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NY offshore wind lease auction to proceed Dec. 15

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NY offshore wind lease auction to proceed Dec. 15

A federal offshore wind lease auction in New York will proceed on Dec. 15, after opponents from the commercial fishing and seafood industry withdrew a motion to delay it.

Led by the Fisheries Survival Fund, which represents sea scallop fisheries, the plaintiffs dropped one motion to delay the auction but maintained a second motion for a preliminary injunction against the execution of the final lease, according to a Dec. 9 stipulation and proposed schedule from U.S. Department of Justice attorneys. The stipulation was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs' withdrawal came after district court Judge Tanya Chutkan decreed that their second motion will be considered on Feb. 8, 2017, giving opponents another chance to voice concerns. The stipulation also requires the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to give the plaintiffs at least 14 days' notice before it executes a final lease.

Kelley Drye and Warren LLP attorneys, who represent the plaintiffs, originally filed for a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction and wanted the court to hear it prior to the lease sale, but withdrew the first motion for a restraining order to give the court time to hear the case, Kelley Drye partner Andrew Minkiewicz, one of three attorneys involved, said in an interview. The hearing in February gives attorneys time to "fully brief the issue" before the lease becomes official, a process that typically takes a minimum of 60 days, Minkiewicz said.

Town Dock, the largest suppliers of squid in the U.S.; the Garden State Seafood Association; and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association joined the complaint, along with other trade groups representing fisheries in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Fishing industry towns, such as Narragansett, R.I. and New Bedford, Mass., a fishing port that is trying to become a shipping point for offshore wind turbine equipment, also joined the suit, according to the Dec. 8 complaint filed against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the BOEM.

BOEM plans to hold an auction on Dec. 15 for 79,350 acres that are 11 miles off the coast of Jones Beach in Long Island. The project area, known as the New York Wind Energy Area, lies on top of historic fishing grounds and shipping lanes into and out of New York harbor, according to the complaint. Fourteen developers were cleared by BOEM as qualified to bid for the lease.

The sale comes after a group of utilities including New York Power Authority, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. and Long Island Power Authority in 2011 requested that BOEM issue a commercial lease for offshore wind, which could help the utilities comply with the state's renewable energy goals. The proposal suggested the lease could accommodate 194 offshore wind turbines, or up to 700 MW of capacity.

BOEM's environmental assessment "entirely lacks analysis" of biological, economic, social and cultural impacts of lease issuance, the complaint stated. BOEM also violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering reasonable alternative sites for the wind farm before releasing the final sale notice of the lease, attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote.

Through Oct. 27, BOEM had awarded 11 commercial wind leases, of which nine have gone through a commercial lease sale process. Deepwater Wind, whose subsidiary Deepwater Wind Hudson Canyon LLC is qualified to bid in the Dec. 15 auction, brought the U.S. first offshore wind farm online this week. The 30-MW Block Island Offshore Wind started operating on Dec. 12.