Thomas Edison, in his quest to produce a reliable, long-lasting source of light said, “Hell, there are no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something.” As environmental advocates we are constantly battling against this idea that rules and process delay progress and chill innovation. As advocates for ocean planning, we have argued that just the opposite is true – using good data, understanding how people and species use the ocean will eliminate conflict and facilitate the appropriate siting and development of offshore wind projects.
This morning, at a hearing to decide the fate of Deepwater Wind’s proposed 30-megawatt wind project off the coast of Block Island, Coastal Resources Management Council member, David Abedon, used this Edison quote to suggest that Thomas was wrong about rules stifling innovation, at least in Rhode Island. The ocean planning process, he said, used by Rhode Island to minimize environmental impacts and user conflicts and to select the right location for the Deepwater Wind project did result in a new set of rules and criteria to be satisfied, but without that foundation he wouldn’t have been able to vote in favor of the project. So this morning, the fact that Rhode Island had those rules in place, and the developer Deepwater Wind knew exactly what it needed to do to satisfy the reviewers, meant a unanimous vote to recommend approval of the 30-megawatt project to the full council.
I felt a real sense of pride that the work CLF has been doing to advance ocean planning at a regional level was contributing to the successful development of offshore wind in Rhode Island.
For this project in this State, the rules aren’t obstructing the pathway forward; they have been the very light shining on the path forward. There is still another hearing left before this project can move forward, but there is no mystery in it. The developer knows what it needs to do and the agency responsible for protecting our ocean and coastal resources knows the criteria against which the project should be measured. That is an accomplishment.
Rhode Island is moving toward energy independence and emissions reductions in a thoughtful, deliberate and planned way. That is progress.
The meeting ended with Chairwoman Anne Livingston saying that “Block Island is an important part of Rhode Island and they will be very proud to be a leader in clean energy. And, this project might actually be a tourist attraction.”
When this project is built, I will be one of the first people on the ferry with my children in tow to see the wind turbines near Block Island. These five turbines will be beautiful examples that not only did the grown-ups care enough about the world to put up a fight in the face of climate change, but also that they had the vision and thoughtfulness to do it right.