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RI organizations file lawsuits against CT offshore wind projects

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, three of Deepwater Wind's five turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I, the nation's first offshore wind farm. An offshore wind project off the island of Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, that would create 800 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 400,000 homes, was approved by the federal government Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Vineyard Wind project, south of Martha's Vineyard near Cape Cod, would be the first utility-scale wind power development in federal waters. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Michael Dwyer
Three of Deepwater Wind's five turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I, the nation's first offshore wind farm.

Two Rhode Island heritage organizations have filed lawsuits over two offshore wind projects they say will spoil their "viewsheds."

The Preservation Society of Newport and The Southeast Lighthouse Foundation say the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) ignored the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Greg Werkheiser is a partner with the law firm Cultural Heritage Partners. He said they are not against clean energy, just the way it’s being done.

“If wind projects are going off our coast, they have to be done right, they have to be done legally,” Werkheiser said. “If that’s the case then you’ll ultimately find our clients as supporters, but that has not been the case. And so, they feel compelled to stand up not just for these projects but for the future negative impacts of not standing up for these laws now.”

They are hoping to slow or stop the work being carried out on South Fork Wind and Revolution Wind projects, which will see hundreds of wind turbines in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York waters.

Werkheiser also brought up the struggles Ørstead has faced while building offshore wind farms in the region.

“If they can’t get it right in terms of the basic economics necessary to keep their projects going, why would those two communities trust Ørsted to predict the impact on their local heritage tourism economies, when the leaders of these companies have never set foot in Newport or on Block Island?” Werkheiser asked. “And the answer is, no sane person would trust them.”

"South Fork Wind and Revolution Wind received federal construction approvals following years of reviews and scientific studies as well as public comment and other stakeholder engagement," an Orsted spokesperson said. "While we do not comment on pending litigation, we will continue our work to support Northeast states’ clean energy and economic development goals by bringing well-paying jobs and local investment to the region."

BOEM said they won't comment on active investigations.

This article has been updated with a statement from Orsted.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.