Narragansett – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) on Wednesday evening held a public hearing on Deepwater Wind‘s (DWW) Offshore Energy and Transmission project before a council chambers packed with Renewable Energy proponents and project specific opponents. Hosted by Ronald Gagnon, DEM’s Chief, Office of Technical and Customer Assistance, the meeting provided a forum for public comment, but was not open for questioning.
Bringing out a full contingent of environmentalists, the meeting was held to address changes to DWW’s previously filed Water Quality Application and State Dredge Permit. Testifying mainly on the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm and Transmission Project as a whole, and hardly addressing the specific regulatory documents in question, national and local environmental groups were heard, along with residents of the mainland, New Shoreham (Block Island) and the Deepwater Resistance PAC (DRP).
Catherine Bowes spoke on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and its members across Rhode Island.
“We fundamentally believe that climate change is the single greatest threat facing wildlife today, here in Rhode Island, across the country and around the globe,” Bowes said. “We need only to look at each intensifying storm ravaging our coast as evidence that things are changing. We know that climate change is real. We know that carbon emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels are dramatically changing our climate and having huge and increasingly devastating effects on wildlife habitat.”
Testifying as to the negative effects of climate change and increased global warming, Bowes, NWF’s Senior Manager for New Energy Solutions told the crowded room that NWF supports development of offshore wind energy.
“We take all development in wildlife habitat very seriously. We believe offshore windpower can be developed responsibly and needs to be developed responsibly,” she said. “We are strong supporters of the Block Island Wind Farm because we believe it meets that test.”
OSAMP receives accolades
Noting the development of the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (OSAMP) by the state Coastal Resource Management Council funded by the DWW project, Bowes said that both the private and public entities had worked cooperatively to identify appropriate placement of the offshore wind farm, in an “environmentally responsible way.”
Bowes also referred to DWW’s pioneering environmental agreement to protect endangered North American Right Whales, a collaboration between her organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). The agreement, penned in February involved not only Deepwater Wind, but Energy Management, Inc. (Cape Wind) and NRG Bluewater Wind, according to press release. DWW agreed to adjust its construction schedule to avoid disturbing Right Whales local feeding season in the spring.
“Deepwater Wind’s robust engagement on the issue of right whale protection is a model for the industry,” said Tricia K. Jedele, Vice President and Director of CLF’s Rhode Island office, in February. “Deepwater Wind has worked diligently to try to understand the key issues for the project area and because we share a common interest in advancing renewable energy in Rhode Island, we have been motivated to work together to develop solutions that keep us moving forward.”
Asked about the Scarborough Beach Alternative plan, Jedele, in an interview at October’s AWEA Offshore Wind Conference in Providence, said the move was not at issue for CLF.
“The move from Town Beach to Scarborough State Beach poses no significant change environmentally,” said Jedele.
Bowes noted that the United States was behind in developing its renewable energy sources.
“We are at a moment in this country where we really need to begin a transition and shift away from fossil fuels,” she said. “Europe has been producing thousands of megawatts of energy for over twenty years.There are 60 projects spinning around the world producing tens of thousands of jobs and bringing green energy online overseas. It’s time for America to catch up. Other countries around the world have begun to mobilize and tap their offshore resources.”
In keeping with the organizations mission to protect wildlife in their habitats, Bowes closed in support of the pending regulatory requests.
“We do strongly support the cable move application. We realize – [we believe] that the project is proposed in a way that will not adversely effect water quality or wildlife habitat in the area.”
Cable landing does not pose health risks to residents
“I am here to address potential environmental health effects presented by this cable landing at Scarborough Beach. I am a previous member of the Block Island Town Council and I was a member of that town council when we crossed this bridge just as Narragansett,” he said.
“We had an opportunity to review all of the similar data and we passed this project because it was recognized as posing no adverse health effects. First of all with regard to cancer, I know that some people have raised the concern that EMFs running nearby may produce cancer. That has been well shown not to be the effect.”
Baute went on to say that EMF transmissions are highly regulated and that in perspective to the levels produced by a highly insulated and subterranean cable, individuals would have more exposure in their own homes, watching television and using their microwaves, than sitting on the beach over the cable.
“The levels of the EMFs produced by this project are so low given the amount of insulation and wrappings of the cable and the depth of the cable they are insignificant in terms of producing any health threats,” said Baute.
The Sierra Club and its Rhode Island Chapter are also supportive of the DWW project. Represented by Peter Galvin who also spoke at the State Properties Committee Meeting on December 4. Noting that separate state agencies are tasked with focusing on the regulatory issues before them, Galvin presented Seirra’s overall support for renewable energy advancement and the reduction of dependency on fossil fuels.
“We are very, very strongly in favor of moving to renewable energy for the entire country and Rhode Island is part of this,” said Galvin. “Getting wind power up and working in this part of the country, as well as solar is really crucial. We can’t wait anymore”