Plans for Offshore Wind and Drilling Move Forward

This map shows the Rhode Island and Massachusetts wind-energy areas. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

This map shows the Rhode Island and Massachusetts wind-energy areas. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke may not believe in anthropogenic climate change — he deleted it from a Department of Interior report — but the big spender of taxpayer money supports all types of energy development.

Zinke’s litany of misconduct includes $139,000 for new office doors, taking public land on behalf of business interests, and firing staff who report his misconduct.

The latest energy project is a planned auction of 390,000 acres of ocean south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Known as the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, the site has the potential to host 4.1 gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply power to nearly 1.5 million homes. Nineteen developers have qualified for the Dec. 13 auction.

The upcoming lease auction is one of 12 active commercial wind-energy leases covering nearly 1.4 million acres along the Eastern Seabord. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promised to auction off more offshore regions in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. So far, two areas of interest have been announced for California.

In Rhode Island, BOEM is readying an environmental impact statement for the proposed 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm, 19 miles east of Block Island. The Deepwater Wind project awaits several permits. If approved, the offshore wind facility will send electricity along a 30-mile cable to East Hampton, N.Y.

Public hearings for the project are scheduled for Nov. 7 in New Bedford, Mass., and Nov. 8 in Narragansett, R.I.

Offshore drilling
The proposal for fossil-fuel drilling off the New England coast and the entire outer continental shelf awaits the release of BOEM’s proposed program, or PP. The lengthy and detailed report is expected by the end of the year. After a 90-day comment period, the final proposal is expected in late 2019. Approval of a final plan occurs at least 60 days after being submitted to the president and Congress.