August 27, 2020
New England for Offshore Wind Coalition Launches
This week, a regional coalition launched, calling on the six New England states to collaborate to responsibly develop offshore wind at a scale where it can become the dominant source of new electric power in New England and lead our transition to a low-carbon, clean energy future. New England for Offshore Wind is an alliance of over 40 environmental, justice, health, labor, business, and education organizations and institutions from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Citing that current science demands the region reduce emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, the coalition is coordinating advocacy across the six states, leveraging the collective influence of its members to urge governors and legislatures to collaborate and take action to increase offshore wind targets.
During a launch event for the coalition this morning, Susannah Hatch of founding coalition member the Environmental League of Massachusetts said, “We aim to drive governors and legislatures to support regional collaboration and more offshore wind procurements, building the political will to power every home in New England with offshore wind.”
Increasing our offshore wind resources will be critical to filling the looming gap in supply and demand in New England’s regional electricity grid. Old, polluting fossil fuel plants are set to go offline as the six states move to electrify the heating and the transportation sectors. Offshore wind is also vital for protecting public health.
Dr. Regina LaRocque, a member of the Health Care Without Harm Physicians Network and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital told reporters at the coalition launch, “I’m here today to speak in support of developing our offshore wind resources because I believe offshore wind is essential to preserving and protecting the health of all New Englanders.” In discussing the toxic air pollutants produced by fossil fuel plants, she stated “the medical science is clear that these air pollutants are associated with premature death and increased hospitalization rates.” The public health benefits are particularly important in vulnerable communities that have suffered the worst impacts of air pollution and climate change for generations.
The New England coast is remarkably well-suited for efficient and low-cost offshore wind development due to the confluence of three factors: some of the nation’s strongest and steadiest winds, shallow water depths ideal for turbine siting, and high energy demand close to the shore which lowers the cost of transmitting the power. This trifecta, combined with the public health benefits of clean energy and the resource’s ability to spur much-needed economic growth make offshore wind the answer to many of the region’s questions.
When discussing the significant potential for offshore wind off the New England coast, Hillary Bright of the BlueGreen Alliance, an organization uniting America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations said, “Taking a small portion of what is possible, we’re looking at very significant high paying permanent jobs as well as economic investment.”
In response to concerns about the potential for negative impacts on the fishing industry, Captain David Monti of Rhode Island assured reporters that, at the nation’s first offshore wind development, the four-year-old Block Island Wind Farm, there have been no permanent adverse impacts on fish or habitat. “We learned from Europe, most recently, that there is actually a greater abundance of certain fish within wind farms. Pylons create habitat and attract fish much like reefs do.” He also noted that commercial fishing activities take place within the Block Island area, and that fishing in the vicinity has arguably improved since the installation of the wind farm, stating “the Block Island Wind Farm is living proof that offshore wind and recreational and commercial fishing can co-exist.”
As part of the coalition’s launch, members also sent a letter to the six New England Governors (LINK to letter) calling for increased collaboration among their administrations, highlighting offshore wind as a critical shared resource to address climate change, grow the economy, control energy costs, and protect the health of communities. The letter states “We view offshore wind as the single biggest clean energy lever we can pull to address the climate crisis, and we celebrate that it also strengthens our regional economy, protects ratepayers, creates jobs, and improves public health by reducing pollution.”
Other remarks at the coalition’s launch:
“A lot of us come to offshore wind because of the climate crisis but we stay for the jobs and lower energy costs. The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management envisions cooperation between Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine but what I think there’s potential for is cooperation between all six New England states.” –New Hampshire State Senator David Watters
“Our power as a coalition comes from the breadth of the member groups and institutions demonstrating wide and overwhelming support for offshore wind in New England. As our friends in New York and the Mid Atlantic step up their efforts for offshore wind the time is right for New England to assert itself even more forcefully. –Sanjay Arwade, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“The beautiful thing about OSW is that it is not only a step to reducing carbon emissions but it also creates jobs that are so sorely needed in the midst of COVID-19. Jobs that pay a living wage and allow people to live with dignity and respect.” –Sena Wazer, Sunrise Connecticut
“The journey in Maine to look at offshore wind started when heating oil prices hit $4/gallon and gasoline prices hit $4/gallon. Maine was in a crisis moment. The average family in Maine was paying close to $10,000 a year just to heat their home and drive their car. The University of Maine worked with the state to look at other ways to heat our homes and drive their cars and we identified offshore wind as the biggest opportunity for us to do so.” –Habib Dagher, University of Maine