Court Upholds Approvals for Vineyard Wind Offshore Project

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Judge Rules in Favor of Vineyard Wind, Validates Environmental Review Process

This week, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts upheld significant federal authorizations for the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind farm, an 800 MW project currently under development located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Two parties, namely the Nantucket Residents Against Turbines (ACK RATs) and Vallorie Oliver, a founding member of ACK RATs, filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. The plaintiffs alleged that previous decisions made by BOEM and NMFS, which approved the project, were based on inadequate environmental assessments, violating the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In particular, the plaintiffs argued that the agencies’ evaluations of the project site and turbine arrangement (with 62 turbines spaced one mile apart) did not adequately address concerns related to endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale, as well as other marine life like sea turtles, fish, and the critical habitats of various species that may exist within the proposed project area.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani determined that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that either agency violated federal law when granting Vineyard Wind’s biological opinion or final environmental impact statement. As a result, the judge denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.

“This ruling affirms our long-standing argument that the environmental review process for offshore wind projects is comprehensive and successful in ensuring environmentally responsible development,” remarks Josh Kaplowitz, Vice President of Offshore Wind at the American Clean Power Association (ACP).

Kaplowitz adds, “The federal government fulfilled its obligations and performed them effectively.”

The ACP emphasizes that the court endorsed the agencies’ claim that they considered the most reliable scientific information to protect endangered species and endorsed the project with a range of mitigation measures aimed at reducing risks to these species.

“We are aware that offshore wind farms can be constructed and operated in a manner that safeguards marine ecosystems,” Kaplowitz explains. “Now, it is time to proceed with the implementation of these projects and begin reaping the substantial benefits that offshore wind offers.”

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