A federal judge has ruled against a Nantucket nonprofit suing Vineyard Wind over environmental concerns.
The complaint filed by Nantucket Residents Against Turbines (ACK RATs) names the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), along with Vineyard Wind LLC, as defendants.
ACK RATs have argued that the construction and operation of the 62-turbine offshore wind farm, which is slated for roughly 14 miles off the coast of Nantucket, would be in violation of environmental and endangered species regulations — particularly the North Atlantic right whale.
They claimed that in its permitting authority, BOEM failed to “take the requisite hard look at the environmental consequences of the project, both as to the right whales and as to the air quality and emissions impacts.”
Similarly, ACK RATs claims that Vineyard Wind and BOEM largely based their defense argument on a 2021 scientific assessment — referred to in the suit as a “biological opinion” — which the Nantucket group says is “flawed because it fails to engage with the best scientific and commercial data available,” as required under the Endangered Species Act.
But Vineyard Wind argued that the proposed wind farm abides by all necessary guidelines from the relevant authorities, and is also “subject to numerous terms and conditions, including compliance with all statutes, regulations, and permits and authorizations issued by federal and state agencies for the project.”
Some of those mitigation measures include putting restrictions on pile-driving, the use of protected species observers, vessel speed regulations, “passive acoustic monitoring, and other reporting.”
Wind developers also note that per the scientific assessment, the project is “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the right whales.”
Federal Judge Indira Talwani agreed.
Per her ruling filed May 17, Talwani concluded that the Nantucket group “failed to demonstrate that NMFS or BOEM violated the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act” in considering and issuing the 2021 study and environmental impact statement. The court’s decision is a denial of ACK RATs’ motion for summary judgment, effectively halting the complaint.
On Thursday, Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller offered a statement to The Times. “We’re pleased the court has acknowledged the rigorous and thorough administrative review that our project underwent over the last many years,” he said. “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.”
At a press conference on Monday, May 15, Moeller said that construction on the offshore wind farm is slated to begin “within weeks.”