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Health Care Without Harm Issues Public Comment on Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Notice

Source: 
Targeted News Service

WASHINGTON, July 9 -- Winston Vaughan, director of climate solutions at Health Care Without Harm, Reston, Virginia, has issued a public comment on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's notice entitled "Notice of Availability of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind LLC's Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore Massachusetts". The comment was posted on July 8, 2020:

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My name is Winston Vaughan. I am the Boston Director of Climate Solutions at Health Care Without Harm. We are a global non-profit that works to transform health care worldwide by proactively reducing the sector's carbon footprint, becoming a community anchor for sustainability, and becoming a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice. We work with over 36,000 hospitals and health centers in 60 countries worldwide, including the leading health care institutions in New England.

I'm here today to speak in support of the Vineyard Wind project because we believe that clean, renewable energy is essential to preserving public health, and protecting both our facilities and the communities we serve from the impacts of climate change. Offshore wind also has the potential to reduce New England's notoriously high energy costs and help energy-intensive businesses like health care recover from the financial impacts of the COVID crisis.

The health care sector is our Commonwealth's largest employer - employing nearly 500,000 people. As the only sector of our economy that has healing as our mission, our health care industry is working hard to reduce our own impact as well as addressing vulnerability and resiliency to the impacts of climate change. By the end of this year, Boston Medical Center will be running on 100% Renewable Energy on the electricity side and they are working on cleaning up the thermal load. The Mass General-Brigham system will be carbon positive by 2025, but we still have much to do, and offshore wind is essential to that work.

Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity is a major driver of air pollution in our communities and is a major source of our region's climate change contribution. Over the last few months, we have seen all too clearly the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on the lives and health of low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionally burdened by air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, making them more vulnerable to the impacts of this deadly respiratory disease.

In order to effectively combat climate change, and protect the health of the communities our hospitals serve, we must not only transition to renewable energy but do so in a way that brings new renewable energy sources here to our region to replace the power plants that are burning fossil fuels and harming our health. Vineyard Wind 1 will provide enough clean energy to power over 400,000 homes and businesses, reduce carbon emissions by 1.7 million tons per year, NOx pollution by 1,000 tons per year, and SO2 pollution by 860 tons per year.

It is also important to note that COVID has not just ravaged the health of our communities, it has also taken a massive financial toll on our economy, and our health care system in particular. According to the Boston Globe, Mass General Brigham, the largest health care provider in the commonwealth, expects to lose $400 million per month as a result of disruptions caused by the pandemic. Power from offshore wind is not just cleaner, it could also reduce the cost of energy, which would help energy-intensive businesses like health care recover more quickly from the financial impacts of COVID. Vineyard 1 alone is expected to save ratepayers more than $1.4 billion in energy-related costs over the life of the project, money that is essential for our region's economic recovery, and our future economic prosperity. These benefits are, of course, in addition to the 3,600 jobs, many unionized, that this project will create which will also contribute to our region's economic recovery.

I also want to briefly touch on the topic of the proposed transit lanes envisioned in alternative F. The size of these lease areas has already been substantially reduced, and the spacing between turbines has been substantially increased, to safely accommodate fishing and other ocean uses. The addition of the proposed transit lanes on top of those accommodations would mean 4,000 fewer megawatts of wind power coming online which, according to Health Care Without Harm's "Energy Climate Calculator" would translate to an estimated additional 52.5 premature deaths from air pollution and an additional 25.3 ER visits for asthma attacks every year. or 1325 premature deaths from air pollution and 625 ER visits over the 25-year life of the project. As we know, the health impact of our existing fossil fuel powered electric generation falls disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color. By failing to consider these impacts - impacts that could be mitigated by generating more clean renewable offshore wind power, I'm concerned that this analysis fails to account for the negative impacts on Environmental Justice communities that alternative F would have. This is, of course, on top of lost jobs and business for our region due to the smaller project that would result.

New England is blessed with some of the best offshore wind resources on the planet, which projects such as this can turn into an abundant source of clean inexpensive energy that can power a healthy, resilient, and economically thriving future for our region. We urge you to allow this critical project to move forward without further diminishment or delay.

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The notice can be viewed at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=BOEM-2020-0005-0001

TARGETED NEWS SERVICE (founded 2004) features non-partisan 'edited journalism' news briefs and information for news organizations, public policy groups and individuals; as well as 'gathered' public policy information, including news releases, reports, speeches. For more information contact MYRON STRUCK, editor, editor@targetednews.com, Springfield, Virginia; 703/304-1897; https://targetednews.com

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