On March 5th, three Judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeals will hear from lawyers for residents of Nantucket who sued to stop the Vineyard Wind project, the first utility-scale offshore wind energy project in in the United States, located well off the coast of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Vineyard Wind is already generating renewable energy but its opponents are continuing to the bitter end their Quixotic quest to end the project. 

Vineyard Wind is the first such project off the coast of the United States because the would-be developers of another project, Cape Wind, finally pulled the plug on it in 2017 after over a decade and a half of permitting and litigation caused those who would have purchased the project's energy to cancel their contracts to do so. Fortunately the Vineyard Wind developers were able to survive a similar onslaught.

The cost of permitting Vineyard Wind?  According to a brief filed last week by Vineyard Wind's lawyers and published by Law 360, it has taken a decade, and cost three hundred million dollars. Three separate Federal lawsuits were filed challenging Vineyard Wind's permits by NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).

Other opponents of Vineyard Wind are represented by lawyers for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. How did they come to be represented by an NGO based in Texas?  Well some of you may recall from a piece I wrote in December of 2021 that the Texas Public Policy Foundation is opposed to “energy discrimination” by which it means the favoring of renewable energy over energy created by the burning of fossil fuels. 

Because “energy discrimination” isn't a sufficient basis for challenging the granting of permits to Vineyard Wind, the Foundation's lawyers are complaining that the Federal Government didn't sufficiently account for the well being of endangered species, among other things, in granting those permits. But the fact is, as a Federal District Judge has already held, the Texas Public Policy Foundation cannot defeat Vineyard Wind on that basis either.   And neither can the residents of Nantucket.

And that brings me to the comedy classic Fletch.  Irwin M. Fletcher, or Fletch, played by the comedy giant Chevy Chase, is an investigative journalist attempting to obtain medical information about his target.  To that end he submits to a medical examination by the target's physician.  The doctor says “you know, it's a shame about Ed.”   Fletch responds “oh, it was. Yeah, it was really a shame. To go so suddenly like that.”  The doctor replies “he was dying for years.” Fletch doubles down “sure, but... the end was very... very sudden.”   The doctor says “he was in intensive care for eight weeks.” Fletch exclaims “yeah, but I mean the very end, when he died. That was extremely sudden.”

Some time this spring, the First Circuit Court of Appeals Judges hearing the Vineyard Wind appeals will rule against the Nantucket NIMBYs and the fishermen and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. And sometime after that, years after they were brought, all of the challenges will finally be over. The “very end” “will be extremely sudden.” In the meantime, the Vineyard Wind project will be completed and supplying enough renewable energy for over 400,000 homes. But the amount of time and money it will have taken to get to the end of the many challenges to the project, and others like them, has already left an enduring mark on the offshore wind industry in the United States. If we're serious about completing our transition to renewable energy in the time in which the scientists tell us we have to make that transition, Congress needs to do something about that.