(June 8, 2018) Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) has offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct surveys on the impact of offshore wind on marine and animal life.

The problem with that is, according to US Wind, those surveys have already been completed to a certain extent, and more studies will follow before the first turbine begins to spin.

The new amendment would also determine the need for mitigation measures.

Harris authored, offered and had his amendment passed by the House Appropriations Committee.

“Commercial fishing and seafood processing are prominent industries in Maryland’s First District. The fishing community has expressed concern that US Wind’s proposed offshore wind farm project will harm their fishing operations off the coast of Ocean City,” Harris said in a release after the amendment passed. “In addition to the several concerns already voiced by the local communities, the United States Coast Guard, and the National Park Service, it is imperative that we fully understand the negative effects on our fisheries that will be caused by this wind farm project.”

Salvo Vitale, general counsel for US Wind, replied.

“The Federal lease area, which allows for our project, is the result of years of intensive planning, public hearings and approvals eventually granted from State of Maryland and Federal regulatory entities,” he wrote. “Environmental assessments of all kinds, including studies on offshore wind’s impacts on marine life, are done at the very early stages of wind energy area identification, and more comprehensive environmental impact analyses are done before any developer can begin putting steel into the water.”

And that was just to get started.

“Moreover,” he wrote, “US Wind has had very productive discussions with environmental organizations during which we have outlined all that we’re implementing to go above and beyond our obligatory adherence to environmental and marine life protections.”

This is not Harris’ first attempt to stymie offshore wind development in Maryland. He previously offered an amendment to the omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump in March blocking payment for inspectors on wind farms fewer than 24 miles offshore. The amendment was pulled from the final bill.

“We knew that powerful special interests would work hard to drop this amendment from the final bill,” Harris said at the time. “But meanwhile we have bought valuable time to get to the truth about how harmful the updated windmill plan would be to the viewscape of Ocean City due to the much larger, taller windmills now being planned.”

However, that argument appears to have been abandoned by Harris.

The four megawatt turbines originally pitched for the project will have become obsolete by the time US Wind goes to install them, so the company is evaluating using fewer, but taller, turbines. The largest of these, at 8.4 megawatts, would require less than half of the smaller devices at about 90, instead of 180.

“We will continue to work with the National Wildlife Federation and local environmental groups to ensure that there is no adverse impact to marine life or other natural resources as a result of our project,” Vitale said. “US Wind is fully committed to delivering the significant renewable energy, economic and job benefits that our project represents in this emerging economy for Maryland, and in the most responsible manner as a trusted corporate citizen to the lower Eastern Shore communities.”

Brian has covered every municipality in Worcester at one time or another, and is one of the longest serving reporters in the region. He covers just about everything. He lives in Snow Hill with his wife, Lora, and two sons, Julian and Grady.

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