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Offshore wind farm dealt setbacks by local, US regulators

The company hoping to build a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts appealed to the state Friday after the project hit snags with local and federal regulators.

The Edgartown Conservation Commission on Martha's Vineyard voted this week to deny Vineyard Wind's application to lay transmission cables that would pass about a mile east of Edgartown.

Separately, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has delayed issuing a final environmental impact statement that would help clear the way for construction of the 84-turbine, 800-megawatt wind farm.

The project is key to a 2016 state law aimed at boosting supplies of renewable energy.

The Edgartown board was concerned Vineyard Wind had not provided assurances against "adverse effects" from the cables, saying the area is critical for the protection of marine fisheries, flood control and protection of wildlife habitat.

Commercial fishermen have also questioned the plan.

Vineyard Wind said Friday it will ask the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to override the Edgartown decision.

"We are disappointed in the Commission's decision, which was flawed, inconsistent with the evidence before it, and in contrast to the conclusions of many other regulatory authorities," Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, said in a written statement.

The company said it has provided the commission with a detailed, comprehensive filing and responded to all requests for information.

The commission also had access to the project's construction and operations plan and received confirmation that the project would not impact endangered species from the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, according to Vineyard Wind.

Another body, the Martha's Vineyard Commission, approved the cables earlier this year.

Planners are hoping the project will begin producing power in 2021. The company said the wind farm will reduce Massachusetts' carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars from state roads.

The latest stumbles for Vineyard Wind comes as Massachusetts officials are recommending the state double its commitment to offshore wind projects as part of an ongoing effort to transition the state toward more renewable energy sources.

A report released in May by the Department of Energy Resources calls for the state to move forward with an additional procurement of up to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, or enough to power up to 1 million homes.

That would be on top of the 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind Massachusetts was authorized to award contracts for under the 2016 renewable energy law, the largest procurement of offshore wind power by a U.S. state.

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