BOSTON — A coalition of commercial fishing groups on Monday sued the federal agency that approved construction of a 62-turbine wind energy farm off the coast of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, saying it did not adequately take into account the project’s potential impact on the industry.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance’s petition for review of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of the Vineyard Wind 1 project was filed with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
“The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s hasty approval of this project, which could be the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind installation, adds unacceptable risk to this sustainable industry without any effort to minimize unreasonable interference with traditional and well-managed seafood production and navigation,” the organization said.
The federal agency said it had no comment.
A spokesperson for Vineyard Wind, a joint project of a Danish company and a U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant, Iberdrola, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The fishing industry played an active role in the review process, but their expertise was ignored, according to the alliance.
“This is a precedent-setting decision by BOEM, and it is critical that they get it right so that future projects are following a trusted roadmap instead of a flawed and dangerous example,” Executive Director Anne Hawkins said. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the only recourse fishermen have to ensure the fishing communities’ concerns are addressed.”
The project as currently designed endangers the fishing industry by placing turbines too close together for vessels to safely navigate during rough seas, and does not address impacts to fish populations, the alliance said.
Approved earlier this summer, the nearly $3 billion, 800-megawatt project 14 miles south of the island would be the first utility-scale wind power development in federal waters. It’s scheduled to become operational in 2023 and create enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.
The suit is the second legal challenge to the project filed in the last month. A group of Nantucket residents — ACK Residents Against Turbines — in a federal lawsuit said Vineyard Wind poses a threat to North Atlantic right whales.
Researchers estimate there are fewer than 400 of the sea mammals left.