McCarthy’s or Jane Lubchenco’s drum beat, have committed virtually nothing in writing, granting the wind industry carte blanche to do as they wish (or as their bottom line dictates) and leaving the domestic fishing industry with a “trust us, we’re from the federal government and you have our assurances that you’ll be all right.”
I suspect that such assurances, when made to members of the U.S. commercial fishing industry, their families and their communities, might ring just a wee tad hollow. Too many fishermen-particularly in New England-(and far too many ex-fishermen) have been living with empty nets, idle vessels, unpaid bills and empty government assurances for far too long.
(I have to note here that I was surprised-no, I wasn’t actually surprised!-that what remains of the fishing industry press had hardly anything to say about this situation and the feds’ role in it. It almost seems as if the remaining (print and electronic) publications have sworn off taking up controversial issues, no matter how important they might be to the commercial fishing industry and the communities they support. To repeat what I quoted up above from RODA’s press release-because it’s absolutely central to this issue-“in one pen stroke, BOEM has confirmed its scattershot, partisan, and opaque approach that undermines every lesson we’ve learned throughout environmental history: the precautionary principle, the importance of safety and environmental regulation, the scientific method and use of the best available data, and adaptive management policies. It is shocking that NMFS could sign off on a decision so inexplicably adverse to its core mission and the research, resources, businesses, and citizens under its jurisdiction.”)
I was equally surprised that so much of the commercial fishing industry has apparently accepted this pathetic state of affairs.
Food for thought
When seen from a distance, wind generators seem to fit right into a bucolic landscape, the rotors spinning lazily away. The GE Halide X (12 MW), the largest wind turbine that has been built up until now, has blades that are 351 feet long. With a maximum rotational speed of 7.81 revolutions/minute the tips of those blades are travelling at approximately 195 miles per hour. Probably not so bucolic if you are up close to them. I’d guess it would be sort of like standing on the shoulder of a straight-away at a Formula 1 or NASCAR track during a race.
And a post script for West Coast fishermen-
A U.S. Department of Interior news release begins Biden-Harris Administration Advances Offshore Wind in the Pacific
Departments of the Interior, Defense and the State of California agree to accelerate wind energy offshore the central and northern coasts of California.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl, and California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced an agreement to advance areas for offshore wind off the northern and central coasts of California. This significant milestone is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to create thousands of jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030. (Full release at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOI/bulletins/2dd9855)
Fasten your seat belts, folks!