States are close to creating a regional fund for fishermen affected by offshore wind projects

States are close to creating a regional fund for fishermen affected by offshore wind projects

A regional fund to pay compensation to fishermen for damage caused by offshore wind is one step closer to being established. The New York State Energy Agency, in cooperation with Massachusetts and nine other states on the East Coast, took a concrete step on Thursday toward creating this fund.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has issued a request for proposals seeking to establish a firm to design and develop a regional fund and standardized claims process for the fishing industry. The process will apply regardless of which wind project caused the economic loss.

Within 16 months, the states hope to establish a claims process, select a responsible third party, and have millions of dollars from offshore wind developers that can be distributed to affected fishermen in any Eastern port as needed. The fund is a response to several projects set to come online across the North East amid the lack of any national solution.

“This is a really important milestone for the 11-nation initiative, because it allocates funding and resources to recruit and appoint a third party to manage the Regional Fisheries Compensation Fund,” said Chris Ohleth, Executive Director of the Private Initiative. At Offshore Wind, a nonprofit organization that works with states and industries in this process.

Fishermen are concerned about loss and damage to their gear, loss of historic fishing grounds, negative impacts on fish habitat, increased insurance costs, and longer trips (and thus increased fuel expenses) as a result of wind energy development.

The RFP did not provide any estimate (or guarantee) of financing, but stated that the fund could reach hundreds of millions of dollars through payments from wind developers.

“The idea is that when developers go through their permitting process…there are permit conditions and mitigation requirements,” including compensatory mitigation, Ulith said. “Developers will direct that money to the regional fund rather than their own fund, as we saw with Vineyard Wind and the South Fork.”





In late 2022, nine states in the northeast began developing this regional fund in the absence of any federal framework, fund, or authority. Because there is no uniform system, compensation has so far been determined on a project-by-project and country-by-country basis.

“This has led to inconsistencies in estimating impacts on fisheries and the agreed-upon funds used to compensate for these impacts,” the top nine states wrote to BOEM in a 2021 letter, adding that the current approach may create inequities in the fishing and wind energy industries. .

“We’re seeing the fishing community a little disoriented and disoriented by the operations of South Fork and Vineyard Wind, which are the only two wind farms,” Ulith said. “Once there are more, there will be different eligibility requirements and timelines that will be very confusing.”

There is no requirement for Vineyard Wind and South Fork Wind to merge their existing agreements and funds into the regional fund and claims process once it is up and running, Ohleth said.

As of this year, 11 Atlantic coastal states have participated in the effort, from Maine to North Carolina. The chosen entity will be paid with money from states, the nonprofit Wind Energy Foundation, which Uhleth chairs, and the American Clean Energy Association, whose members include offshore wind developers.

A committee including representatives from states, the fishing industry and the wind industry will also be established to oversee and advise the selected company. The committee’s advice will address the design and development of the fund, including how to communicate with fishermen.

The committee’s membership will have three seats for states, three for wind energy developers, and six for the fishing industry (two for each region). There may also be additional representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Office of Ocean Energy Management.

Nominations for these positions will be issued soon, Ohlith said. The American Clean Energy Association will organize nominations for the wind industry.

Ohlith said her non-profit is in talks with the Alliance for Responsible Marine Development (an alliance of fishermen) to oversee nominations for the fishing industry.

Lynn Johnston, RODA’s director of programs, said in an email Thursday that she had not yet read the RFP, but would seek feedback from anglers on it.

“Members of the commercial fishing industry should have leadership roles when designing any compensation program,” Johnston said. “We look forward to reviewing the RFP with fishermen to assess whether they support this approach.”

Compensation, also called “compensatory mitigation,” comes when conflicts cannot be avoided or minimized.

“States, federal agencies, the commercial fishing industry, and offshore wind developers have concluded that compensatory mitigation will likely be necessary to ensure the coexistence of offshore wind and fishing industries,” the RFP states.

The regional fund will provide “a consistent, equitable and transparent compensation framework, subject to the establishment of a formal governance structure and compensation claims process,” the RFP says.

“This is an important step forward in advancing this concept and underscores our ongoing efforts to emphasize the importance of maintaining a vibrant fishing industry while developing offshore wind in a way that promotes coexistence and where both can flourish,” said Greg Lampman, Director of the company. Offshore wind to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, in a statement.


Sign up for our Weekend Newsletter

Busy week? Catch up on the biggest stories you might have missed with our Weekend newsletter.

Streamlining the process and a single administrator can also help save money, leaving more money to go toward fishermen’s claims, Ulith said.

BOEM lacks the authority to create or administer a fund to compensate fishermen for offshore wind, and has stated that such ability would require congressional action. Decades ago, federal law created a government-administered compensation fund for fishermen for oil and gas leases for equipment loss and damage.

BOEM officials said at a Fisheries Management Council meeting on Wednesday that they expect to issue final fisheries mitigation guidance this year, though they could not set a date after that. The agency released draft guidelines in 2022.

Recently, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) released a discussion draft of a bill that would create a compensation fund for hunters at the federal level. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tried to do something similar last year.

Ohlith has held conversations with White House staff and other congressional offices, explaining that participating states believe creating a federal fund would be ideal. It’s a possibility that state agencies should consider.

“In the event that future congressional or federal action is taken to fund a similar effort to mitigate impacts to commercial and recreational fisheries caused by offshore wind development, the states agree to consider modifying, moving, or terminating this Regional Fund initiative.” December letter from the 11 states to the American Clean Energy Association.

“In terms of getting relief to stakeholders, the states program is the project that is most ready for implementation, so to have that happen is great,” Ulith said. “If it could be integrated into a federal program, I think the Atlantic states would be very happy.”

Proposals for the design of this regional fisheries compensation fund are due on March 20.

Email Anastasia E. Lennon at alennon@newbedfordlight.org.


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *