Residents Contest Offshore Wind Project in Massachusetts, Citing Impact on Whales

A group of residents filed a complaint on Wednesday in the District of Massachusetts to contest the federal government’s approval of the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind project near Nantucket, Massachusetts, alleging that it did not fulfill environmental requirements before granting approval. 

ACK Residents Against Turbines and Vallorie Oliver, an individual who lives in Nantucket and uses the waters, claimed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act when deciding to approve the proposed construction. They accused the bureau of not considering alternatives, taking steps to mitigate the impact, and underreporting the effect of the project. 

They explained that although an Environmental Impact Statement was submitted, it did not successfully fulfil requirements including taking a “‘hard look’ at the Vineyard Wind project’s adverse impacts on whales and other marine mammals, fish sea turtles, birds air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, cultural resources, aesthetics, and other resource documents.” 

The lawsuit was filed against the Bureau of Ocean Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Each of the defendants were accused of allowing the project to be approved without ensuring that the project would not jeopardize endangered species and not considering the best available data. 

The plaintiffs claimed that the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is “perhaps the most iconic marine animal on the eastern seaboard of the United States” would be threatened by the project.  They explained that it is “one of the most imperiled species in the entire world,” with less than 400 known to be alive.  The area where the Vineyard Wind Project is planned to be built is reportedly a “longtime safe haven” for the whales where it has access to food and the ability to birth and rear babies. 

According to the complaint, this project is only one of multiple planned for the same area, which was disclosed after the plaintiffs and other parties provided a criticism of the draft environmental statement for the project and asked for more information about how it would fit in the broader offshore wind program.

Although the plaintiffs primarily addressed the effects of the project on the whales, saying the project could lead to their extinction, they also claimed that it would cause harm to other endangered species including sea turtles and the entire ecosystem. 

The filing asked the court to overturn the government’s “unlawful management decisions” and require them to comply with federal environmental and endangered species laws. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the Law Office of Steven P. Brendemuehl