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Lawsuit challenges $2.8b Vineyard Wind project

Operator of a solar farm in New Haven sues to stop what would be the nation’s largest offshore wind energy installation

A prototype version of the turbines the developers of Vineyard Wind would install south of Martha's Vineyard in the nation's largest wind energy project.
A prototype version of the turbines the developers of Vineyard Wind would install south of Martha's Vineyard in the nation's largest wind energy project.Photo courtesy of Vineyard Wind

WIND ENERGY

Solar farm operator sues to block massive Vineyard Wind project

The owner of a New Haven-based solar farm operator has sued the US Department of Interior to overturn the federal agency’s recent approval of a 62-turbine wind farm to be developed by the Vineyard Wind joint venture off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Thomas Melone filed the lawsuit in Boston federal court on Sunday, on behalf of a company he owns, Allco Renewable Energy Ltd. A part-time Edgartown resident and a boater, Melone cites numerous issues with Vineyard Wind that he says could adversely affect the Martha’s Vineyard environment. For example, he said piping plovers could be threatened by any spill of contaminants such as oil from the project. He also cited concerns about the impact on commercial fishermen who normally ply the waters south of the Vineyard where the wind farm would be built. Melone claims the Interior Department, under President Joe Biden, rushed an approval even though Vineyard Wind switched turbines to a larger windmill, dubbed the Haliade-X, by manufacturer General Electric during the review process; Melone argues that Interior did not properly vet whether these GE turbines could endure a Category 3 hurricane. He also contends a large government-supported offshore wind farm such as this one is designed to decimate on-shore renewable resources, such as Allco’s solar farms. A spokesman for Vineyard Wind, a venture jointly owned by Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, declined to comment about the lawsuit. A spokesman for the Interior Department also declined to comment. — JON CHESTO

FINANCIAL SERVICES

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Prudential to sell retirement business for $3.5B

Prudential Financial Inc. said it would sell its full-service retirement business to a unit of Canada’s Great-West Lifeco Inc. for $3.55 billion. The business will be purchased by Great-West’s Empower Retirement division. Prudential expects total proceeds of about $2.8 billion from the sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, the companies said in a statement. It will boost Empower’s customer base by about 4 million people to 16.6 million participants. Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey is working to transform the company, including selling off interest-rate sensitive businesses and making acquisitions in growth markets. Prudential will continue participating in the retirement market, serving retirees, employers and those collecting on annuities. The deal comes as insurers part with retirement-related assets to focus on core operations. Great-West agreed last year to buy Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s retirement-services arm for $3.4 billion. — BLOOMBERG

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FOOD

Coca-Cola sales bounce back as COVID-19 wanes

Big Soda is back. Coca-Cola Co.’s sales have rebounded faster than expected as the impact of the pandemic abated. The Atlanta-based soft drink giant said Wednesday that its revenue jumped 42 percent to $10.1 billion in the April-June period. That was well ahead of the $9.3 billion in sales that Wall Street had forecast, according to analysts polled by FactSet. It was even slightly better than the same period in 2019. It was a very different story than the second quarter of 2020, when Coke’s sales sank 28 percent. Coke Chairman and CEO James Quincey said the recovery remains uneven, but as vaccination rates increase, consumers are returning to their pre-pandemic routines. “We’ve always believed that humans are social creatures and that once the restrictions come down and the panorama of the virus allows people the confidence to go out, they will go back out,” Quincey said Wednesday during a conference call with investors. “You can see very much beginning to happen in the second quarter.” Volume in North America rose 17 percent as restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, and other venues reopened or dropped capacity restrictions. Coke has historically booked half its revenue from such businesses, which were crushed by the pandemic. Demand for Powerade and other sports drinks was particularly strong, with case volumes up 35 percent from the same period last year. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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CRYPTOCURRENCY

SEC chair: Don’t sell fake stocks on blockchain

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler has a warning about the synthetic stocks popping up on blockchains: Firms selling the tokens to US investors are likely to end up in trouble with regulators. In a Wednesday speech, Gensler made clear that tokens that mirror the performance of Amazon.com Inc., Tesla Inc. and other well-known companies are probably still covered by US securities laws. He also pledged to use all the resources in the SEC’s “enforcement toolkit” to go after those who might be offering such assets without registering them. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a stock token, a stable value token backed by securities or any other virtual product that provides synthetic exposure to underlying securities,” Gensler said for an event held by the American Bar Association. “These platforms — whether in the decentralized or centralized finance space — are implicated by the securities laws and must work within our securities regime.” — BLOOMBERG NEWS

ENERGY

US, Germany reach agreement on Russian gas pipeline

The United States and Germany have reached a deal that will allow the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of further US sanctions, a senior American official said Wednesday. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told Congress that the two governments would shortly announce details of the pact that is intended to address US and Eastern and Central European concerns about the impact of the Nord Stream 2 project. However, there is strong bipartisan opposition to the pipeline in Congress as well as in Ukraine and Poland, which fear Nord Stream 2 will undermine European energy security. Congressional aides briefed on the outlines of the deal said it would allow the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline without either Germany or Russia facing new sanctions. In return, the United States and Germany will make certain concessions to Ukraine and Poland, they said. The Nord Stream 2 project has posed a major foreign policy dilemma for the Biden administration. US officials from both parties have long feared that it would give Russia too much power over European gas supplies, potentially shutting off gas to Russian adversaries Ukraine and Poland. But the pipeline is almost completed, and the United States has been determined to rebuild ties with Germany that were damaged during the Trump administration. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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FOOD

Money flows to lab-grown foie gras

Can foie gras grown in a lab taste just as decadent and creamy as that made from farm-raised ducks or geese? Last week, a French startup named Gourmey raised $10 million in funding from investors who are betting that it might. The push to make foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, in a lab comes amid a push to find a sustainable, ethical alternative to meat raised for slaughter. Most foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks and geese through a tube to engorge their livers up to 10 times their normal sizes. The process can leave ducks too big to walk or breathe, according to animal activists. In 2019, the New York City Council passed legislation that would ban, starting next year, the sale of foie gras in the nation’s largest city. Countries including Britain, Finland, Israel, and Norway have also banned the production of foie gras. With growing opposition to foie gras because of animal-cruelty concerns, Nicolas Morin-Forest, Gourmey’s co-founder and CEO, said producing the delicacy from cultivated cells was a way to preserve a centuries-old French culinary tradition. — NEW YORK TIMES

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