Judge rejects lawsuit by Nantucket residents to block wind turbines, protect right whales
BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit brought by Nantucket residents who argued that the planned construction of dozens of wind turbines off the affluent resort island threatens the survival of endangered Northern Atlantic right whales.
Nantucket Residents Against Turbines said Vineyard Wind’s proposed project of some 62 turbines in waters 14 miles (22 kilometers) south of the island is in a crucial area for foraging and nursing for the dwindling species, which researchers estimate to number about 340.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani found the group failed to show that either the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing a 2021 biological opinion or final environmental impact statement for the wind energy project.
Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller welcomed the decision.
“We’re pleased the court has acknowledged the rigorous and thorough administrative review that our project underwent over the last many years," Moeller said 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.”
The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project is on track to be the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., with plans to eventually create enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.
Vallorie Oliver, a Nantucket resident and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the group is considering possible options.
“Nantucket Residents Against Turbines is obviously disappointed in the ruling,” she said. “We will be taking a few days to weigh our options going forward.”
The American Clean Power Association also applauded the decision, saying it shows “the environmental review process for offshore wind projects is rigorous and effective at ensuring that these projects are built in an environmentally responsible manner.”
The visibility of the towering structures — which could rise up to 850 feet (260 meters) above sea level and eclipse Boston’s 790-foot (240-meter) Hancock Tower — is also among the group’s concerns.
Vineyard Wind comes years after the proposed Cape Wind project, which failed after bitter litigation from another group that included Nantucket property owners.