With the start of the construction of the offshore wind farm known as Vineyard Wind just weeks away, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of Nantucket residents challenging what would be the first large-scale offshore wind project built in U.S. waters.
On Wednesday, Judge Indira Talwani, of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, rejected the arguments made by Nantucket Residents Against Turbines that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other government agencies had violated the National Environmental Policy Act in approving the ambitious project.
Vineyard Wind, which will include 62 turbines spaced one nautical mile apart, is slated for federal waters approximately 15 miles southwest of Nantucket. The company has been conducting geotechnical surveys and laying cable for the project in recent months, and is set to begin installing the 853-foot turbines this year. The company, which is backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Avangrid Renewables, LLC, believes it will generate 800 megawatts of electricity annually and power over 400,000 homes.
“We’re pleased the court has acknowledged the rigorous and thorough administrative review that our project underwent over the last many years," said Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller in a statement. "We remain committed to working with all stakeholders so that we can continue to set the highest possible standards on this first in the nation project.”
Nantucket Residents Against Turbines' lawsuit was an effort to halt the project over its concerns that the wind farm will damage the marine ecosystem, compromise Nantucket's historic landmark designation, and harm the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales that migrate through the area.
"We are very disappointed, for sure," Amy DiSibio, one of Nantucket Residents Against Turbines' directors, said Thursday following the judge's decision. "The good news is that there are two other cases filed against NOAA/BOEM over the Vineyard Wind project and we are waiting on those rulings too."
Nantucket Residents Against Turbines was founded by island resident Val Oliver, and its board includes DiSibio, Ellen Mayo, and Veronica Bonnet.
"Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that NMFS or BOEM violated the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act in considering and issuing the 2021 Biological Opinion or the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Vineyard Wind Project," Judge Talwani wrote in the decision.
An ongoing whale mortality event involving North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales has prompted a backlash against the President Joe Biden's administration's push for offshore wind energy.
While Nantucket Residents Against Turbines and other groups have questioned whether the initial survey work associated with installation of offshore wind farms along the East Coast may be causing whale deaths - and even called on President Biden to launch an investigation - NOAA Fisheries recently stated that “there are no specific links between recent large whale mortalities and currently ongoing surveys for offshore wind development.”
Last year, the town of Nantucket negotiated to receive $16 million in restitution for the potential historical, cultural, and economic impacts of Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind farm slated for installation south of the island later this year. Cultural Heritage Partners (CHP), the law firm hired by the Town to negotiate on offshore wind projects, secured this remediation as part of a lengthy dialogue with Vineyard Wind.