You might have heard the news today that the Obama Administration released its final version of a rule called the Clean Power Plan. Years in the making, this rule from the Environmental Protection Agency aims to reduce emissions from power plants – the biggest emitters of carbon pollution – by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. We hear a lot about how carbon pollution causes our planet’s atmosphere to warm, and as a result, droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather events, are becoming more frequent, dangerous and costly to Americans and many others around the world. But what does carbon pollution mean for the ocean?
Despite the pouring rain, the mood was bright onboard the Rhode Island Fast Ferry en route to view the first steel in the water for a wind farm built by Deepwater Wind.
Within the hour it took to get from the Port of Quonset where Deepwater Wind does the land-based construction work to the site, the rain had stopped and the 150 people on board went out on deck to see the enormous crane and the top of the piling that was recently placed on the seafloor. Everyone there, as well as many others, had contributed to this moment in some way and they were proud to see Rhode Island erecting the first offshore wind farm in the nation.
While the visual stars of the show were the actual pilings and the members of the construction crew who lined the deck of the barge carrying the crane, the unseen but widely acknowledged headliner was Rhode Island’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), without which the project would in all likelihood still be in the permitting phase. Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind stated succinctly, “the SAMP was critical to our success.” Governor Raimondo spoke about how the project’s success was based on collaborative planning that saved years of permitting time. The foundation of the wind farm is not only cement and steel; it’s also the science-based, stakeholder-driven ocean plan.
Offshore wind energy. Credit: Shutterstock user Dennis van de Water
Next week, the country’s first offshore wind farm will begin construction in Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind is a five turbine, 30-megawatt renewable energy development off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. This project has moved forward in record time, thanks to an ocean planning process that took into consideration the views of many ocean users including fishermen to ensure the best possible outcome for Rhode Island, its residents, and businesses.
Below is a Q&A with Bill McElroy, a lobsterman and the Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Board for Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council, which is the entity that initiated the Ocean SAMP.
The first offshore wind farm in the United States will begin construction (“steel in the water”) in late July 2015. The five turbine, 30-megawatt (MW) Deepwater Wind Block Island offshore wind project is a prime example of the great things that happen when we work together to plan for our ocean. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and commercial lobster fisherman Bill McElroy talk ocean planning and wind development in the video above.
Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.
Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.
Now that the fireworks have died down, we wanted to check back on the big announcement from BP earlier this month. BP, the Department of Justice and the five Gulf states announced they had reached a settlement for $18.7 billion to resolve outstanding fines and claims from the 2010 oil disaster. We’ve spent the week diving into the numbers and here’s a little more about what we know and what questions remain.
The agreement provides $8.1 billion for Natural Resource Damages, including $1 billion in Early Restoration previously committed by BP. Nearly 70 percent of the $1 billion for Early Restoration has already been spent, with another $134 million set to be spent this summer on 10 new projects. It is unclear at this point how the remaining $168 million Early Restoration funds will be allocated. However, in the coming months, we hope to see a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) from the Trustees that could lay the path forward for those remaining funds and the $7.1 billion in payments to be made over the next 15 years. This is an important fund for the Gulf’s fish and wildlife beyond the shore, as it includes $1.24 billion for “open ocean” projects, as well as $350 million for “regionwide” projects. While the exact definition of the terms “open ocean” and “regionwide” remain unclear, Ocean Conservancy is encouraged by this news, as we have long advocated for a comprehensive, regionwide approach to restoration, including the offshore environment.
Five years ago today, oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig was still gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting countless wildlife, oiling shorelines and devastating coastal communities from Texas to Florida. Shortly after the disaster occurred, both President Obama and BP promised to restore the Gulf of Mexico, and today marks the single biggest step forward in restoring the Gulf.
Today BP and the five Gulf states have agreed to an unprecedented $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the outstanding fines that BP still owes for damaging the Gulf. While details are still emerging, here are some of the highlights:
$5.5 billion to resolve Clean Water Act civil penalties, with some portion of that money being directed to each of the five Gulf states. This includes approximately $1.3 billion that will go to the RESTORE Council to implement comprehensive restoration from Texas to Florida, from the coast to the blue water. Read more about the RESTORE Act and restoration here.
$8.1 billion (including $1 billion down payment BP already provided for early restoration) to resolve natural resource damages that are directly related to the impacts of the oil disaster. We are particularly pleased to see that this allocation includes $1.24 billion for projects in the open ocean! This means that we will be able to restore impacts beyond the shore, where the disaster began and where we continue to learn about troubling impacts to fish, corals and dolphins.
$350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster.
Finally, $5 billion will go to the Gulf states to resolve economic claims.