Whale Die-Off Raises Stakes in Virginia Offshore Wind Bid

As Dominion Energy’s massive wind-energy project proposed off the coast of Virginia enters a critical new regulatory phase, it faces strengthening political headwinds.

Two years of design work and wide-ranging scientific investigations, which, among other pursuits, tracked the flying altitudes of migrating birds to evaluate threats from turbine blades, have led to an important milestone: the Biden administration’s publication in December of the project’s draft environmental impact statement, or EIS.

The Richmond-based energy giant’s bid to build the largest ocean-based renewables project in the nation hinges on acquiring approvals from several state and federal agencies. But none looms as large as the verdict, expected by September, from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees the leasing of offshore energy resources. The EIS is central to the bureau’s decision-making process.

What would be a controversial undertaking even under normal circumstances has been roiled in recent months by a spike in deaths among large whales along the U.S. East Coast. The stakes were already high over concerns about potential impacts to birds and the region’s seafood industry.

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