CRMC subcommittee delays vote on Deepwater Wind agent
EAST PROVIDENCE — A subcommittee of the state Coastal Resources Management Council has delayed its vote on Deepwater Wind’s selection of the American Bureau of Shipping as its agent to verify that the design, construction and operation of the Block Island Wind Farm complies with building plans and CRMC conditions.
If CRMC approves this nomination – it is now scheduled for a subcommittee vote July 15, and would go before the full council for approval July 22 – the company will serve as the project’s certified verification agent, or CVA. The ocean special area management plan (OSAMP) requires CRMC to approve Deepwater Wind's choice.
While the OSAMP subcommittee was scheduled to vote at its meeting Tuesday in East Providence, members rescheduled the vote to July 15, citing a need for more time to review documents, and requesting that ABS officials attend that meeting to answer any questions. The meeting was held in East Providence to accommodate Vice Chairman Paul Lemont.
“I was anxious last week to get this thing moving, but it's got to be with the rules and regulations that we envisioned back when we formulated the OSAMP,” Lemont said. “We're the referee in this; we're calling the shots. It's not what [Deepwater Wind's] interpretation is to us, it's what our interpretation is to them.”
Deepwater Wind officials submitted a draft contract between ABS and the company, and after receiving feedback from subcommittee members, subsequently revised it. However, at Tuesday's meeting, most OSAMP subcommittee members had not had a chance to review the revisions.
“The changes I'd like to see are trivial, but I just got this yesterday so I'm not ready to vote, personally,” member Tony Affigne said.
“We would like you to give a recommendation today to nominate ABS,” said Robin Main, Deepwater Wind's lawyer, at Tuesday's meeting. “To have further delays, and to have two more meetings of this committee and then to have to go to the full [CRMC] puts us way behind on our schedule. We really can't have that happen.
“If we don't get the CVA online, it throws back our designs. If our designs are thrown back, our fabrications are thrown back,” Main said. “We have a real possibility of missing the construction date of 2015 if we don't get ABS online.”
But Main withdrew her request for a vote after subcommittee members assured her it would make a recommendation this month. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski told the subcommittee that Deepwater Wind would like all CRMC approvals completed in July and August.
“If you look at the SAMP, it says the CVA shall not function in a capacity that shall not create a conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest,” CRMC legal counsel Brian Goldman said. “It's not a prudent move to go with what they're asking today.”
“We will withdraw our request to have the nomination recommended today,” Main said. “We've always agreed to bring ABS so you can talk to them. We tried to be cooperative, but at the same time pushing our timeline. We don't want to jam this; we don't want to give that appearance.”
Despite a need for more time to review the revised contract, members expressed their satisfaction with ABS’s credentials and ability to oversee the project.
“There's no dispute about using ABS,” CRMC Chairwoman Anne Maxwell Livingston said. “What we're concerned about is the relationship between Deepwater [Wind], ABS and us.”
“We made it abundantly clear that the CVA reports to the CRMC,” Main said. “You can fire ABS, or whichever CVA is chosen, if you like. You are in control of the situation, but you have an independent agent there. That contract that we have proposed follows the OSAMP.”
Deepwater Wind President Chris van Beek said the company considered two other CVAs: DNV and GL Garrad Hassan, which later merged.
At a previous meeting, Main said ABS meets the “gold standard” to verify the plans and construction of an offshore wind farm and is Deepwater Wind's choice for three reasons: the company has offshore experience, especially with jacketed foundations like those that will be installed for the Block Island Wind Farm, and it has both wind farm experience and international experience.
“We want to get ABS locked in; we want to be able to continue to work with them,” Main said Tuesday. “Our lenders want to know we are working with an actual CVA. CVAs are a standard of the industry. We need to say we have a CVA attached to this process.”