Over the past 10 months, we have uncovered the shipping lobby’s influence in the Coast Guard’s offshore wind energy study, known as the Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study (ACPARS), which was charged with balancing shipping navigation safety with the development of an offshore wind industry.
Our reporting shows the study’s authors never visited an offshore wind farm, sought no significant input from the U.S. offshore wind industry and were heavily influenced by the powerful shipping lobby.
Released in March 2016, the study’s Final Report raised doubts about offshore wind energy’s viability and benefit to national energy security. For example, the report recommends buffers between shipping lanes that are five times greater than in northern Europe, which has a 10-year-old offshore wind industry that operates amidst far-denser shipping traffic. As of July 2016, there were 3,344 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of 11,538 MW fully grid connected in European waters in 82 wind farms across 11 countries.
If put into place, the buffers recommended in the Coast Guard study would hobble the development of an offshore wind industry in the U.S., where today only five wind turbines are in operation off of Block Island.
Who Wrote the Study?
We’re seeking answers to basic questions around authorship and contact with shipping industry lobbyists. But the Coast Guard has gone to great lengths to delay or deny the release of communications records.
- On July 14, 2016, I spoke with EGlobaltech Contractor Auborn Finney who said the Coast Guard denied our request for communications records of study Co-chair Dana Goward and his replacement, Gary Rasicot, because neither were employed with the Coast Guard during the times of our request.
- On July 15, we provided evidence that Goward and Rasicott had indeed served with the Coast Guard in high-ranking positions during the period in question. We’ve have been waiting for a response ever since.
- On November 21, we filed a new Freedom of Information Act request for a person we believe is a central player study’s creation, the Coast Guard’s George Detweiler. We requested Mr. Detweiler’s communications and meetings with shipping industry lobbyists and members of the still-secret, 18-person Working Group that produced the study.
- On December 8, the Coast Guard acknowledged receipt of our request for Mr. Detweiler’s records:
Waiting for Records
In short, the Coast Guard says it is still looking for communications records of central players in the creation of the study that took place over 5 years, while refusing to tell us who the 18 members of the Working Group are, identifying only four.
The Coast Guard’s parent bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS), informs us via the FOIA status portal that we should receive any responsive records by January 29, 2017.
We’ll be sure to update our readers as soon as we hear from the Coast Guard.
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Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.