Last night was an historic night in Rhode Island! The State of Rhode Island made its unanimous voice heard in a vote that is certain to be heard around the country. Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) approved Deepwater Wind’s application to build the Block Island Wind Farm and Block Island Transmission System. By its vote, the CRMC made an affirmative statement that the reality of climate change must be met head on with solutions – and offshore wind is one of those solutions. The permit to construct and maintain a 30-megawatt wind turbine project in Block Island Sound and a 34.5-kilovolt submarine cable will contain a number of stipulations designed to protect fishing interests, habitat, and wildlife.
I was proud to be present at this final hearing on the DWW application on behalf of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). For CLF, last night’s decision was the culmination of four years of advocacy designed to advance the core elements of a robust ocean planning process and to facilitate the smart and thoughtful development of offshore wind in the United States. From day one, CLF has been in the room (often in the room until very late at night), advocating for good process, for environmental considerations, for climate change considerations, for the right decisions.
We advocated for the public’s right to participate fully in the development of the ocean plan that was used tonight to evaluate this project. We provided significant advice and comment about how to shape the public review process for this project and how to engage all stakeholders. We advanced arguments about the best way to evaluate data; how to protect important ecological areas; and secured a first-of-its-kind agreement between CLF and Deepwater Wind (that will be reflected as stipulations in the permit) that will protect the North Atlantic right whale by prohibiting pile driving needed to construct the project between November 1 and April 30.
Through the review of this permit application, the CRMC considered ecological impacts; global climate change; cultural and historic resources (including Native American archaeological sites, properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, candidate properties, Block Island sites eligible for the National Register, tourism landscapes, and shipwrecks); commercial and recreational fisheries; marine transportation, navigation, and infrastructure; the decommissioning process; and existing statutes, regulations and policies (including the public trust doctrine).
This project is the shining example of what progress looks like. It means that well-intentioned people can make meaningful, albeit challenging decisions (a council of unpaid, public servants spent years of their lives dedicated to listening to the public and reviewing mountains of information to make the right decision for the State); that inviting a diverse group of stakeholders into a conversation upfront doesn’t slow the review process down, it speeds it up; that transparency fosters trust; and that acting in the face of climate change is an imperative that belongs to us right now.
Congratulations to the CRMC, to Deepwater Wind, and to all the advocates and members of the public who collectively made this project possible.