Court rules in favor of Vineyard Wind in Nantucket whale case

Nantucket Residents Against Turbines have argued that the Vineyard Wind project could potentially harm the North Atlantic right whale population. —Courtesy New England Aquarium

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.”


  1. if you truly want to stop this fiasco in the making…follow the hurricane trail…VW cannot withstand upcoming Cat3 hurricanes…they know it…make them prove themselves…the so called Cyclone Proof rating was issued when there was one GE Haliade in existence…on land in Rotterdam…the hurricane modeling was done using straight line winds at the minimum hurricane speed of 70 mph…not rotational winds of 120 mph and up…MAKE THEM PROVE IT BEFORE IT”S TOO LATE…!!!

    • steve– How can they prove it ?
      Feel free to go to their office at 151 Beach Road on any Wednesday between 3 and 6 and ask them yourself .
      The turbines on this project are designed to withstand cat 4 hurricanes.
      They are generally operational between 8 mph and 55 mph. Over 55, they feather into the wind and have braking systems that control the speed of the blades. In extreme wind the blades can be completely locked down. and the yaw drive in the nacelle always points into the wind, no matter which direction direction it comes from. Of course, anything that humans make is subject to malfunction and accidents. I found a video of a catastrophic failure of the braking system of a turbine in Denmark.
      But i could not find any instances of turbine failures in cyclones in offshore wind farms in asian countries. They must have had some times when severe storms passed over them.
      The V.W monopoles are 25 ft in diameter and made of 6 inch thick steel that are driven 160 ft into the seafloor. I doubt they will break in any wind. The most likely scenario of a failure would be the blades snapping. ( see video). But if the blades are locked down which they undoubtedly would be in a cat 2 and above storm, it would simply break off and fall into the ocean. The mills at Block Island survived winter storm stella which had hurricane force winds in 2017. The technology has improved since then.
      If a hurricane comes along and takes a few of them out, that’s the companies’ problem. Presumably, no one will be out there in a cat 3 hurricane and get hit with falling debris.
      It won’t be like when an oil rig falls over and spills millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.
      But we will see.
      I hope you don’t lose any sleep over this.

      • Right! No problem!…… because nothing lives in the sea….
        And no problem with 400 ft blades washing up on our beaches?
        Or 4,000 gallons of oil from each turbine leaking into the sea? Thousands of gallons in each service platform?
        Will anyone care in Madrid, Spain headquarters?

  2. This is so wrong, we all know that this is not what they say it is. There’s a lot more research and engineering that needs to be done before any of this type of large scale operations. There needs to be a test site done. Other countries are removing them and america is so deep and debt and greedy they would do anything to destroy their ocean water. Shame on them every elected official for allowing this to happen. God help us 🙏 please.

    • Which countries have removed wind turbines?
      Wind mills have been tested for over a hundred years.
      There have been large scale operations of wind farms for over a decade.
      Shame on Don Mobely for being so uninformed.

    • God help us?
      Which God?
      Perhaps one of the hundreds of Eastern Gods?

    • Don– The United States has had it’s head in the sand about offshore wind power for years.
      The rest of the world ( particularly off the west coast of northern Europe) has been the testing ground for years. The research and engineering has been done and developed.
      I don’t know which countries you are referring to when you claim they are removing them.
      The only thing I see is that some of the early “test” mills are at the end of their useful lives and are being replaced by larger and more efficient systems.
      And please– cut the bull about America doing anything to destroy our ocean water.
      That kind of rhetoric is ridiculous and divisive.
      Here is a little video of how it’s done.

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