St. James hosting forum on offshore wind's impact on New London
New London — With one offshore wind project for Connecticut already in the works and several wind developers still eyeing the region to help jumpstart an industry along the East Coast, St. James Episcopal Church will host a forum this month on what the projects could mean for the New London community.
The Rev. Ranjit K. Mathews hopes St. James, at 76 Federal St., can serve as a model for conversation and civil discourse, even on challenging issues such as climate change in what he described as polarizing times.
"I'm hoping the forum will bring people of different understandings and we can be in conversation and dialogue," Mathews said in an interview. "This isn't without difficulty for some folks, yet how can we learn to work together around an opportunity that's right in front of us?"
The forum, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, is co-sponsored by the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs and the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Mathews and panelists will discuss and answer questions about offshore wind projects and potential impacts on jobs, climate change and moral and spiritual perspectives on the environment.
Panelists include Christopher Bachant, business agent and organizer for Carpenters Local 326; Jamie Vaudrey, University of Connecticut marine sciences professor, and Felix Reyes, New London's planning and development director.
Mathews noted that the church does not support any individual company but described offshore wind as "a wonderful opportunity and a real chance to connect what our values are as a parish in terms of the stewardship of God's creation ... and an opportunity for people to flourish here in southeastern Connecticut."
Earlier this year, state regulators approved a proposal from Block Island Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind. Within the next few years, the company plans to deliver at least 200 megawatts of electricity to Connecticut from a wind farm south of Martha's Vineyard. Deepwater Wind also has pledged to help revamp New London State Pier into an offshore wind hub.
The state's ongoing zero-carbon auction drew more offshore wind proposals for wind farms in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard, including a pitch from Deepwater Wind to expand its initial offering into a larger project.
Bay State Wind — a joint venture between Denmark-based Orsted and Eversource — would deliver enough electricity to power 450,000 Connecticut homes with its wind farm, Orsted said earlier this month. Bay State Wind says its project includes a $25 million fund to spur growth in the local economy and support skills training and environmental stewardship programs.
New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind — which Massachusetts picked to develop offshore wind in the coming years — submitted a proposal to deliver up to 800 megawatts into Connecticut. Vineyard Wind says its proposal could create 1,000 jobs and would redevelop Bridgeport into an "offshore wind construction port, which, alongside New London, will put Connecticut in the center of the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry for years to come."
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says it will pick winning proposals in the state's zero-carbon auction by the end of the year.
"With promised investments by the State and developers, New London's port is well-positioned to become a regional hub of activity to support the offshore wind projects up and down the coast, and that would be a major boost to the local economy," said John Humphries, lead organizer for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. "Offshore wind represents a tremendous opportunity for Connecticut's workers and communities, providing jobs, economic growth and clean energy."
In a letter to Mayor Michael Passero and the City Council, the St. James vestry recently said it fully supports bringing jobs and renewable energy to the region.
The vestry noted that the whaling industry helped New London flourish in the 1880s, "and the many large and beautiful churches in the city — including St. James — are products of that era."
"But once whaling declined, New London and other cities dependent on this resource were forced to transition to new forms of energy and new economic models," the vestry wrote. "Now New London has the chance to help lead a new and equally necessary transition to a renewable energy economy."
The vestry said the state should undertake "rigorous reviews, questioning and necessary revisions" as companies seek permits and approvals for work offshore and in New London.
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