First Step of Vineyard Wind’s MEPA Environmental Review Concludes with Issuance of ENF Certificate

Read the full release here.

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office has advanced its environmental review of the proposed Vineyard Wind Connector transmission project by issuing a certificate regarding the project’s Environmental Notification Form (ENF).

Vineyard Wind, the only proposed offshore wind project in Massachusetts that has begun the process of obtaining state and federal permits, seeks to deliver the significant economic development and clean energy benefits of offshore wind to residents and businesses in the Commonwealth beginning in 2021. Following today’s issuance of the MEPA certificate, Vineyard Wind’s advanced permitting standing, which calls for in-state construction beginning in 2019, moves forward to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).  The DEIR is expected to be issued later this Spring, and will be the subject of additional public and regulator comment.

“We are pleased to have completed the first step of the multi-step MEPA environmental review process and would like to thank the many agencies, elected officials, advocacy groups, and interested citizens who provided comments on our initial Environmental Notification Form,” said Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer for Vineyard Wind. “We look forward to working collaboratively with local agencies and officials, the Wampanoag tribes, local, state and national environmental groups, fishermen, residents and other stakeholders in preparing the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which we plan to submit this Spring. Based on a preliminary review of the ENF Certificate, we remain confident that we will address all concerns regarding short-term impacts associated with construction of the Vineyard Wind Connector while demonstrating that there will be no significant long-term impacts to the local environment.”

The proposed Vineyard Wind Connector is comprised of subsea and subsurface electrical transmission lines and a new substation that will connect the Vineyard Wind generation project, located south of Martha’s Vineyard and 34 miles away from the Cape mainland, to the Massachusetts electric grid.  The Connector will bring up to 800MW of clean wind power to a connection point at an existing substation in an industrial park in Barnstable, and will not require any changes to the existing electrical transmission system on the Cape.  Vineyard Wind has stipulated that 100% solid (containing no fluids) cables will be buried for their entire length on-shore and off-shore, and that transformers and other electrical equipment at the new substation will be underlain by full volume, impervious containment systems.

The MEPA review process of the Vineyard Wind Connector began with public meetings in Boston and Hyannis, site visits in Barnstable and Yarmouth, and public comment periods, as well as written comments that were considered by MEPA in developing the Certificate issued today.  The Certificate defines what potential impacts must be addressed and analyzed in the DEIR. 

The ongoing state and local regulatory review of the Vineyard Wind Connector project, a buried and submarine electric transmission project which will provide grid connection for offshore wind turbines located 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, will be undertaken by a number of state and local agencies and boards in addition to the MEPA review.  These regulatory reviews and approvals include the Conservation Commission and Planning Boards of the Towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth as well as the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

In addition to MEPA review, all or specific aspects of the entire Vineyard Wind project will face substantial public review through over 25 federal, state, and local approval processes, including from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (federal Environmental Impact Statement), the Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, Massachusetts DEP and CZM, the Cape Cod Commission and local conservation commissions.

The Vineyard Wind offshore wind turbine array will be located in the federal waters 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and approximately 34 miles south of the Cape Cod mainland.  The array area was selected by a federal-state-stakeholder process that began in 2010.

Rebecca Rutenberg