UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: One of the winning bidders, RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC, sent the following response to the Outpost’s request for additional comment:
“RWE is committed to thoughtfully engaging Tribes and tribal fisheries at all stages of project development,” Dominik Schwegmann, head of offshore development U.S. West for RWE, wrote in an email to the Outpost. “Prior to the auction, RWE has met with a number of Tribes to learn about their heritage. We look forward to meeting with all affected Tribes to continue discussing their interests surrounding our new lease area off the Northern Coast.”
The Yurok Tribe is having second thoughts about offshore wind.
During a virtual press conference this Thursday morning, Yurok Tribal Vice-Chair Frankie Myers expressed disappointment in the fact that the two provisional winners of the offshore wind lease auction for the Humboldt Wind Energy Area – California North Floating, LLC and RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC – had not “engaged with the Tribe in a meaningful way” prior to or immediately following the auction.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” Myers said. “This has been a long process. We’ve gone through this with other organizations … we’ve attended conferences for well over a year making sure that all of those who were interested – or potentially interested – in bidding on these leases within our ancestral territory knew and understood that … we were going to be actively involved and wanted to participate in conversations early on. To have none of the folks who won the bid even reach out to say ‘Hey, we’re thinking of coming your way!’ we take as absolutely disrespectful.”
On the contrary, “several other bidders” had contacted the Yurok Tribe ahead of this week’s auction to discuss plans for the floating offshore wind project and assure the Tribe that it “would be [an] active participant” throughout the decision-making process, Myers said. “Turns out, none of the [entities] who actually won the bid came forward to talk to tribes.”
Forty-three separate entities, ranging from regional groups to international energy giants like Shell, qualified as potential bidders for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) offshore wind lease auction. California North Floating, LLC, a subsidiary of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC, a German multinational energy company, placed the winning bids for two leases within the Humboldt Wind Energy Area, which spans more than 132,000 acres approximately 20 miles west of Eureka, for a total of $331.5 million.
In the years leading up to the recent auction, Myers said BOEM had made a concerted effort in including the Yurok Tribe by ensuring that “we were engaged at every step of the process.”
“If you look at the Final Sale Notice, you’ll see language throughout that speaks to tribal sovereignty, that speaks to tribal governance and to the importance of bringing tribal participation along, and that’s what we asked for,” he said. “We understand the limitations that BOEM has. We understand that they do play within a box and we wanted to make sure that within the box they did the best that they could. … Could they have pushed the envelope further? Absolutely. But did they come to the plate? Did they make meaningful conversation? Yes. Yes, they did.”
However, Myers emphasized that the Tribe’s conversations with BOEM were only a part of the consultation process. “And, from the Yurok’s view, consultation doesn’t get us to where we need to be at the ended of the day.”
“The Yurok people are viewing offshore wind as a conversation,” he continued. “We’re not in a position to support it and we’re not in a position to oppose it. We don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but what we do know is what we’ve learned over the last 150 years in dealing with industry. What we do as indigenous people, what we do as Yurok people is look to the past to help guide our future. And I can tell you, after having seen industry come into our area with this exact same playbook, it has never ended well for our Yurok people.”
Moving forward, Myers said the Yurok Tribe will continue to work with its consultants as well as other North Coast tribes and stakeholders to enhance engagement with the two lessees, as well as the state and federal government.
The Outpost requested additional comment from the two lessees, California North Floating, LLC and RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC, but did not receive a response before the publication of this story. We will update this post when we hear back.