Light Wave


Caught Red-Handed: Biden Admin Skipped Tax Protocol For Green Energy Project

By CM Chaney · November 29, 2023

In brief…

  • Biden administration waived taxpayer protection fees for Vineyard Wind offshore project
  • Watchdog suggests conflict of interest given official's prior legal work for developer
  • Agency says project's protections and importance to admin goals justified waiver
  • More offshore wind approved under Biden, while fossil fuels face more barriers
  • Industry criticizes administration's "concerning" energy development restrictions
The Biden administration waived development fees for the nation's first large-scale offshore wind farm based on its importance to clean energy goals, drawing criticism over preferential treatment amid barriers faced by oil and gas.  The White House / Wikimedia

The Biden administration quietly approved an exemption request from Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind developer, to waive fees designed to protect taxpayers if projects fail, according to documents reviewed by Fox News.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) informed Vineyard Wind in a June 2021 letter that it would not have to pay a fee covering potential decommissioning costs for its Massachusetts project until 15 years after operations start.

Federal law typically requires payment before construction begins to guarantee funds are available for cleanup.

“At the same time the Department of the Interior was looking at forcing greater…bonding requirements on holders of long-standing oil and gas leases, they were relaxing these requirements on the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind energy producer,” said Michael Chamberlain, director of the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust.

Chamberlain suggested appearance issues given Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beadreau had represented Vineyard Wind on legal matters in his prior role at law firm Latham & Watkins. Beadreau left the firm and was sworn in at the Department of Interior a week after BOEM’s fee waiver approval. A Department spokesperson said Beadreau wasn’t involved in the waiver decision.

BOEM justified the waiver by citing Vineyard Wind’s inclusion of risk mitigation policies and proven turbine technology. The letter also said it would enable Vineyard Wind to “secure financing and achieve financial close,” per an internal email from agency specialist Meredith Lilley.

Since the Biden administration fast-tracked approval, five more offshore wind projects have gotten federal green lights. However, fossil fuel projects face more barriers, including this summer’s plan to increase costs for onshore leasing.

“This is a concerning approach from an administration that has repeatedly acted to restrict essential energy development,” said Holly Hopkins of the American Petroleum Institute.

Vineyard Wind begins its phased operation next year. BOEM and the developer didn’t respond to requests for comment.